Young Alumni Lunch & Learn sessions engage current students

While Fine Arts has no shortage of national and internationally renowned alumni at the peak of their careers, finding meaningful ways to engage our more recent graduates remains a priority for the faculty. 

With that in mind, this year we created a new “Young Alumni Lunch & Learn” webinar series, which enabled current students to benefit from the recent skills and achievements of those who have graduated over the past 10 years. 

Four separate webinars were held over both semesters, covering a range of topics designed to offer useful and practical information to upper-level students

Arts funding for recent grads

“BC Arts Council Funding 101” saw Theatre alumna and current BC Arts Council program officer Erin Macklem offering an introduction to the often-confusing world of artist grants.


Inside the Gallery

Art History & Visual Studies alumni McKaila Ferguson and Jenelle Pasiechnik to share their paths out of school and into their current positions with the Penticton & District Community Arts Council and Campbell River Art Gallery (respectively).


Are You Media Ready?

Join Department of Writing alumnus Cormac O’Brien—currently social media manager for Toronto’s Six Shooter Records—to learn insider tips on promotions, marketing and working with the media.


Finding Meaningful Work in the Arts

Did you know students and alumni both can use UVic Career Services to find work after graduation? Join current career educator and AHVS alumna Caroline Riedel, plus recent alum Caitlin Gallupe (Visual Arts) and current student Trevor Rutherford (Music), to learn more about UVic’s Coop & Career Services and their approach to employment preparations, work search transitions and career development. 


Given the unintentional pandemic benefit of increased use of video platforms and overall webinar proficiency, these sessions allowed us to work with young alumni no longer based in Victoria.

AGGV grad student showcase

Music MFA Jose Enrico Tuazon plays for a full house at the AGGV

Fine Arts has a long history with the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria: from faculty exhibits to alumni on staff, from offering the annual undergraduate Fine Arts Student Pass to having current Curator of Asian Art, Dr. Heng Wu, serve as an adjunct professor with our Art History & Visual Studies department, we’re justifiably proud of our 50-plus year history together.

As such, the AGGV was a natural and logical community partner to present the inaugural Arts Alive Graduate Showcase in April. Led by supervising faculty members Catherine Harding (AHVS), Megan Dickie (Visual Arts) and Benjamin Butterfield (Music), two evenings of graduate and PhD student public presentations featured creative work and scholarship by 15 students from all of our units. 

“The evenings were simply stunning,” says Harding. “I want to thank everyone for their courage, excellence, presence, amazing talent and dedicated professionalism. The world seems very dark these days, but our students all shone a huge great light into that darkness with this event.”

Each night of presentations followed a loose theme (“History & Place” and “Expressions Through Time”), with the additional MFA art exhibit In & Out of Context running April 15-29 in the AGGV’s Spencer Mansion. 

Writing MFA Letay Williams

Participating students included Francoise Keating and Hamed Yeganeh (AHVS); Ada Qian, Grisha Krivchenia, Timothy Carter, Marco Neri and Jose Enrico Tuazon (Music); Melissa Wotkyns and Lauren Jerke (Theatre); Letay Williams (Writing); and Carly Greene, Colton Hash, Robyn Miller, Karver Everson and Connor MacKinnon (Visual Arts).

With the hopes of making this an annual event, the Arts Alive showcase provided our students with a unique professional and social opportunity to showcase interdisciplinary graduate-level arts scholarship and creative practice in a vibrant community environment.   

Work by Visual Arts MFA Robyn Miller

Cello donation creates a musical legacy

One of  the remarkable opportunities offered to School of Music students is the ability to perform on celebrated instruments for the duration of their studies. One such is the Ferdinand Gaglianojilus Nicolaifecit Neap cello, built in Naples, Italy, in 1779. 

Most recently owned by Marilyn Jones—who played it for more than 70 years­—the Gagliano Cello is a significant part of the Marilyn June Jones Cello Fund Endowment, which was created to support the care and maintenance of it and other cellos in the School of Music.

“The generous gift of Marilyn’s fine cello not only has, and will continue to, enhance the experience and skill of the students who will have the opportunity to play and perform on, but it will feed their sense of possibility of achievement throughout their entire career,” says string professor and Lafayette String Quartet cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni.

Jones, who trained as a nurse but had a lifelong passion for music, brought the cello with her when she moved her family to Victoria in 1972, where she performed with local community orchestral groups. She continued playing the Gagliano Cello on a regular basis until 2018, when health issues made performance difficult.

But Jones wanted to ensure her treasured cello would continue to be played, and was delighted to gift it—along with an additional fund to support the care and upkeep of such fine string instruments—to the School of Music, where it would support the education of young musicians.

Highbaugh Aloni feels the Jones’ generous gift sends a clear message: “Every time it’s played, it reminds us that what the students are studying and striving for in terms of a career and lifelong pursuit is valued.”

School of Music student Nicole Phanichphant playing the Gagliano Cello at the memorial service for Marilyn Jones (below), shown playing the same instrument in this archival photo

Phoenix Theatre announces 22/23 season

While UVic’s Phoenix Theatre is well known for offering top-quality mainstage productions each year, these shows also serve as an integral part of the academic requirements of students enrolled the Department of Theatre’s BFA and MFA degrees.

When you attend the Phoenix, you get to experience some of this city’s most exciting and eclectic theatre—while also participating in the education of our students. Our students learn by doing: they’re involved in every aspect of these productions, from acting on stage to the design, creation and management of sets, costumes, props, sound and lighting.

We’re proud to announce our upcoming season, which has been carefully selected to showcase the difference that the youth, talent and energy of our students can make as they become Canada’s next generation of theatre artists.

Spring Awakening

Running November 10-26, Spring Awakening rocked the theatre world when it opened on Broadway in 2006 to critical acclaim, winning eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

Based on an 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind, Spring Awakening forever changed the definition of what a musical could be, breaking boundaries by exploring the journey from adolescence to adulthood with poignancy and passion. With musical numbers that are full of literary allusions, poetic depth, anger and emotion, Spring Awakening is an electrifying fusion of morality, sexuality and rock ‘n’ roll!

Guest Director: Michelle Rios
Music Director: Mary Jane Coomber
Set Designer: Ken Matthews
Costume Designer: Jane Wishart
Choreographer: Alison Roberts

Vinegar Tom

Set in a time when it’s dangerous to be a woman without a husband—or just a woman who’s different—Vinegar Tom is a wild mash-up that blends a 17th-century witch hunt with modern musical numbers that cleverly connect this tale to how women’s bodies remain a battleground today.

The play, written in the 1970s by the much-acclaimed British playwright Caryl Churchill, leads us to question not only the historical persecution of “witches” over the ages, but why anyone persecutes anyone. In this work Churchill is at her best: raw, satirical, political, and mad as hell!

Running February  16-25, 2023, Vinegar Tom is directed by MFA candidate Francis Matheu.

“What is a witch? A woman who is just a bit too attractive? A bit too ugly? A bit too handy with spells
and magic?”
– LA Times review


Medea and Jason have escaped the worst. After a harrowing journey across the Mexican–American border, the couple has finally made it safely to the United States, where they can work toward a better life for their family. While Jason is convinced the future looks bright, Medea fears a darker fate as they face the challenges of living without documentation.

Written by playwright Luis Alfaro, Mojada blends Euripides’ classic play Medea with Mexican folklore as it examines the tragedy behind America’s immigration system and the destiny of one family caught in its grip.

Running March 16-25, 2023, Mojada is being led by guest director and acclaimed playwright and author Carmen Aguirre.

“Mojada is unpretentious and entertaining… Not only is the play about crossing borders, but Alfaro knows how to walk that line between thunderous naturalism and absurdist pulp, being as our lives often seem composed of both.”  – Chicago Tribune

Information about single tickets or season subscriptions can be found at the Phoenix box office.

Art gallery a fertile ground for magic of forests

A screenshot from “The Ground That Mends,” the stop motion video by UVic fine arts PhD alumna Connie Michele Morey

Groundbreaking research in the 1990s by forest ecologist Suzanne Simard revealed that trees “talk” to each other through an underground network of fungi. Until September 17, anyone who visits UVic’s downtown public art gallery will be able to easily imagine this network underfoot and a thick green canopy overhead while standing among the paintings and other artworks of a new exhibition. But imagining the tang of cedar and pine or experiencing art and virtual reality cannot fully recreate the tangible splendour and ecological diversity of old growth forests.

That tension, between living forest and framed likeness, defines the Still Standing: Ancient Forest Futures exhibition at Legacy Art Galleries Downtown. It is guest curated by Jessie Demers, who was at the War in the Woods protest at Vancouver Island’s Clayoquot Sound in 1993.

“Please, John, Don’t Screw This Up For The Rest of Us / Staircase,” by Mike Andrew McLean, plexi-transmounted digichromatograph, metallic paper/plywood backing

Art, ecology and activism

Still Standing brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists in a dynamic dialogue involving diverse perspectives on art, ecology and activism. It will feature oil paintings, colour-pencil and pastel drawings, and wood and metal sculptures, as well as photography, video, animation and installations—including by seven artists affiliated with the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Demers believes that art “can create common ground while challenging the paradigms that keep us separate from one another and the earth.” As curator of the spring 2021 Eden Grove Artist-in-Residence Program (—created to bear witness to both the forest and the Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek) Blockades on Pacheedhat territory—Demers then worked with most of the 12 invited resident artists to develop this new exhibition in Victoria.

Her hope is that it will allow viewers to come away with a greater understanding of the urgency to protect these last stands of ancient forests.

On a snowy day in March 2020, I set up a donated canvas tent, which became the home and studio for the Eden Grove Artist-in-Residence Program. It had last been used by blockaders at Clayoquot Sound 30 years earlier, where I was arrested as a teenager. From March to May, 12 artists were invited to witness the magic of the forest, the strength of the community of forest protectors and the complexities inherent in colonial resource extraction on unceded lands.

—Jessie Demers, guest curator of Still Standing: Ancient Forest Futures at Legacy Downtown

The exhibition features eight of the artists from the Eden Grove program: Fine Arts alumna Connie Michele Morey; Heather Kai Smith; Jeremy Herndl; Kyle Scheurmann; Fine Arts alumnus and sessional instructor Mike Andrew McLean; Visual Arts professor Paul Walde; Chief Rande Cook (Kwakwaka’wakw), a Fine Arts alumnus and former Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest at UVic; and Valerie Salez.

They are joined by five other artists: Carey Newman (Kwakwaka’wakw, Coast Salish and settler), inaugural Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices with the Faculty of Fine Arts; Gord Hill (Kwakwaka’wakw); Fine Arts alumnus Jordan Hill (T’Souke); and Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson.

We are grateful for the opportunity to hold space for this exhibition and the many ways that visitors can experience these works. Still Standing brings together artists’ responses to the magic and power of Eden Grove. It allows for reflection and invites action on how we individually and collectively value the old growth forests that are special to this place.

—Caroline Riedel, Acting Director, Legacy Art Galleries

“The Black Cedar” by Jeremy Herndl, oil on canvas

Scene from “Talisman (III)” by Kelly Richardson, 4K video on silent seamless loop

Evoking a sense of awe

The exhibition is meant to evoke the feeling of BC’s temperate rainforests and a sense of awe in looking up at ancient arboreal wonder. The essence of these big trees, centuries old, is reflected in the work of the dozen artists. The exhibition also captures their interpretations of how people can work toward uprooting the damaging effects of colonialism and consumer culture in the context of old growth.

The pieces will range from Walde’s large-scale photograph of the circumference of one of Eden Grove’s immense and ancient cedars, to a sculptural floor piece by Cook and a silent video by Richardson.

Newman, working together with Camosun Innovates and a team of its mechanical engineering students, has also designed an innovative tool to apply sustainable practices—rather than using old-growth wood—for the same cultural purposes of carving his artworks. At the exhibition, he’ll be presenting a cedar maquette of the second-growth totem he’s currently working on.

Art as instigator of change

Demers adds, “In this time of climate crisis, we need collective action and I see art as a powerful instigator of change. By sharing new perspectives and embodied experiences, art can move us past paralysis and into action.” With that in mind, the exhibition will also include an area where viewers can explore further research online and write postcards to government.

Still Standing runs at Legacy Downtown through to Sept. 17.

—Tara Sharpe

This story original ran on the UVic News site