Welcome to issue eight of The Fine Arts Connector, your biweekly listing of news, resources, activities and other shareable content from the Faculty of Fine Arts, specifically compiled for distribution during the current health crisis.
While the cultural world continues to grapple with the ongoing impact of COVID-19, three of Victoria’s leading performing arts organizations recently announced that they were suspending their upcoming seasons: Victoria Symphony, Pacific Opera Victoria and Dance Victoria have all cancelled their planned programming for 20/21, citing the safety measures prohibiting large public performances. It’s a blow for Victoria’s arts scene, no question, but one that will also impact the Fine Arts community as well.
On the plus side, the majority of cultural organizations—including those three—are currently exploring new ways to bring culture to the public, while our colleagues at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria have reopened their doors (albeit with limited hours and social distancing in effect), and are offering free admission until July 5. And the CRD has now published a list of other arts and cultural activities to enjoy at a physical distance.
And there was an interesting essay in the Globe and Mail on May 25 by the University of Toronto’s Daniel Silver and Mark S Fox, with Gail Lord, calling for a 21st century version of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Depression-era Works Progress Administration. “The original WPA pushed the boundaries of what counts as infrastructure . . . [and] sparked one of the most dramatic expansions and diversifications of culture the world has ever seen, through subsidizing the production of visual art, music, theatre, literature, film, crafts, folklore documentation and arts education programs.” The authors of this essay argue that “the devastating effects of COVID-19 . . . demand nothing short of a similar investment today”. It’s a great idea, and their piece is well worth a read.
As always, please enjoy—and circulate—this collection of material featuring our faculty, students, alumni, staff and guests as a way of both sharing what our creative community is up to and keeping us connected in this difficult moment in history. You can also help by keeping us in the loop if you’re working on a live-streaming project, have online material to share or are involved in something you’d like people to know about: just email either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each week.
Keeping good company
Good Company is the new series of casual conversations between UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers and members of the UVic community. The latest in the series is a live discussion with Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman about reconciliation and creating art that makes people consider themselves differently. You can watch it live at noon on Thursday, May 28, on UVic’s Facebook page. (Previously, Rogers spoke with Department of Writing Professor Emerita Lorna Crozier about poetry and the arts in the era of COVID-19, and you can still watch their 25-minute chat here.)
In other Writing news, instructor Diane Dakers was interviewed for the Langara Journalism Review this spring. Dakers, a veteran journalist and the author of CHEK Republic: A Revolution in Local Television, was interviewed about CHEK TV and the importance of local media. You can read the story here.
Writing MFA alum Stephanie Harrington was recently interviewed by The Malahat Review. In it, she discusses balancing structure with emotional stakes, being swept up in a story and the journalism skills she brings to her creative nonfiction work. Harrington’s creative nonfiction piece “Fighter” appears in the Malahat‘sspring 2020 issue #210; in 2018 she was selected for the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Mentorship Program, an honour which was awarded in 2020 to current MFA candidate Martin Baumann.
Finally, current Writing undergrad April Glowicki, who writes as April Buchanan, has penned a touching tribute to her mother: “No Mother Like Frances” ran in The Tyee in time for Mother’s Day.
Microgrant Pilot Program
A new pilot program has been launched by the BC Arts Council to assist professional artists and cultural practitioners at this time. The Microgrant Pilot Program offers awards of up to $1,500 for artists to adapt either an existing work or their professional practice in response to emergent needs or changes in the arts and culture sector. This can include:
- the use of new technologies or digital opportunities
- the development of new skills or new relationships relevant to your project/practice, or
- the exploration of alternate production / presentation / distribution strategies.
Made possible by a generous donation from the Yosef Wosk Family Foundation, applications to the Microgrant Pilot Program must be submitted by June 30. Full details can be found here.
IBPOC artists & cultural administrators
If you’re a local artist or a cultural administrator who identifies as a member of the Indigenous, Black and People of Colour (IBPOC) community, don’t miss the upcoming virtual meeting on Thursday, June 11. Hosted by the Belfry Theatre alongside partners at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, Here Magazine, First Peoples’ Cultural Council and Primary Colours, this Zoom meeting is for practitioners of all disciplines—theatre, dance, music, opera, visual art and literary arts—who are currently living on the south end of Vancouver Island. Connect with other IBPOC cultural administrators and artists, and to share the challenges you face and identify your needs. Full details here.
If you’re not tired of surveys exploring the impact of COVID-19 yet, don’t forget to fill out this expanded impact survey from the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance about how BC arts communities and cultural organizations have been affected by the pandemic. Please note: this survey is for all arts disciplines, artists, arts workers, cultural organizations and museums across the province.
Even if you’ve already done the survey, this is an expanded version asking additional questions on potential impact specific to the full calendar year. The aggregate data will be shared with funders and arts service organizations for regional, provincial and national reporting.
Beadwork as resistance
When it came to designing a course exploring the cultural and spiritual survival, colonization and resistance of Indigenous women, Department of Writing professor Gregory Scofield naturally gravitated to beadwork—an art form he has been practicing since he was 8, when he first learned to do beadwork from his late aunt. But more than just learning a traditional art form, Scofield was also being enriched by his own Cree-Metis language and culture.
“Everything happened at that kitchen table: beadwork, storytelling, teaching me Cree . . . it all happened at the same time,” he recalls. “I wanted to be able to bring that mental, emotional and tactile experience to students who really had very little understanding or knowledge of Indigenous history or the impacts of colonial violence toward Indigenous women.”
The result is the new Writing course “Indigenous Women’s Resistance Writing and Material Art”.
Originally developed while he was teaching in the English department at Laurentian University, this past semester marked the first time Scofield taught this course at UVic. Combining hands-on learning of the traditional form and practice of Indigenous floral beadwork with films and writing focused on resurgence and resistance, for the most part Scofield’s class of 12 had no experience with beadwork and little knowledge of the issues facing Indigenous women.
“It’s a very tough course, content-wise, as it’s focusing on colonial violence towards and against Indigenous women—we had lengthy conversations and discussions around issues facing Indigenous women, including the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,” he explains about the tactile-learning process.
“But it’s all framed by beadwork: students are being asked to think about their own personal resistances or problems they’d like to solve while they’re sewing, so the idea of beadwork as resistance is explained through the history of women who were literally sewing to support their families since the late 19th century. A lot of these are pieces were made for the tourist trade that ended up all over the world at a time when Indigenous people were facing incredible racism and no opportunities.”
As seen in these examples, students were free to design their own composition, as long as it incorporated a floral design. “They could incorporate other significant elements meaningful to them or their families, but it has to include the floral beadwork,” says Scofield. “A lot of the time, students would be talking about how certain flowers represent female members of their family—their grandmother, say, or a flower that was significant to them as a child.”
The final assignments had to reflect on the process of their pieces: why those particular colours and design were chosen, what it represents overall and what they gleaned in the process. “This kind of course is really important for Writing students because it gives them a different way to conceptualize and tell stories, a different way of holding and carrying for those stories.”
Scofield, who joined the Writing department in 2019, also teaches an Indigenous oral storytelling course based on a Plains-Cree model of storytelling. “As a faculty member, this is all a part of bringing Indigenous methodologies and pedagogical approaches into spaces that normally haven’t had courses or ways of learning set up like this,” he explains. “For me, this is what Indigenizing the academy is all about; this is what Indigenization is.”
Having grown up doing traditional Cree-Metis floral beadwork, and with a memoir on that same topic currently in process, Scofield’s own writing practice is intimately connected to beading.
“When I’m not writing, I’m doing beadwork—and when I’m doing beadwork, I’m composing in my head,” he says with a chuckle.
New student work
Because there’s no time like a pandemic to indulge in a little dystopian escapism, take a few minutes to explore the worlds of current Visual Arts undergraduate Nick Patterson. Just entering his fourth year, Patterson’s creative talent has progressed from illustration and sculpture to video installations and performance art.
“[Visual Arts professor] Kelly Richardson introduced me to the discipline of video art,” says Patterson. “From my first project I established an aesthetic and motivation that runs through my video work to this day. The faculty and my peers have inspired me to push my art in very unexpected directions.”
His YouTube channel currently offers 16 pieces of short video art, ranging from one to 20 minutes in length, most featuring bleak, dystopian and possibly post-apocalyptic settings. “I’m exploring systems of survival in a future space and what bizarre rituals may develop around them,” he explains. “With each project, the viewer immersion has been more successful; this rapid progress from one medium to another has excited me to pursue new ways of working as well as collaboration with performers.”
Some of his recent projects—such as New Life (seen below), New Normal and Terminal—feature the camera in motion and are intended for viewing on a small screen; others are intended to be seen more as sculpture or performance pieces.
“I use the words bleak and dystopian to describe my work, but I craft these spaces with a kind of reverence and nostalgia,” Patterson says. “These are places I long to explore and I find them comforting on some level.”
Cooking up trouble
Theatre alum Mike Rinaldi is hosting a new YouTube series titled Cooped Up Cooking For COVID. Not many chefs can turn packaging from a Hello Fresh box into a rain hat for a Star Wars character, or start a pizza dough tutorial and end with a plate of tacos!
As quirky and charming as Rinaldi himself, Cooped up Cooking offers weekly episodes (four so far) that are equal parts good-natured cooking-show parodies and actual recipe preparation. (Watch for guest appearances by the likes of a singing sourdough and One-Man Star Wars legend and fellow Theatre alum Charlie Ross.)
A playwright and actor, Rinaldi has appeared on the likes of Murdoch Mysteries, Fringe and Odd Squad but achieved a measure of six-degree fame by co-writing the short play Toothpaste and Cigars with fellow alum TJ Dawe, which was adapted for the screen as The F Word (or What If, depending on country) starring the A-list likes of Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Adam Driver (Star Wars), Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick) and Rafe Spall (The Big Short).
Back in March, third-year School of Music student Keren Xu participated in JCURA, under the supervision of flute professor Suzanne Snizek, with a project involving two solo flute works by leading American composer Katherine Hoover as the basis of her Women’s Composer term project. The project focused on the inspiration and method of the repertoire, the reception of Katherine Hoover through composing, and how gender impacts the reception of her work.
Enjoy two recordings here by Xu performing two of Hoover’s works: “Kokopeli” and “Winter Spirits”.
Othello at the Globe
Back in November 2019, the Phoenix presented Shakespeare’s Othello for the first time in their 50-plus year history. A grand production on every level, it seemed only appropriate for the Theatre department to welcome a Shakespearean scholar for the pre-show lecture; we were fortunate that Theatre professor Michael Elliot—the only North American to serve as resident voice and text coach with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England—was able to coax one of his colleagues over from England for the event
Dr. Will Tosh is a Research Fellow from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. His lecture, “Othello at the Globe”, takes us back to 1600s London to discussion Shakespeare’s diverse first audiences might have responded to Othello. Dr. Tosh led the Indoor Performance Practice Project (2014-16), which examined playing in the candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe
"Othello at the Globe"
If you’re not feeling quite ready to get out and cycle around the region, or if you like the idea of bicycle riding more than the actual practice of it, then Theatre alumnus, Saanich Councillor and CRD Board Chair Colin Plant has a solution: he’ll do it for you, courtesy of his video adventures cycling around the region.
But don’t expect any kind of leisurely narrative: these are high-speed, cycling-only POV videos that put you in the rider’s seat as you whip around Greater Victoria. From Saanich backroads and downtown’s protected bike lanes to desitnations like the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and Lochside Trail, there are 11 cycling adventures in all. Go Colin go!