New exhibit looks at relationships in the Visual Arts department

Alum & instructor Danielle Proteau with her piece in the exhibit (photo: Tori Jones)

Walk onto any pier and you’ll find yourself supported over a fluid environment. Work alongside a peer in visual arts and you’ll find yourself similarly supported in a creative environment. Such is the central metaphor behind Piers, the new Department of Visual Arts faculty exhibit running until December 22 at UVic’s downtown Legacy Gallery

A group exhibition by 18 artists spanning generations, nationalities and backgrounds, Piers showcases contemporary artwork ranging across media that explores how artists’ practices change through teaching, learning and mentorship. But it also explores how the practices of artists working within the visual arts department extends beyond campus in relation to teaching and learning.

“Artists who work in the visual arts department—whether as faculty, sessional instructors or staff—were invited to place their practice in dialogue with that of a past student or mentor,” explains exhibit curator Kim Dhillon, a former instructor in the department. “Nine artists selected an artist to show alongside, someone whose work influenced their own through the course of teaching and learning.”

The exhibit features contemporary painting, sculpture, video and photography by visual arts professors Cedric Bomford, Megan Dickie, Laura Dutton, Daniel Laskarin, Jennifer Stillwell, Beth Stuart and Paul Walde; instructor Danielle Proteau, staff member Hollis Roberts, and alumni Katie Bethune-LeamenChristopher LindsayEvan Locke and Lauren Brinson. Other participating artists include Yan Wen Chang, Annika Eriksson, James Legaspi, Arlene Stamp and Grace Tsurumaru.

The selection was left up to the individual: professors Paul Walde and Cedric Bomford, for example, chose to showcase their own former teachers (Arlene Stamp and Annika Erikson), while professors Megan Dickie and Daniel Laskarin are paired with alumni who now work for the department: facility & production manager Hollis Roberts and sessional instructor Danielle Proteau, respectively.

In Piers, a dialogue occurs between the artworks by Laskarin and Proteau to connect ideas about art as “ghosts”—something that is both there and not there—as well as the process of removal as a way of discovering. As Proteau notes, while there is a material connection in their practices—both work in sculpture and photography—there is also a philosophical similarity in how they explore presence and absence through a process of reconstruction. “Both of our practices crack open ways of knowing, broadly speaking,” she says.

Of Proteau’s practice, Laskarin says, “I feel a shared affinity for what is not quite there, that is just out of sight or beyond the grasp of accountability—that which exceeds us.”

Dickie was nominated for this exhibition by Roberts, her former student. Both have created tactile pieces and both share a sense of loss with the work they’ve chosen to display.

“The two sculptures we submitted deal with the intimacy of relationships, with both people and materials,” explains Dickie. “Both Hollis and I produced these works as a way to work through our grief: Hollis created her weaving while her Dad was sick and I created my button sculpture soon after my partner passed away. I can’t speak for Hollis, but I feel like both of us needed the repetitive work as a purpose to keep going, keep moving and feel like there was something in our control.”

Roberts agrees. “I found that the repetition of weaving was a way to make the chaos I was experiencing surrounding my dad’s illness tangible,” she says. “It was cathartic, rhythmic and it made space for my thoughts to ruminate both before and after my dad’s passing.”

It’s also no coincidence that the genesis for Piers came out of the COVID era, when campuses and shared spaces like studios and classrooms were temporarily closed. As curator Dhillon notes, while some benefits arose from the shift to online learning—specifically in the areas of accessibility and flexibility—many artists and students also felt a loss of connection.

“Making this exhibition has been a process of exchange and dialogue for artists to connect again with students or teachers who have influenced their own practices over the course of their careers,” she says.

Orange Shirt Day 2022

Artist Carey Newman Hayalthkin’geme (Kwakwaka’wakw/Coast Salish) on “Hearts and Hands”
UVic is committed to reconciliation. We’re working to foster truth, respect and mutual understanding with all Indigenous peoples and communities. You can partner in the work of reconciliation by listening, learning and sharing on Orange Shirt Day.

The theme of this year’s Orange Shirt Day event is resurgence. Resurgence means to reclaim, regenerate and reconnect one’s relationship with Indigenous homelands, culture and community.

Faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members are invited to attend campus Orange Shirt Day events on Thursday, September 29 in the quad. You are welcome to drop in and stay for as long as you are able.

The university will be closed and the university flags lowered on September 30 to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federal statutory holiday to honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities.

Schedule of events

Emcees: Dr. Jacquie Green, executive director, Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement, and Mercedes Neasloss

9 a.m. Lighting of the Sacred Fire

9:30 a.m. Opening remarks
With Eugene Sam and Christine Sam, Songhees Nation

  • opening blessing
  • welcome to the Territory
  • singing and drumming
  • calling of the Witnesses

9:50 a.m. Significance of the Sacred Fire with Ry Moran, associate university librarian, Reconciliation and co-chair, Orange Shirt Day committee

10:05 a.m. Survivors share their reflections
Speakers: Eddie Charlie, Karla Point, Mark Atleo and Laura Manson

11:45 – 12 p.m. Witness reflections

1 – 2 p.m. Open dialogue on resurgence

  • moderator: Dr. Heidi Stark, associate professor, Indigenous Governance and director, Centre for Indigenous Research and Community-Led Engagement at UVic
  • panelists: Dr. Sarah Hunt, assistant professor in Environmental Studies & Canada Research Chair; Dr. Sarah Morales, associate professor, Faculty of Law; Dr. Gina Starblanket, associate professor in School of Indigenous Governance; and Andrew Ambers, 4th year Political Science and Indigenous Studies student

2 – 2:30 p.m. Closing remarks and closing prayer

About the design

The design for the t-shirt was created by Fine Arts Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices Carey Newman Hayalthkin’geme (Kwakwaka’wakw/Coast Salish).

“This design was made to honour the children who died in residential school. The hearts express love for all those in unmarked graves and compassion for the families and communities who waited for them to be found. The small and colourful hands remind us of the uniqueness and beauty of every child. Taken together, they represent our commitment to listen to our hearts and use our hands, to do the work that needs to be done,” says Newman.

“The visceral confirmation of Survivor accounts that has come from locating these graves has affected many of us on an emotional level. It has changed the way that many people think and feel about our histories and current realities in Canada.”

If you would like to support Orange Shirt Day initiatives, please consider making a $25 donation directly to the Elders Engagement Fund, Witness Blanket Project or Orange Shirt Society.


Curtain call: John Krich

“All has not been said and never will be.”
—Samuel Beckett

The Department of Theatre is sad to announce the loss of influential professor John Krich, who passed away on September 14.

John was a member of the Theatre department from 1969 to 2002. He contributed greatly to the life of this university and our community as a beloved professor of acting, a versatile and inventive performer, and a caring and supportive director.

After receiving his MFA from the Yale School of Drama, he came to UVic and established the Victoria Fair with a fellow instructor and dear friend, Harvey Miller. The Victoria Fair presented three plays produced each season by the Theatre department (most often at the McPherson Playhouse) and included such noted international theatre artists as Christopher Newton, Marti Maraden and Neil Munro. John also spearheaded the Phoenix Summer Theatre which ran as a repertory company from 1972 to 1996 and employed numerous Phoenix students. In 1996, he also organized an international Beckett Festival presented at the Phoenix Theatre.

He directed many shows at the Phoenix and appeared in others as an actor working alongside our students. In his final year at the Phoenix, he gave an awe-inspiring performance as Hamm in a memorable production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame directed by Giles Hogya (above). John continued to perform following his retirement in 2002 in Canada and the United States, notably appearing in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s inaugural production of As You Like It.

In his final years, he found contentment in his old pastimes of reading, writing and drawing (or “doodling” as he referred to it). He loved language and was a dedicated logophile and an avid cruciverbalist. He zealously collected references to the number “7” amassing over 3,000 entries. He relished slow thoughtful walks. When health or weather prevented him from walking, he drove along Dallas Road to Beach Drive, up Cedar Hill Cross Road, once around the Ring Road—with a nod to the Phoenix—and back home again.

“He was always a teacher, always an inspiration,” says acting department chair Patrick DuWors. “He will be missed.”

Endgame credits: Production director & photographer, Giles Hogya; set designer, Allan Stichbury; costume designer, Mary Kerr; guest lighting designer, Melinda Sutton; movement coach, Peter Balkwill; stage manager, Noelle Miles. Cast: John Krich, Ryan Arnold, Devon Pipars and Zachary Stevenson.

Fine Arts Welcome (Back) Party

If you’re a Fine Arts student in Art History & Visual Studies, School of Music, Theatre, Visual Arts or Writing, then you’re invited to our annual Welcome (Back) Pizza Party. The Fine Arts teaching faculty & staff will be serving, so swing by and say hi!

Join us from 4-6pm Thursday, Sept 15, in the Fine Arts courtyard for pizza, cake, drinks & a prize draw for 5 Fine Arts hoodies (1 per dept)—and it’s all free!

Indigenous Theatre Festival focuses on language reawakening  

The cast performing Jealous Moon(Credit: One Island Media)

As Indigenous Elders pass, how can younger generations best learn and increase their fluency with traditional languages? Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta believes applied theatre techniques can be an important part of the language-learning equation, and this month’s Indigenous Theatre Festival Reawakening Language on Stage offers a glimpse into how performance can powerfully augment classroom education.

Running at the Phoenix Theatre from September 16-18 in collaboration with the Hul’q’umi’num’ Language and Culture Society (HLCS), Hul’q’umi’num’ Language Academy and other university partners, the festival offers a weekend of performances, workshops and discussions aimed at exchanging research-based knowledge on the best practices for using theatre as a tool for this essential project.

“Language revitalization is the most important thing,” says Hul’q’umi’num’ speaker and Cowichan Tribes member Tara I. Morris, a PhD candidate in theatre and linguistics who is working with Sadeghi-Yekta on the festival. “We’re fighting for our language—we don’t accept it to be extinct—so we’re organizing and preserving and revitalizing with the younger generation. This festival offers a beautiful way to create space and help keep the language going . . . people need to know how hard we’re working.”

Sedeghi-Yekta (right) rehearses with community participants tsatassaya | Tracey White and suy’thlumaat | Kendra-Anne Page (Credit: One Island Media)


A different way of learning

Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta has been engaged with this project since 2015 and her work has been supported by a number of SSHRC grants, including a new three-year Partnership Development Grant with UVic linguistics professor Sonya Bird as co-lead. “[This festival] is about inspiring other communities who are struggling to maintain their languages,” she explains. “We’re hoping to offer a spark for people to see that it’s possible to learn traditional languages through alternative ways—it doesn’t only have to be in classrooms.”

Sadeghi-Yekta was originally invited to participate by HLCS language specialist Joan Brown (now executive director of the Snuneymuxw First Nations) and SFU linguist Donna Gerdts, who were looking to find new ways to revitalize the Hul’q’umi’num’ language—which was traditionally spoken across a wide geographical area, ranging from now-Washington State and the Fraser Valley to the Gulf Islands and south-east Vancouver Island.

“Joan thought using theatre was a fantastic idea,” recalls Sadeghi-Yekta, a multi-lingual applied theatre practitioner whose international experience working with different cultures was ideally suited to this project. Given that performance has always been an integral part of Indigenous communities, theatre seemed an ideal fit for this project. “There was a steep learning curve on both sides to understand each other—both cultural protocols and the language of applied theatre—but the beauty of live theatre is you always start with your body, so we began by finding ways for participants to move past the discomfort of performing.”

Combining theatre techniques with community storytelling

Currently working with about 60 participants, Sadeghi-Yekta combines theatre-based techniques with community-inspired storytelling to help participants increase their fluency, focusing on nourishing a sense of excitement in speaking and performing only in Hul’q’umi’num’ . . . so festival audiences shouldn’t expect any subtitles.

“The whole point of the festival is that we want to celebrate Indigenous languages without translation,” she notes. “If we provide subtitles, the concentration towards Hul’q’umi’num’ could easily be gone. It’s a very complex language to learn.”

PhD candidate Morris—now co-director of the featured play Jealous Moon—has been involved with the project since 2019 in a variety of roles. “It’s been interesting being a student, learning the Hul’q’umi’num’ vocabulary for the play, acting it out and now helping teach and direct it,” she says.

Ironically, Morris’ grandmother—the late Theresa Thorne—helped create the Hul’q’umi’num’ dictionary and actually worked with SFU’s Gerdts years ago. “It’s such an honour to now be involved at this level,” she says.

kwustunaat rehearsing the role of Owl in Jealous Moon (Credit: One Island Media)

Engaging younger generations

Sadeghi-Yekta estimates there were over 50 fluent Hul’q’umi’num’ speakers when she began this project—a number that has now sadly dwindled to less than 30 over the COVID years.

“Our Elders are passing so quickly that we’re trying to make sure we find ways to expedite the process and engage the younger generations,” she says. “The great thing about this project is that it inspires specifically younger participants to commit to the learning of the language—and to feel confident in speaking it—which is where it all starts.”

Given that the festival has been twice-delayed due to COVID, she is excited to finally bring Reawakening Language on Stage to campus. In addition to the performances and workshops, the festival will also include important life lessons about persisting, building confidence, overcoming adversity and helping others. Expect heartfelt messages of sorrow and reconciliation, loss and hope, and the realization that Indigenous languages are not just an object of study but a means of artistic expression—with the ultimate hope of galvanizing a new generation of Indigenous performers.

A full weekend of performances

As well as a September 16 full-cast performance of the original play Jealous Moon—written by Hul’q’umi’num’ community member Chris Alphonse—festival participants include Dene director and playwright Deneh’Cho Thompson (USask), Education Leadership master’s candidate Yvonne Wallace of the Lil’wat Nation (UBC), indigenous/Xwulmuxw studies professor Laura Cranmer (VIU), indigenous education, Victoria’s Visible Bodies Collective, plus theatre PhD Lindsay Katsitsakatste Delaronde (UVic) and Fine Arts Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator Karla Point.

“Participants always tell me that they’ve learned to play again through applied theatre, that it’s one of the few times they can laugh again without focusing on other worries, ” says Sadeghi-Yekta. “They say that it’s brought the community more together as well—and that’s a huge compliment for the art.”