Physically distanced, culturally connected
Welcome to issue 10 of the Fine Arts Connector, your regular listing of news, resources, activities and other shareable content from UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts. It’s a handy way of keeping up with student, faculty and alumni activity while we’ve shifted gears to working, creating and teaching off-campus.
In accordance with BC’s careful, step-by-step approach to increasing social and economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, the university is moving into the next phase of resuming on-campus activities.
Our approach continues to be careful and gradual, while maintaining our focus on the health and workplace safety of our campus community. Units will continue to modify their operational plans to ensure they have the people, whether working on or off campus, and services in place to support our commitment to high-quality academic programming and services.
This managed, gradual return to campus is one way we can do our part to minimize the potential risk of an increased spread of the virus in our community. The fewer people we have on campus, the easier it is for those who are on site to maintain effective protective measures.
Similarly, Victoria’s arts scene is cautiously beginning to reemerge. As noted in the news roundup below, we’re starting to see innovative ways of delivering live theatre, art and music to audiences once more—with a number of our alumni, students and faculty at the forefront locally.
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 all connected. 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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each issue.
Double Fine Arts alum (BFA Theatre/MFA Writing) and current Department of Writing playwriting instructor Janet Munsil has been announced as one of the recipients of the CBC Creative Relief Fund projects in the “Playwright Pilot Stream” for her new play, Attaboy!—which had a live reading at the Belfry Theatre back in 2019. Selected from nearly 9000 submitted projects, Munsil’s play is one of 119 original Canadian projects to receive funding for development and production, including 51 projects from BIPOC creators.
The fund was launched in April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provided $2 million in urgently needed development and production funding to a diverse range of original projects, including scripted comedies and dramas, unscripted entertainment, kids and young adult programming, podcasts, play adaptations and short documentaries.
Current Art History & Visual Studies graduate student Ashley Riddett appeared in this June 23 Times Colonist story about her work on the physically-distanced exhibit, Challenge Crisis with Creativity: Our Community Coping with COVID Through Art, running June 23-27 at Oak Bay’s Gage Gallery.
The exhibit was curated by Riddett and fellow grad students Maria Buhne, Anahita Ranjbar and Amena Sharmin, as well as Gage’s Gabriela Hirt and Tanya Bub. Also appearing in the exhibit is work by Visual Arts alum Francine Klysen, who notes in the TC article that her husband is in long-term care at Oak Bay Kiwanis Pavilion for Alzheimer’s; she hasn’t been able to see her husband for 13 weeks, but she has sold eight paintings inspired by the Gage Gallery project, profits from which are being donated back to Kiwanis Pavilion. “I’ve never sold a single painting before,” Klysen told the TC. “But it was my husband who said I should do this. Now, I’m painting every day.”
Theatre to go
It’s been a busy week since alumni company Theatre SKAM launched their new, free traveling Home Delivery service—offering live theatre directly to their audience’s doors—with a number of local shows being booked and a good deal of media coverage.
Current University of Victoria Phoenix Theatre student actors Sarah Hunsberger and Hannah Allin were interviewed for this June 17 piece on CTV Vancouver Island, while alumni actor Lynnéa Chan was featured in this June 18 CHEK News story and SKAM’s artistic producer Matthew Payne appeared on CBC Radio’s On The Island on June 22.
An alumni company with a long history of employing Theatre students and graduates, SKAM’s current team includes eight students & recent theatre alumni, including Hannah Mariko Bell, Vanessa Wood, Lynnea Chan, Astra Lund-Phillips, Olivia Wheeler, Sarah Hunsbergeer, Hannah Allin and Logan Swain.
Interested in booking your own free show? Click here to find out more.
History, through art
Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman appeared on both CBC Radio’s All Points West and North By Northwest recently, both covering current political events in the context of Indigenous Peoples Day. In this June 21 NXNW interview (skip to the 2:10 mark), he discusses contemporary issues—including politics, the pandemic and anti-racism—through an art lens, and how that connects with his teaching practice. He also spoke about his recent documentary, Picking Up The Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket, which is currently streaming for free.
“With all of the big conversations going on in the world right now . . . and the discussions here in Canada about systemic racism, this is a good resource to remind people what the foundations of this country are,” he told host Sheryl McKay about the documentary.
A decade of fine art
As local art galleries begin to open up again, Art History & Visual Studies alum Michael Warren made the news recently by combining the re-opening of his downtown Madrona Gallery with its 10th anniversary. “The exhibit will touch on major moments at the gallery through the decade,” said Warren in this June 15 Times Colonist interview. “We will showcase significant Inuit carvings, drawings and prints as well as historic Canadian and post-war pieces.”
“In a lot of ways it feels like just yesterday we were opening the gallery and learning how to swim,” Warren told the Victoria News in this June 14 interview. “But we’ve done a lot. The business has grown, going from a local focus with a local footprint to sourcing work nationally and internationally.”
In the swim
The premiere exhibition of the Tom Thomson Centennial Swim by Visual Arts professor Paul Walde is back open to the public again at Nelson’s Touchstones Gallery: the exhibition closed shortly after it originally opened in March, but has now been extended to September 20.
On July 8 2017, Walde swam the length of Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park on the 100th anniversary of Canadian painter Tom Thomson’s death. The swim—a site- and temporally-specific event—was used as an opportunity for exploring and understanding this landscape and history through performative experience. The swim was accompanied by a series of interconnected events: a brass band with a mandolin soloist performing a new long form music composition by Walde, three synchronized swimming routines a various points along the route, and a flotilla of canoes carrying the band.
The work primarily exists in two forms: the event itself and the resulting audio/video work based on the footage of the event. Touchstones is the first gallery to premiere the video and score as an installation.
SSHRC Insight summer school
While most think of summer school as a bit of an inconvenience, it can be an ideal time for professional development. Consider UVic’s upcoming SSHRC Insight Summer School, which is designed to support faculty members, librarians and postdoctoral fellows from across campus as they prepare applications for SSHRC Insight or Insight Development Grants.
Participants are invited to access any or all of the summer school offerings, including interactive sessions, customized online resources, a discussion forum and opportunities for peer review. Facilitated by UVic’s faculty grants officers, the series will provide a supportive and collegial atmosphere to learn more about the application process and make significant headway on a draft application.
The training will be hosted via CourseSpaces, with optional Zoom live sessions taking place from 2-3:30pm Wednesdays (PDT) on July 8, 15, 22 & 29.
If you haven’t caught the podcast revolution yet, now’s definitely the time. While the online airwaves are filled with options, here are two well worth checking out.
The first is UVic’s Scales of Change: A field guide to the Dragons of Climate Inaction, an eight-part weekly series launched on May 13. Produced by Future Ecologies, with support from UVic, the foundation of the series is The Dragons of Inaction, the magnum opus of UVic environmental psychologist Robert Gifford. With the help of Gifford himself, co-hosts Adam Huggins (Environmental Studies alum) and Mendel Skulski take a deep dive into the psychological barriers (the “dragons”) that prevent us from addressing the urgency of the climate crisis. Each episode, Skulski and Huggins talk with guests including filmmakers, activists, scientists, Indigenous land defenders, journalists, scholars and artists to deepen the conversation around making meaningful change—all woven together by a powerful immersive soundscape. You can listen online or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or your favourite podcast app.
But if you’re looking for something more literally fantastic, check out the science-fiction podcast ARCA-45672 by Visual Arts MFA alum Claire Scherzinger. Inspired by some of her paintings that she wanted to bring to life, Scherzinger wrote and sound-designed this eight-part sci-fi drama that was directed and produced by Theatre alum Kirsten Sharun, and acted and recorded by UVic students and alumni (with an assist from faculty members Kirk McNally and Cliff Haman). When first released in 2019, ARCA received good coverage from CBC and was a top performer on the iTunes charts in Canada for the Apple Podcast.
ARCA-45672 in a nutshell: in 2172, the world is dying. Only a fraction of the Earth’s former biosphere remains, the world is running out of food and part of the human population has gone sterile, resulting in massive inbreeding and genetic distortions. Teams of scientists and military personnel tasked with finding a way to save humanity from extinction are confronted with a possible opportunity: an exoplanet near the Proxima Centauri system is discovered.
Over the course of 73 years, this discovery of the exoplanet sparks a series of probe and AI missions—all leading to the realization that a new branch of humanity has arisen on Arca-45672. Now, as the Earth’s biosphere collapses, governments and military organizations scramble as they see potential salvation for their dying species in this exoplanet. But should humanity be content to merely survive?
“The Death of the Great Giant Tor Ragnar” (Claire Scherzinger, 2018)
Four of a kind
For over 30 years, the Lafayette String Quartet has been making an indelible mark on the School of Music, first as Artists-in-Residence and now as faculty members who teach violin, viola, cello and coach chamber music with some of Canada’s finest young string players.
The Lafayette String Quartet—Ann Elliott Goldschmid (violin), Sharon Stanis (violin), Joanna Hood (viola) and Pamela Highbaugh-Aloni (cello)— is the only all-female ensemble in the world to comprise the four original members: a distinct rarity, regardless of gender or profession.
Not only are the LSQ active on campus with teaching, performing and organizing their annual Lafayette Health Awareness Series, but they’re also committed to Victoria’s greater music scene. You’ll frequently find them working with the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra, connecting with the string programs in public schools, performing with Pacific Baroque, hosting Quartet Fest West . . . oh, and maintaining an active touring schedule with concerts around North American and Europe.
Among their various quartet projects are the Complete Beethoven Cycle, the Second Viennese School, Bartók’s Legacy and the Complete Cycle of Shostakovich String Quartets.
In addition to their work with undergraduate and graduate students, the LSQ also offer a Master’s in Music Performance (MMus): Emphasis in String Quartet, a program specifically designed for a pre-existing string quartet interested in embarking on a career in chamber music. “You hone your skills to be the best you can possibly be on your instrument, then bring those skills into the ensemble, matching the timing, harmony, vibrato, bow speeds and articulation of the others,” explains Elliot-Goldschmid. “It’s a magical process but it takes an enormous amount of work.”
They also perform in the School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series, of course, which brings us to this issue’s musical break: a recording of the LSQ’s February 2020 concert, featuring Haydn’s “Quartet in C Major, Op. 54, No. 2″, Ruth Crawford Seeger’s “String Quartet 1931″ and Beethoven’s “Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1”.
Quartet in C Major, Op. 54, No. 2 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 Ludwig van Beethoven
String Quartet 1931 Ruth Crawford Seeger
A desire for connection
As part of the ongoing Field Trip: Art Across Canada digital arts initiative, recent Visual Arts alum Laura Gildner was invited to offer insight into her art practice and the ways she is adapting her work to the new conditions playing out in the landscape of physical distancing.
“Since the lockdown began, I have been grappling with the potential consequences a long-term lack of human interaction might have on my well-being as well as on my work,” Gildner explains in the short video (below) that debuted in May 2020.
“My practice, for the most part, involves casting or collaborating with large groups of people to create participatory experiences in response to my research. This desire for connection will be the jumping off point for my field trip—part artist talk and part performance, I’ll be looking at how art that is rooted in human contact might be reimagined in the age of physical distancing.”
Earlier this spring, Gildner was named the winner of the 2020 Lind Prize in Photography, Film and Video Art (for which she was twice nominated), and her work Informer was a selected exhibition for this year’s Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver. Most recently, she has exhibited at the Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver.
Field Trip: Art Across Canada delivers arts experiences with some of Canada’s most celebrated artists in a national partnership with leading arts organizations. Recently, it featured a conversation with Visual Arts professors Cedric Bomford and Rick Leong, as well as alumni Hollis Roberts and Mike McLean.
Eden Robinson inspires students
When it comes to celebrated alumni, UVic’s Writing department has an embarrassment of riches—think Esi Edugyan, WP Kinsella, Aislinn Hunter, Billeh Nickerson and Richard Van Camp, among many, many others. Celebrated Haisla novelist Eden Robinson is another who is consistently burning up the bestseller charts since her debut novel Monkey Beach back in 2001.
With a fistful of awards and nominations—including winning the Writers Trust Engel/Findley Award, a Writers Trust Fellowship, the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize in the BC Book Prizes, a Copper Cylinder Adult Award and being shortlisted for a Scotiabank Giller Prize, as well as being selected for CBC’s Canada Reads series—her new Trickster series is now being developed into a television series by Sienna Films, producers of Cardinal and New Waterford Girl.
As a recipient of one of the Faculty of Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Awards, Robinson has been no stranger to campus since graduating in 1992; most recently, the Kitamaat-based writer offered an inspiring (and often hilarious) talk to a class of first-year Writing students in October 2018, while back in town for the Victoria Writer’s Festival.
“The writers coming up now give me a lot of hope because they’re very comfortable speaking their minds—politically, socially and personally—and a lot of the things they’re talking about are longstanding issues,” she said at the time.
Back in the fall of 2018, she had just released Trickster Drift, the second book in her planned trilogy (including 2017’s Son of a Trickster and the forthcoming Return of the Trickster). You can read more about Robinson and her accomplishments (including finding out which fabled Writing prof once gave her a “0” out of 10 on an assignment) in this 2018 interview from UVic’s Torch alumni magazine.
But for now, you can watch her in action as she talks about being an Indigenous author, life after university, writing a bestseller, Trickster Drift and much more in this Orion Lecture in Fine Arts from October 2018.
It was a packed Writing class for Eden Robinson’s talk
Woven, embroidered and stitched
If you’re looking for cultural casualties of the spring pandemic, Fine Arts has plenty of examples: from cancelled concerts in the School of Music to the Visual Arts BFA grad exhibit and the final Phoenix Theatre production of the year, there was no shortage of on-campus disappointments.
Two more would include both Gendered Threads of Globalization: 20th Century Textile Crossings in Asia Pacific, an international symposium organized by Art History & Visual Studies professor Melia Belli Bose, and the accompanying Legacy Maltwood exhibit, Woven, Embroidered and Stitched in Tradition: Women’s Textile Labour in 20th Century Asia, curated by graduating AHVS undergraduate Claire Aitken.
“Claire did a phenomenal job,” says Belli Bose, who supervised the project. “This was a beautifully curated exhibition that struck the perfect balance between showcasing the sumptuous garments and providing the right amount of information.”
Carefully selected from UVic’s art collection and pieces loaned from private collections, Woven, Embroidered and Stitched featured a dazzling array of luxury textiles from China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Bangladesh. But the exhibit also shed light on women’s roles as makers, consumers and connoisseurs between the late 19th and early 21st centuries.
“It was a very valuable experience for me,” says Aitken. “This was more about public engagement from an educational perspective, which is where I see myself going in the future. I’ve always had an interest in fashion in general . . . but my focus has shifted to textiles and the women’s realm of art, how textiles can basically be moving symbols of culture, status and class.”
Aitken—who also has a BFA from UVic’s Visual Arts department, a diploma from UVic’s Cultural Resources Management Program plus curatorial experience from both the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (where she ran their Art Rental & Sales program) and The Avenue Gallery in Oak Bay—is already focused on entering the AHVS Master’s program this fall.
“I have a plan to get a very well-rounded arts education,” she says with a laugh. “Much of the Visual Arts program is creation-based, so I wanted to come back and strengthen my academic writing. That built a passion for museum studies, curatorial experience and more academic-based art work than my creation-based work as a photographer.”
While Woven, Embroidered and Stitched is still in place behind the Library’s closed doors, Aitken says they’re currently discussing what will happen with it.
“Some of the hanging pieces will have to come down, because they’re quite fragile,” she says. “One of my assignments actually talked about having an online platform for the exhibition—which would have been excellent going into this COVID situation, as it would have still been accessible. That’s something I’ll consider in the future for any curatorial work: not only in case of a global pandemic, but simply to make the space open to people who physically can’t be there.”
And while Belli Bose’s Global Threads symposium is being rescheduled, she’s also holding out hope that the exhibition can be seen in the fall—if physical distancing restrictions relax enough. Whatever happens, however, she singles out Aitken’s efforts as being responsible for the exhibition’s success.
“Claire is a natural curator and I can absolutely see her joining the field after she completes her MA with us,” she says. “We are lucky to have her!”
Photos by Fine Arts student photographer Leon Fei
Rapping about curry
When last we spoke to Theatre alum Jasleen Powar back in 2016, she was just about to graduate and was already making a name for herself as Vancouver-based rapper Horsepowar. Four years later, Powar is now based in New York City and breaking new waves as the spicy host of the online food show Curry Shop.
But more than just another food show, Curry Shop offers one woman’s journey to better understand her own culture through the lens of food. And, with over 128,000 views, it seems to have caught on.
Part of the First We Feast food TV network on YouTube, Horsepowar’s Curry Shop dropped in 2018 and offers an insider’s look at one of the world’s most ubiquitous—if misunderstood—comfort foods. With six episodes already wrapped and a second season in the works, Curry Shop examines how South Asia’s most famous culinary export changes shape from Japan to Jamaica to Thailand to the Philippines.
Horsepowar is joined on each episode by celebrity guests like Aasif Mandvi, Sean Paul, Chi Ching Ching and Rina Sawayama, who explore the connections between hip-hop, spice and global cuisine while sampling some of NYC’s finest bowls of curry.
It’s a nice match for Powar. Her unflinching rhymes and powerhouse Sikh-Canadian “Desi girl” persona (a term for girls born outside of South Asia but still upholding traditional values) had already earned the attention of the likes of CBC, Nylon, Vice, Rolling Stone India, GQ India and Canadian newspapers from Vancouver to Montreal . . . all before she even graduated. (You can read more in this 2016 graduation interview with Powar on the Fine Arts blog.)
Grab a cool drink and prepare for things to get hot as you watch Horsepowar in action in the Curry Shop.
Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Nathan Medd