Physically distanced, culturally connected

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.

You can stay up to date with the resumption of campus activities through UVic’s dedicated COVID-19 site.

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 or

Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each issue.

Photo: Leon Fei


Pandemic funding

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.

Janet Munsil 

Creativity exhibit

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.” 

Ashley Riddett (Photo: John Threlfall)

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.


SKAM’s Sarah Hunsberger, Kendra Bidwell, Hannah Allin & Lynnéa Chan (Photo: Samantha Duerksen)

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. 

Carey Newman

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.”

Michael Warren (Darren Stone, Times Colonist)

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.


Paul Walde (Photo: Andrew Wright)


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.

Popular podcasts

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?

Listen to it here.



“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 QuartetAnn 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”.



The Lafayette String Quartet

Quartet in C Major, Op. 54, No. 2 by Franz Joseph Haydn

by Lafayette String Quartet

Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 Ludwig van Beethoven

by Lafayette String Quartet

String Quartet 1931 Ruth Crawford Seeger

by Lafayette String Quartet

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.

Laura Gildner

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 Campamong 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.

Eden Robinson

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

Claire Aitken

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

More to come 

We’ll be posting more content from our faculty, students and alumni each week—be sure to check back!

The newest phase

The newest phase

Welcome to issue nine 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.

If you missed some of the recent UVic updates, President Cassels has now outlined the fall academic programming and the supports that will be available to faculty, staff and students, as well as the planned safe, phased-in approach to resuming university services and operations. Other updates also cover spring Convocation, the 20/21 timetable and the transition from the emergency response management structure to a more normal operating scenario.

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 or

Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each week.


Legacy re-opening

Now that art galleries and museums are able to open as part of BC’s Restart Plan, our colleagues at Legacy Gallery have announced they will be re-opening their doors on June 17 with two new exhibits.

To Fish As Formerly: A Story of Straits Salish Resurgence is curated by AHVS alum Katie Hughes and XEMŦOLTW Dr. Nicholas Claxton (UVic’s School of Child & Youth Care) and tells the story of the SXOLE (the reef net fishery) through contemporary art, traditional knowledge and historical documentation. This exhibit features the work of seven artists: TEMOSEN Charles Elliott, John Elliott, Chris Paul, Dylan Thomas, Temoseng (aka Chasz Elliott) and Visual Arts alumni Sarah Jim and Colton Hash.

Also opening is TUKTUUYAQTUUQ (Caribou Crossing), by Visual Arts alum Maureen Gruben.  “Tuktuuyaqtuuq” is the Inuvialuktun name of Gruben’s home on the Arctic coast (known in English as “Tuktoyaktuk”), which means, “Looks Like a Caribou”.  In this exhibit, Gruben works with multiple facets of the animal to trace the caribou’s vast immaterial presence in her culture.

Both exhibits continue to November at Legacy Downtown, 630 Yates. Their new hours are 10am-4pm Wednesday, Friday & Saturday, plus noon-7pm Thursdays, with a maximum of 10 visitors to the gallery at a time. Please see the visitor safety statement on the Legacy website for more information.


A detail from Maureen Gruben’s TUKTUUYAQTUUQ

“The weight of change should not rest on the shoulders of Black people”

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in the US, Maclean’s magazine recently asked Black Canadian writers to pen open letters to America addressing the recent upheaval and the task of confronting racism in Canada. One of the authors selected for this series is celebrated author, Writing alum and Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Esi Edugyan.

“The weight of change shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of Black people—and indeed, it doesn’t. For true systemic shifts to occur, everyone has to recognize that the whole underlying structure is so irreparably broken that no one can afford to live like this anymore,” she writes.

“Idealism is not only for the young. Nor should it be left only to those who bear the greatest brunt of systemic inequities. Everyone must do the work. The pattern of outrage and forgetting cannot be sustained. This changes nothing in the long run. The work is never finished, in the way that the work of a modern marriage is never finished—it requires constant recommitment and vigilance, and a dismantling of archaic roles to avoid total collapse.”

Read her full essay here.

Edugyan was also one of three prominent Black Canadians—alongside poet El Jones and racial justice lawyer Anthony Morgan—featured on the June 10 episode of CBC Radio’s The Current.

“It seems like people are really waking up to the fact that this isn’t just a Black issue or an Indigenous issue, but that this is something that affects everyone and that we all should be outraged about,” Edugyan said in the interview.

You can listen to the full 30-minute discussion here.


Esi Edugyan


How can we save our theatres?

Faced with a protracted period of time before theatres can be opened again—and then possibly only in a physically distanced manner, both on- and off-stage—every arts group is currently grappling with the reality of staying dark for an extended period of time . . . and the dire impact that will have on both arts groups and local economies.

Britain’s powerhouse cultural sector needs investment, not charity, writes celebrated director of stage and screen Sir Sam Mendes in the June 4 issue of The Financial Times. But while he may be writing specifically about the situation in Britain, his ideas carry weight across the water as well.

“The entire performing arts sector has mobilised to make a game-changing proposal: the Cultural Investment Participation Scheme,” he writes. “It combines the joint potential of commercial and subsidised ecologies to offer the government the genuine prospect of substantial financial return. In short, our offer is to treat the government as an ‘Angel’, using the same formula to return investment and share in the profit of successful shows, once those shows have earned back their initial costs.”

Could these ideas be applied here? Discuss!

Sam Mendes

Stream this book

Feeling the need for a bit of escapism right now? Check out Theatre alum Krista Wallace‘s podcast [Totally Fantastic Title], where she is currently offering a chapter-by-chapter reading of her fantasy novel Gatekeeper’s Key.  

A writer, singer, actor and now podcaster, the Vancouver-based Wallace writes both short fic­tion in a vari­ety of genres (“To Serve and Protect”, 49th Parallels) as well as long-form fic­tion. She also sings jazz in a big band called FAT Jazz, a duo called the Itty Bitty Big Band and narrates audio books for other authors.

Krista Wallace

Looking for some good company?

Don’t worry if you missed the recent conversation between UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers and Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman: you can still watch their online talk about reconciliation and creating art that makes people consider themselves differently in the archive for Good Company, the new series of casual conversations between Rogers and members of UVic’s creative community.

Also archived on that same page is Rogers’ chat with with Department of Writing Professor Emerita Lorna Crozier about poetry and the arts in the era of COVID-19.

The end is . . . near?

Sometimes longstanding courses have an uncanny way of colliding with reality. Case in point? The current Art History & Visual Studies film studies elective “The End: Apocalyptic Themes in Film” (AHVS 392).

While longstanding AHVS instructor Mitch Parry has been teaching it each summer since 2010, this is the first time he’s taught it in such dire circumstances—or online instead of in a classroom. But even though the COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t represent “the end” per se, it has impacted society more than any other event in recent memory.

Yet despite all we’ve been collectively going through, Parry’s course still filled quickly and has a waitlist nearly as large as the maximum enrollment. Why the popularity of the apocalypse?

‘There’s kind of a satisfaction in watching the world end without having to experience it,” says Parry. “But as film is a photographic and narrative medium, audiences just love seeing something apocalyptic . . . that doesn’t actually involve anyone dying.”

As a subject, the apocalypse actually goes back to the early days of cinema (“There’s a Danish movie called The End of the World from 1916, which has beautiful lighting and good performances,” he says), which affords him a plethora of end-of-the-world scenarios from which to choose. This year, he’s limited it to nine films ranging from horror (Zombieland), comedy (Last Night) and science fiction (I Am Legend) to bleak futurism (The Road) and personal drama (These Final Hours).

All explore different ways in which the world can end: meteor (Deep Impact), excessive consumption (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs), nuclear war (Dr Strangelove), economic collapse (Take Shelter), or simply experience an apocalypse without knowing what’s happening or why, as in the Canadian film Last Night.

“The fun part of Last Night is that the world ends at midnight Toronto time,” he chuckles, “which seems to imply that Toronto really is the centre of the universe.”

Yet despite a decade of popularity, Parry admits he was quite reluctant to teach the course at all this summer.

“I usually start the class by asking how many people think the world is going to end in their lifetime,” he says. “Back in 2010, pretty much everybody put up their hand, but it has dropped quite significantly in the intervening years—but now, it seems like a really rude question to ask. It feels like the elephant in the room.”

Describing the popularity of the apocalypse like “the myth of Cassandra: the prophet who isn’t listened to”, Parry admits he’ll be making some changes in his approach to the course this year. “It’s much easier to talk about the end of the world as an abstract thing than when it’s hinted at by current events. I think you have to tread lightly at times like this.”

Finally, as a veteran film professor, if the world was ending and he could only watch one more apocalyptic film, what would it be?

Melancholia,” he says, citing Lars Von Trier’s 135-minute, 2011 Danish epic. “It offers no hope, which means no equivocation. The world ends at the beginning of the film, then we see how the end of the world affects these two sisters. Plus, it’s the single best representation of how I’ve experienced depression—the slow-motion opening, the dragging, monotonous endlessness of it.”

Now that sounds like an apocalypse.

2009’s Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
Will Smith in 2007’s I Am Legend
Slim Pickens in 1964’s Dr. Strangelove
There’s no escaping 2011’s Melancholia

Blowing her own horn

Almost as busy off-campus as she is while teaching in the School of Music, trumpet professor and virtuoso Merrie Klazek always seems to hit the right note.

Just days before we all went into isolation back in mid-March, Klazek took a quick trip to Elkhart, Indiana, where the Vincent Bach trumpet factory. As a Bach Artist, she was participating in their “Artist Select” program, which supports their artists coming to personally try a lot of instruments at the factory—and to choose several to be sold in the local music store of their city, with a tag explaining that theyhave been hand selected by this artist, so that students in particular know what they are buying.

While she was there, Back produced a series of six fascinating videos, in which Klazek shares her journey as both a teacher/educator and performer, her exploration of different instruments, her musical influences and how she ended up knowing—after her first brass class—that the trumpet was her “voice”. Now having been playing professionally for over 30 years, Klazek’s journey as a professional musician and now Bach Artist is nicely encapsulated in this insightful video series.

You can also check out her first album, Songs to the Moon, which was recently added to Spotify (and YouTube as well), or watch her perform alongside her husband, fiddler Pierre Schryer, in the April 2020 COncert-VIDeo, a fun COVID project featuring a series of performances by Schryer and local musicians. (Klazek performs the Berber tune “A Ya Zain” 11:00 to 13:50). 

Finally, please enjoy this performance by Klazek and seven trumpet colleagues across Canada as they perform Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium”, arranged by Matt Byrne.

The Canadian Pro Trumpet Ensemble includes Merrie Klazek (top centre)
Part 1: “The Artist Select Experience”
Part 4: “A Dedication to Bach Trumpets From Early On”
Part 2: “Staying Active in Musical Pursuits”
Part 5: “The Importance of a Professional Level Horn”
Part 3: “Choosing the Trumpet”
Part 6: “Finding Your Influences”

Two 4 One for free

Just in time for Pride month, you can now stream the award-winning feature film Two 4 One—described as the first transgender rom-com—for free through to June 15. Just use this link.

Written, directed and edited by Department of Writing chair Maureen Bradley in 2014 and produced by Writing’s digital media specialist Daniel Hogg, the locally shot Two 4 One is a bittersweet comedic drama that sees a transgender hero fall into an unimaginable predicament.

When transgendered Adam helps his baby-crazy ex-girlfriend Miriam artificially inseminate, they wind up in bed together—and they both get pregnant. Now Adam must reconcile his identity and gender with his biological reality, grapple with his feelings for Miriam and try to figure out what it means to be a man.

Watch the trailer here.

Described as a “sweet gender-bender of a light comedy . . . sensitive, subtle and truly sure-handed” (Globe and Mail) and “genuinely funny and sensitive [with] clever and hilarious twists” (Calgary Sun), it stars Gavin Crawford (This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Baroness Von Sketch Show), Naomi Snieckus (Mr. D, Carter), Andrea Menard (Moccasin Flats, Blackstone), Matt Baram (Seed, Carter), and Gabrielle Rose (The Sweet Hereafter, The Man in the High Castle).

The winner of eight international film awards—including Best Canadian Film (Victoria Film Festival), Audience Award: Best Feature Film (The Seattle Transgender Film Festival) and a Special Jury Prize (Chicago International LGBTQ+ Film Festival)—Bradley’s debut feature film was ahead of its time in its portrayal of a transgender character.

“I’ve had tons of films at film festivals but I want to reach a broader audience,” she said at the time. “Living life as a transgendered man is not something most people know anything about.”

Reaching that wider audience is why she chose to write Two 4 One as a romantic comedy. “I’m a lapsed activist, and storytelling is a way of reaching people that’s easier than activism,” she explained. “When people laugh, they’re open and might take in new ideas, and understand ‘the other’ . . . . Humour is very subversive.”

Two 4 One is normally available for rental on the NFB website ($5.99) and iTunes ($4.99), among other platforms, but this free screening is a special event only available to The Connector’s readership until June 15. Enjoy!

Reengaging with art

When last we heard from current Art History & Visual Studies graduate student Ashley Riddett in April, she was working with Oak Bay’s Gage Gallery Arts Collective to create an online art-sharing platform and blog series called Challenge Crisis with Creativity, which has continued to post art in response to weekly themes.

Now, Riddett and a team of AHVS grad students are working with Gage Gallery to mount both a physical and virtual exhibit featuring the art contributed by the community during the COVID-19 outbreak. Challenge Crisis with Creativity: Our Community Coping with COVID Through Art will run June 23-27 at the Gage Gallery, 2031 Oak Bay Avenue.

The exhibit will feature 50 pieces in a variety of disciplines selected from the 100-plus artists who contributed nearly 300 pieces to the online series, with a separate room featuring projections of the remaining work.

“The physical exhibit is not only a celebration of the leniency on social distancing, but also a celebration of how successful the project has been so far,” says Riddett. “And I’m a huge fan of inclusion and community-building, so the projector room will be a great way to include everyone.”

The pieces in the exhibit have been selected by both Riddett and fellow AHVS grad students Maria Buhne, Anahita Ranjbar and Amena Sharmin, as well as the Gage Gallery’s Gabriela Hirt and Tanya Bub. “We picked the ones we felt were really strong and resonated with the weekly themes,” she explains.

The exhibit itself will be physically distanced, given Gage Gallery’s long narrow space, with only two viewers at a time allowed into the space. “It will be challenging, but I think it’ll be worth it,” Riddett says. “And I’m sure people will appreciate feeling confident and safe within the space. We’re all coming out more but there is still that anxiety.”

For those not able—or ready—to visit the actual gallery, Riddett is drawing on her course experience to create a 3D digital exhibition for people who are unable to visit the Oak Bay gallery. “I did a lot of virtual exhibition walkthroughs as part of my AHVS undergraduate and graduate courses, so I have a lot of experience in it,” she says.

Riddett feels the Challenge Crisis with Creativity project—with its focus on artist and crafter recognition and community engagement—dovetails nicely with her own graduate research focusing on collecting oral histories of textile crafters in Nova Scotia (specifically rug hookers).

“The art we create today is going to be the art we admire and study tomorrow,” she says. “Art history is more relevant than people give it credit for . . . while this is an unfortunate time, it’s a great time to understand why visuals are so important. It’s important to look for new avenues to help and support people in the art world, and to get people reengaging again.”

AHVS grad student Ashley Riddett at her Gage Gallery exhibit

To be or not to be . . . solo

Long before there was the One-Man Star Wars, Theatre Inconnu artistic director and Department of Theatre alum and instructor Clayton Jevne created his One-Man Hamlet. Described by various reviewers over the years as “Amazing”, “Ingenious” and “Mind boggling”, Jevne performed this remarkable show for over 20 years and it truly is a wonder to behold. But this “thrift-store classic” certainly didn’t start out that way.

“In 1991, after three seasons of trying to make a go of establishing ourselves as a going concern in Victoria, Theatre Inconnu decided to close shop after a final—and, at the time, considered ‘audacious’—farewell production,” recalls Jevne. “Down to one member, the ‘company’ decided to create a one-actor production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, furnished with props and costume bits from local thrift shops. If the company was to go under, then let it go under in a truly bizarre fashion.”

But rather than scuttle the ship, Jevne’s One-Man Hamlet actually had the complete opposite effect. “The production sold out and became the spark that ignited the company’s love affair with the Bard,” he says.

Theatre Inconnu was able to leverage the success of the show and launch the first annual mini-Shakespeare summer festival in 1991, which soon morphed into a major annual event and continues to this day as the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival—led by artistic director and Writing MFA alum Karen Lee Pickett—on the grounds of Camosun College. (In fact, 2020 would have been the Shakespeare Fest’s 30th anniversary, had COVID-19 not put it temporarily on hold.)

Between 1991 and 2008, Jevne’s One-Man Hamlet then went on to tour through four countries (UK, Mexico, US, Canada) and over 600 performances. Not bad for what was supposed to be the last kick at the cat!

In addition to having been the artistic director of Theatre Inconnu since 1978—where he has served as actor, director or designer on close to 100 productions—Jevne has logged close to 1,000 performances of solo shows across North America and Europe. Located right across the street from the Belfry on Fernwood Road, Theatre Inconnu is rightly described as “Victoria’s longest-running independent theatre” and has achieved legendary status locally, thanks to Jevne’s indefatigable leadership.

While his widely acclaimed One-Man Hamlet is available in book form by Ekstasis Editions, we’re presenting it here as a recording of the 20th anniversary performance back in 2011.

Even if you don’t know Rosencrantz from Guildenstern, you’re bound to enjoy it.

Clayton Jevne performing his “thrift store classic” One-Man Hamlet

More to come weekly

We’ll be posting more content from our faculty, students and alumni each week—be sure to check back!