Graduation celebration

Welcome to issue 11 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.

This month, we congratulate our latest group of graduating students, who now become part of the more than 8,800 Fine Arts alumni worldwide who have studied at UVic. “As part of an esteemed group of artists and creative thinkers, you are poised to embrace the adventures that lie ahead,” says acting dean Allana Lindgren in a message to the new alumni. “Believe in yourself. You are ready . . . . Use the knowledge and skills you learned during your degree to make a difference for your family, your community, the planet.”

Since there can’t be an in-person convocation ceremony this year, we’ve put together this Grad 2020  website for our students, filled with congratulatory videos from UVic President Jamie Cassels, Chancellor Shelagh Rogers, Acting Dean Allana Lindgren, Acting Associate Dean Adam Con, Songhees Elder Skip Dick plus messages from each of our departments and schools, as well as our certificate and diploma partners.

It’s our own compliment to UVic’s central graduation site, which features additional content like messages from the Governor General of Canada, Julie Payette, BC Premiere John Horgan and others. “You and your fellow students have faced a very challenging spring term, but you’ve endured and you’ve supported one another . . . your success today after those challenges bodes very well for your future,” says President Cassels. “This is an important transition for you, and your university wishes you all the best.”

Once again, congratulations to our 2020 graduates! 

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.

Graduating Theatre student Olivia Wheeler (photo: John Threlfall)


We will need fine arts grads 

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted in one of his pandemic briefings, “Since the beginning of the current crisis, artists have been bringing comfort, laughs and happiness into our lives.” He’s right: the arts are important, particularly during a pandemic. In fact, COVID-19 has proven the arts are a social necessity. Creativity is always an assertion of hope​.

So says Acting Dean Allana Lindgren in her opinion piece “We Will Need Fine Arts Graduates” in a Post COVID-19 World, which ran on July 9 in the online University Affairs magazine.

“A fine arts education—be it in music, theatre, dance, creative writing, visual arts or art history and visual studies—is not always an easy sell. The social utility and financial feasibility of the arts are often underrated. This is an erroneous view at best, given the more than 700,000 jobs and nearly $60-billion direct economic impact the cultural industries have in Canada,” writes Lindgren.

“As they write novels, sculpt, create digital art or compose music, our students are also learning transferrable skills that are essential for countering situations defined by uncertainty. Innovation and adaptability are an essential component of any fine arts education. The arts community was one of the first to pivot online after the sweeping cancellations of performances, concerts, readings, exhibits and arts-related events and conferences.”

Read the full piece here.


University Affairs illustration by Pablo Stanley

More Good Company

Fine Arts has been well-represented in the “Good Company” interview series. So far, UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers has interviewed a number of our people, including:  

The latest in the series is her conversation with Writing professor and Cree Metis poet Gregory Scofield, who explores the connection between language, storytelling and beadwork. 

 Just click on the links to watch their interviews with Shelagh.

Theatre’s Adrienne Holierhoek & her communications class visit Stacy Ross at CHEK in 2018

Sing out loud (but at home) 

Choirs have been in the news a lot lately since provincial health officer Bonnie Henry announced in June that choral singing would likely be one of the last activities to resume normal practice. With well over 50 choirs, Victoria is a big choir town—so what does COVID-19 mean for the future of choir singing locally?

Hear Acting Associate Dean and School of Music choral professor Adam Con talk about the present and future of choir singing in this recent interview with CBC Radio’s All Points West

“There are thousands of people in Victoria missing the experience of singing right now,” says Con, who leads the UVic Chorus. “Making plans is probably the most important thing, as we don’t know when we’re going to be able to come together again.”   


Adam Con leads a children’s choir at the Legislature in 2019

Coming up this month

The latest in Pacific Opera’s ongoing Lunchbox Opera Online series features School of Music professors Benjamin Butterfield and pianist Kinza Tyrrell as they perform some of their favourite selections on July 24. The performance by our own acclaimed tenor and his accompanist was filmed live in the Wingate Studio of Pacific Opera Victoria’s Baumann Centre.


When it comes to object affection, there’s more to Theatre’s interim properties instructor Karina Kalvaitis than just props. She’s having her own sculpture show this month: The Residents features a series of felt and mixed media sculptures describe a world of mysterious creatures and half-familiar places. Through explorations of posture, gesture and facial expressions, the resident animals wordlessly express states of mind and emotion. The Residents runs 12-5pm weekends (or by appointment) through to July 26 at arc.hive artist run centre, 2516 Bridge Street. 

Current Writing student and emerging filmmaker Elvie Simons has been shortlisted for CineVic’s CineSpark contest for her short film Bequest. Blending Super-8 footage with a present-day voiceover in a  mother-daughter storyline, Simons stands the chance of winning a production package worth over $17,500 to complete her film for 2021’s Short Circuit Film Festival. Watch her Zoom pitch at 7pm Tuesday, July 28.

“The Residents” by Karina Kalvaitis 


Anti-racism training available 

Back in early June, UVic president Jamie Cassels released a statement about the need for us—as a university and as individuals—to continue to confront racism. “Racism and discrimination have no place at UVic, and we stand in solidarity with students, faculty and staff against racism, intolerance and violence,” he wrote.  

As such, a number of initiatives are underway to combat racism at UVic, including: a new program of anti-racism training through the office of Equity and Human Rights; an institutional project to establish a comprehensive strategy for considering equity, diversity and inclusion in all faculty hiring, promotion and tenure committees; an upcoming symposium on anti-racism; and planned reviews of our discrimination and harassment, human rights and sexualized violence policies. “Although we have many initiatives underway, we acknowledge that there is still much more to be done,” says Cassels.

UVic recently participated in a Victoria Forum webinar on “Systemic Racism & Inequality in the Middle of a Global Pandemic”—if you missed it, you can see a recap of the 80-minute session here.

And, as part of that ongoing discussion, Fine Arts hosted Writing chair Maureen Bradley, Theatre professor Yasmine Kandil and associate dean Adam Con to lead a discussion on systemic racism at our  June 25 faculty meeting. Part of what came out of that discussion is the new White Fragility Discussion & Resource Group, which has been set up to discuss and share resources that will help us dismantle white fragility—which present a serious barrier to combatting racism and systemic discrimination.

If you’re not familiar with the term, “white fragility” was coined by academic Dr. Robin DiAngelo in 2011. Her eponymous book is back at the top of the New York Times bestseller list (just below Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist). As the NYT describes it“white fragility” is the historical and cultural analyses on what causes defensive moves by white people, and how this inhibits cross-racial dialogue. DiAngelo suggests that it often derails the serious work of addressing systemic discrimination. 

Share your ideas with the Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts invites you to help shape the Council’s next five-year strategic plan. 

This is a disruptive period for the whole arts community—one which brings challenges, but also one which is prompting reflection and dialogue, and which offers the opportunity to take meaningful action. The Canada Council wants to hear from diverse stakeholder groups and the public to shape a plan that reflects the arts sector’s current reality and looks ahead to how the Council can help restart, reinvigorate and reimagine the arts for the benefit of all Canadians. 

As Canada’s public arts funder, the Council supports the creation and enjoyment of the arts through investments in Canadian artists and arts organizations. To give you a platform for sharing your ideas for the next strategic plan, the Council has engaged Hill+Knowlton Strategies to conduct a survey and provide other engagement opportunities.

Complete their online survey at and use #ReimagineTheArts on your social media accounts. This survey should only take 15-25 minutes to complete and will provide the Council with valuable input to shape our future priorities, plans and actions to support the arts in Canada.

The deadline to complete the survey is August 21, 2020. 

If you have questions about this initiative, please do not hesitate to contact  

Regional arts COVID-19 survey results

The CRD Arts & Culture Support Service has collected preliminary data on the impact of COVID-19 on funded organizations in the areas of staffing, programming and finances. The survey shows a significant change in the arts sector since March in comparison to 2019 progress report data.

Key survey findings from arts organizations receiving CRD Project and Operating funding:

  • 82% anticipate financial losses in the year ending 2020
  • 28% of organizations report that they will lay off staff
  • 46% of organizations have had to cancel programming in the year ending 2021
  • 78% of organizations have developed alternative formats to replace cancelled events. 

Arts organizations funded by the CRD typically provide 3,564 jobs and generate over $27.5 million in revenues annually of which the Arts Commission provides an investment of 8%. In 2019 CRD funding helped produce 3,357 arts events for the benefit of the community.

”The Arts Commission is seeing incredible efforts by the sector to sustain arts programming for citizens,” says CRD Arts Commission chair Jeremy Loveday. “The investments we make in these organizations are helping connect residents and bring comfort during an uncertain time.”

For more information, these PDF reports are available now: 

A gifted artist and inspiring mentor

While the prestigious $50,000 Molson Prize may not ring any immediate bells, a quick glance through the list of previous winners reveals a who’s-who of Canadian culture: Margaret Atwood, Glenn Gould, Richard Wagamese, Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Bill Reid, Mary Pratt, Jack Shadbolt, MG Vassanji, Margaret Laurence, Denys Arcand, Arthur Erickson . . . with over 100 luminaries representing Canada’s intellectual and cultural heritage, it’s like the ultimate CBC guest list.

One category missing from this list of prestigious artists, writers, composers, architects, choreographers and academics, however, is theatrical designers.

But that has now changed forever, as theatre professor and legendary production designer Mary Kerr becomes the first designer to be named a Molson Prize Laureate in the prize’s 56-year history. 

“Einstein said, ‘creativity is intelligence having fun’—that captures my life practice,” says Kerr. “I’m not that interested in realism; I’m interested in exploration, illusion, what’s going on in someone’s mind . . . that’s what I love about theatre, the ability to bring some kind of transformation and healing to the audience.”

From the iconic likes of Expo 67, Expo 86 and the 1994 Commonwealth Games to nearly every professional stage in the country—including the National Arts Centre production of Copper Thunderbird (above)—Mary Kerr’s visionary theatrical designs have transformed Canadian culture over the past five decades.

“We are so fortunate to have Mary’s talents here at the University of Victoria,” says Vice-President Academic and Provost Valerie Kuehne. “Not only is she an exceptionally gifted artist, she’s also an inspired teacher and mentor. Her work elevates UVic’s position as a national leader in fine arts and brings positive attention to the cultural strengths of Canadian art and production design on the global stage.”

 Read the full story here

Mary Kerr in her office at UVic’s Department of Theatre, surrounded by her various designs, 2016 (UVic Photo Services)

Pausing for the music


School of Music alum and baroque violinist Chloe Kim is organizing a new series, Music for the Pause, in solidarity with, and in support of, Victoria-based classical musicians negatively impacted by COVID-19. The series—which runs through to September 11—will also include performances by fellow Music alumni Tyson Doknjas and Mieka Michaux.

Normally busy with concerts and performances, the 23-year-old Kim created the new series as a way to reinvigorate the classical music community. Music for the Pause offers an 11-week concert series, featuring mostly Victoria-based musicians performing baroque chamber works on period instruments.

“Music for the Pause is a way of keeping myself and my colleagues, who are like family to me, creatively engaged as well as for staying connected to audiences during a very difficult and strange time,” explains Kim in this CBC interview.

“As someone who thrives on the intensity of a full performing schedule and the togetherness and sharing that comes with that, the concept of a summer without music was inconceivable to me. I like the challenge of having to work within certain parameters, whether it be social distancing regulations or personnel limitations, and I choose to see this period of time as an opportunity to be creative, rather than one of waiting or inactivity.” 

Kim’s series was also covered by both the Times Colonist and CHEK News. “It’s become about what attracted us to it in the first place, which was really the pleasure and the joy that we get out of it from just playing together in a room,” she told CHEK TV.

Chloe Kim (Photo: Kelsey Goodwin)

Click on the photo for a teaser of Kim’s performance 

A round-up of writers

Current Department of Writing professor Danielle Geller has a new piece in the prestigious Paris Review. “The Origin of My Laugh” offers a reflection on her life, her late mother and her relationship with laughter . . . which is not always a laughing matter. 

In other Writing news, current undergraduate, UVic varsity athlete and senior staff writer for The Martlet Josh Kozelj has won the U SPORTS Correspondent of the Year award. Kozelj, who has had a number of pieces published in the likes of the Globe and Mail and Tyeewas chosen based on the overall quantity and quality of his work, the diversity of his written portfolio, his punctuality, ability to find and pitch interesting stories, and regular involvement in contributing to U SPORTS Weekend Watch, a weekly Friday column previewing key games and events taking place each week of the season. 

Kozelj’s piece on Calgary Dinos cross country runner Eric Lutz, and his battle to return from a devastating back injury was one of the highlights of his written portfolio during the 2019-20 campaign and a finalist for the Story of the Year.


Finally, while the second-annual reading Pride Week poetry celebration “Wilde About Sappho”, originally scheduled for July 7, was cancelled due to you-know-what, current City of Victoria Poet Laureate John Barton instead invited the five 2SLGBTQIA+ readers to share their work online.

Wilde About Sappho: A Pride Reading of Local Queer Writers offers 30 minutes of readings by Writing alumni John Barton plus Kai Conradi, Serena Lukas Bhandar and current professor Gregory Scofield, as well as other readings by Robin Stevenson and Wendy Donawa.

Josh Kozelj

Two awards for AHVS graduates

Congratulations go out this month to two Art History & Visual Studies graduate students. Holly Cecil has been named the recipient of UVic’s 2019 Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal, while recent alum Atri Hatef has been awarded the 2020 Leonard Boyle dissertation prize from the Canadian Society of Medievalists.

 Awarded annually to a student with an outstanding graduate project or research paper other than thesis, Cecil received the Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal for her work on “The Role of Filmmaking in Communicating Research”.

“It’s a privilege to be recognized with this award for my research, and I want to share appreciation with my supervisor and committee, AHVS professors Lianne McLarty and Victoria Wyatt,” says Cecil. “In my research I investigate the ways that the documentary genre presents global issues to local audiences, specifically around themes of human-animal relationships.”

Recent PhD alum Atri Hatef, who received a prestigious postdoc at MIT’s Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, has now earned the Leonard Boyle prize for her thesis, “A Dialogue between Friends and Foes: Transcultural Interactions in Ilkhanid Capital Cities (1256-1335 AD)” — which is described as “an outstanding thesis that broadens notions of what the discipline of medieval studies can be.”

“This work is truly interdisciplinary, combining fields as diverse as history, art history, archaeology, religious studies and comparative literature,” notes the prize committee.  

“Congratulations to both on their achievements,” says AHVS chair Marcus Milwright.

Holly Cecil (right) with the Legacy Gallery’s Caroline Riedel (left) & AHVS professor Erin Campbell

Atri Hatef curating an exhibit at UVic’s Legacy Maltwood Gallery in 2017

Artistic voices

For most people, a visit to the yoga studio simply adds a bit of metaphysicality to their workout: a chance to breathe, stretch and realign their chakras with a few oms and namastes. But for graduating Visual Arts Honours BFA Rudra Manani, it’s an example of the widespread spiritual whitewashing that not only drives her art practice but also her identity as a first-generation Indo-Canadian.

“There’s a fascination with Hindu practices, but it’s gotten so disconnected that people don’t often realize where it all began,” says Manani, who was born in India but raised in Calgary before coming to UVic to train as an artist. “Think about yoga and how commercialized it’s become: not just Lululemon but all the retreats and studios with statues of deities . . . it’s more associated with hippie culture than Hindu culture, especially on the Island.”

Read more about Manani’s practice and future plans in this feature story on the UVic News site

And if you missed the recent Zoom artist talk with Visual Arts instructor and MFA alum Todd Lambeth around his exhibit at Winchester Galleries, you’re in luck: the talk has now been archived, so you can hear Lambeth discuss both his body of work and his process of art-making, as well as respond to a Q&A session with viewers.  

Watch his artist talk here

Rudra Manani’s “Get Your Om On” (digital photograph, 2020)

Todd Lambeth discusses his art practice

More to come 

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