Submission call for Student Impact Awards!

Are you a current or graduating Fine Arts student who’s been involved with a community-engaged creative project in Greater Victoria between Jan 1/23 & May 31/24? If so, you could qualify for $1,000 via our annual Fine Arts Student Community Impact Awards! Since 2021, we have awarded over $8,000 to 8 different students! (Read about our 2023 winners here.)

Arts activities may include (but are not limited to) any exhibit, performance, workshop, publication, curatorial, educational, digital, production and/or administrative role within the regional boundaries of Greater Victoria (Sidney to Sooke). This award is open to any current or graduating student in Art History & Visual Studies, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts or Writing.

This year’s Impact Awards will be presented in Fall 2024 to 1 or more undergrads who’ve demonstrated an outstanding effort in community-engaged creative activity that went over & above their academic studies. Good news: if you’ve applied before but didn’t get an award, you can apply again (as long as the project falls into the current timeframe).

A completed submission package—including the submission form and all supporting materials—must be received by 5:00pm Friday, May 31, 2024. Full details & application criteria can be found here: https://finearts.uvic.ca/forms/award/

Questions? Contact fineartsawards@uvic.ca 

Annual BFA grad exhibit opens April 19

Our final public event of the 23/24 academic season is the annual Department of Visual Arts BFA graduation exhibition, this year titled Silver Bullets. After the public opening night gala on April 19, the free exhibit runs 10am-6pm daily through April 28. With pieces ranging from sculpture and painting to drawing, photography, installation, digital and multimedia art, Silver Bullets features 36 emerging artists transforming the entire Visual Arts building into one giant gallery with 10 different rooms to explore.

The concept of a silver bullet embodies speed and precision: an absolute, instantly effective tool with no ability for error. Its magical powers are compacted into a small space travelling in a  specific direction. Creative practices mimic such a journey in search of a magical solution that remains elusive; the ability to compact the complexities of life into creative thinking and making has the potential to soothe what concerns us, though few would describe the effects as instantaneous or absolute.

Uniquely, this exhibition is organized, curated, installed and run by graduating art students as a for-credit course—you can see examples of all the work via the show’s Instagram feed—but the 36 artists featured in Silver Bullets all explore a means to solve something within them or their environment.

Themes present in the exhibition include locating and quantifying oneself through explorations of sexual, cultural, and racial identity, as well as relationships to the body. Several artists in the exhibition are in dialogue with memory, grief, trauma and generational shifts; their approaches vary from representation to abstraction. Others focus their efforts on issues outside the self, investigating consumerism, propaganda, political ideologies and the deterioration of natural and urban environments. From the safety of their studios, magical explorations of art present the possibility to cure these complex, intangible issues.

Two special alumni receptions

UVic Alumni are also invited to a special pair of guided tours, offering a fantastic opportunity for alumni who work at UVic to get to know campus better, and for alumni in the community to come back to campus and explore the work of our newest Visual Arts grads. These free tours are being offered at noon on two dates—Wednesday, April 24 and Friday, April 26—but capacity is limited, so you’ll need to register in advance. (Any questions about the reception, contact alumni@uvic.ca or 250-721-6000.)

Portland student balances art & athletics

When it comes to making goals, Harry Ritter West is scoring two-for-two. A varsity athlete with UVic’s men’s soccer team, West knows how to keep his eye on the ball—but as a fourth-year Visual Arts student, he also has the creative vision to shoot as a photographer.

 

Why study at UVic?

Originally drawn to UVic by the manageable scale of both the campus and Victoria, West, a dual US/Canadian citizen from Portland, Oregon, was also drawn to the proximity of forests and mountains. Growing up as a frequent visitor to the region, he finds a common Pacific Northwest vibe between Victoria and Portland. Both cities have a vibrant, arts-centric downtown area and draw individuals who value a harmonious connection with the natural world, prioritizing a healthy body and mind.

“I’ve always had an appreciation for Vancouver Island. Victoria is such a beautiful place, it’s got a unique environment and everything’s super-close. As Americans, we don’t really learn a lot about Canada in high school and don’t have many opportunities to visit universities here. But we shouldn’t rule Canada out—anyone even considering studying here should just come and experience it for themselves.”

When he’s not playing soccer or shooting photos downtown, you can often find him biking and hiking around the region. “I love it here. My four years have been awesome!”

But West was also drawn by the reputation of UVic’s Visual Arts department. “I’d heard good things about the arts program here—it’s a really tight knit community and the teaching is at a very high level.”

Harry in action on the playing fields (APShutter.com)

 

A balancing act

No question, it’s tricky balancing varsity athletics and visual arts: depending on the season, West is typically looking at a 12-hour day, six days a week as the team’s left wingback, mixing classes, practices, training, games, study and photography. “Soccer usually takes up the space of at least a course, especially with the travelling,” he says.  A workload that would be challenging for any regular student is made challenging due to the nature of his studies.

“It is a lot of scheduling, especially as a photography student,” he says. “You have to plan when you need to shoot because, as an athlete, you’re going to be gone for a period of time and not have access to a camera or have time to actually create your work. You can’t waste a day.”

The only artist on his team, West faces challenges the other players don’t. “A lot of them are in engineering, economics or sciences and can do their work on the bus. But I’m on a completely different schedule and do completely different work—what if I need to shoot a sunset or a nightscape downtown?”

Realistically, that means he needs to shoot in advance whenever the team is flying off to out-of-province games, just so he can digitally edit photos on his computer while he’s away. Interestingly, West’s athletics schedule has also helped shape his creative vision.

“I do a lot of like urban and street photography with subjects, often at night, because that’s when I have the most time to shoot after practice. Night scenes also improve my understanding of the camera, because it’s a whole other beast when you have to do long exposures and account for lack of light.”

When asked if his teammates appreciate his work as an artist, West offers a quick laugh. “Some have kind of cliché views around art, but I’ve shown them a lot of my work and they really seem to appreciate it and think it’s super cool.”

Harry’s multiple-exposure self-portrait  

 

Looking forward

While he’s still got another year of scoring ahead on UVic’s playing fields and art studios, West has already applied for an internship with National Geographic and loves the idea of working as a magazine photographer.

But while balancing training, practices and games with classes, photography and creative practice may sound like a lot, West wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I’ve always had this kind of lifestyle, balancing athletics and art—I’m a very high energy guy,” he laughs. “If I were to focus on just one and not put as much time and effort into the other, I’d feel like less of a person. I really value all the creative thought I put into my day-to-day life.”

Opera star Marion Newman joins UVic Music

Critically acclaimed Canadian opera singer and national CBC Radio host Marion Newman is returning to the University of Victoria to join the award-winning teaching faculty at the School of Music.

Newman — whose traditional name is Nege’ga — is of Kwagiulth and Stó:lō First Nations descent with English, Irish and Scottish heritage. The 2022 UVic Distinguished Alumni Award recipient (BMUS ’93) will officially join the School of Music as an assistant professor on July 1, 2024.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” says Newman. “It’s always a lovely circular journey when alumni return and become part of the faculty.” Currently based in Toronto, the busy mezzo-soprano will continue hosting CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera from Victoria.

In addition to the UVic announcement, the news was picked up by a number of local media outlets who subsequently ran stories, including the Times Colonist, Victoria News, Sooke News Mirror and the Vancouver is Awesome blog. (We think Marion is awesome too!)

No stranger to local audiences, Newman just appeared in City Opera Vancouver’s Songs from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt and is currently workshopping a new opera by Ian Cusson and Royce Vavre,commissioned by Against the Grain Theatre and Edmonton Opera, based on Thomas King’s 2020 comedic novel Indians on Vacation. (“It is such a delight to play somebody who’s so full of sunshine and reality and so . . . normal,” she laughs.)

She was also lauded for her performances in Pacific Opera Victoria’s Missing, which gave voice — in English and Gitksan — to stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“Singing in Indigenous languages is something I’ve been doing for a number of years now,” she says. “It’s always exciting to immerse yourself in that way as a character to sing words . . . you start to understand what the general sound of the language is and how it grew out of the place and the people.”

Marion Newman in Pacific Opera’s Missing (photo: Dean Kalyan)

Learning and living by example

Already recognized as one of Canada’s leading singer-training programs, UVic’s School of Music is a perfect fit for Newman, who will join the internationally acclaimed likes of professors and opera performers Benjamin Butterfield and Anne Grimm, as well as a team of outstanding faculty covering program areas ranging from performance, composition and musicology to music technology, music education and music theory.

“We are thrilled to welcome Marion!” says School of Music director Alexis Luko. “Given her perspective, local connections and international reach, she’s positioned to have a profound impact on artistic and cultural life in Victoria, and will further UVic’s reputation as a destination for mindful and engaged artists.”

Newman’s new teaching position is also a good fit with her role as host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, and her passion for championing Canadian opera.

“It’s always been my wish to showcase how many amazing Canadians we have working in opera,” she says. “I know it’s exciting for students to hear from people who are working in their chosen field right now, because their information is very current and very inspirational. Learning and living by example is a fantastic thing — you can speak directly to what the challenges and changes are within the industry.”

Making connections

Newman has strong memories of her own time as a UVic Music student. “I had a wonderful piano teacher there in Dr. Robin Wood,” she recalls. “He was one of the most human humans, and really helped shape me in terms of what it means to remain connected and humble and work hard in ways that bring joy.”

As well as being the co-founder of the diversity-focused Amplified Opera organization, Newman also teaches at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and is on faculty for Manitoba Opera’s Digital Emerging Artist Program. She also serves on the Opera America Artistic Services Council, the Artist Advisory to the board of City Opera Vancouver, the board of the US-based Plimpton Foundation, which raises awareness and funds for an Indigenous Songbook and bursaries for Indigenous classical artists, as well as various other committees.

She’s also looking forward to working more closely with her brother, artist Carey Newman – Hayalthkin’geme, who is the Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices with UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

“As people who are often tasked by others to explain decolonization or Indigenization, it’s going to be wonderful to be able to have those conversations with him in person — it’s a heavy load and no one person has all the answers,” she says.

“I’ve been doing that work within the music sphere for a number of years now, so I’m really looking forward to being a part of what’s going on at the university and getting to be part of those conversations. And we have a couple of shows that we would love to create together.”

Photo: Tony Hauser

Helping to move each other forward

Newman’s hiring aligns with UVic’s Indigenous plan, Xʷkʷənəŋ istəl | W̱ȻENEṈISTEL | Helping to move each other forward, where Indigenous ways of knowing, being and learning are embedded into the university’s programs, systems and organizational structure.

“Part of what’s exciting about coming to UVic is that wish to actually do what’s needed,” she says. “There are a lot of other places who think they’re ready to have that conversation, but they’re not really ready for the consequences of those conversations.”

Newman is also clearly excited about calling the West Coast home again. “I’ve been living in Toronto for 24 years now and while I love it, I know it’s time to breathe that salty sea air again every day,” she says. “I’m still in touch with my family daily, but to be able to go to family dinners more than just three or four times a year is exactly what I want right now.”

Phoenix Theatre launches new season

im:print 2024 

October 3–12, 2024

A special presentation with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria featuring a creative team of diverse artists and facilitators. im:print 2024 is a diverse performance that skillfully weaves together the personal stories of Indigenous, settler, immigrant and refugee artists. Using spoken word, dance and song, the production delves into the complex web of our connections to place, people and belonging. It boldly challenges prevailing beliefs and sheds light on the real-life impacts of equity, diversity, inclusion, and identity politics.

This project, which spans across cultures and generations, is a community-based effort designed to be a vital creative outlet. These stories centre around themes like place and displacement, belonging and longing, and connection and disconnection, showcasing the diverse voices within our community. 

Art can be a powerful way of healing, raising awareness, and having conversations around difficult subjects. 
—ICA

 

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

November 7-23, 2024

Winner of the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Book of a Musical (Rachel Sheinkin), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee takes audiences on a hilarious and heartwarming journey into the competitive world of spelling bees.

Set in a small town, the story follows an eclectic group of six adolescents as they vie for the coveted title of spelling champion. These quirky characters spell their way through a series of challenging (and possibly made-up) words, hoping to avoid the dreaded “ding” of elimination. Along the way, they share touching and wildly funny stories from their home lives. Thanks to catchy tunes by William Finn (Falsettoland) plus unexpected twists and even some audience participation, this fast-paced gem is a riotous ride that has charmed audiences worldwide.

Guest directed by Jaques Lemay, the musical mastermind behind our previous production of The Drowsy Chaperone.

The Killing Game

February 13–22, 2025

Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz (The Waste Land, Comic Potential) offers this absurdist comedy that transcends the ordinary. Step into the surreal world of Eugène Ionesco’s The Killing Game, a captivating play that immerses audiences in the tale of a town facing a deadly plague. As the body count rises, accusations fly, tensions rise, and the line between reality and absurdity is blurred. Death spares no one, regardless of wealth, age, innocence, or guilt, turning the community into a chaotic mix of paranoia, hypocrisy, and opportunism.

One of Ionesco’s final plays, The Killing Game is filled with humour despite its dark subject matter, and reveals how social connections can become fragile when confronted with an existential threat. With razor-sharp wit and keen satire, Ionesco skillfully allows the audience to engage while maintaining a sense of detachment through laughter.

The human drama is as absurd as it is painful.
—Eugène Ionesco.

 

Twelfth Night


March 13-22, 2025

In the magical realm of Shakespeare’s Illyria, director and Theatre professor Fran Gebhard (Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Problem Child) offers a fresh interpretation of the timeless comedy Twelfth Night. Shipwrecked and separated from her twin brother Sebastian, Viola disguises herself as a young man to serve Duke Orsino. What follows is a whirlwind of romantic entanglements, mischievous pranks, mistaken identity and hilarious misunderstandings.

Gebhard’s vision transports the audience to a future era, post-climate change, where traditional gender roles blur. Amidst wit, humour, and poetic language, the play explores love’s transformative power and the delightful chaos of reality and illusion.

If music be the food of love, play on. 
— William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

After a strong 23/24 season that saw the majority of performances play to sold-out audiences, the Department of Theatre‘s 24/25 mainstage season promises an equally exciting year to come—from community impact stories and a Tony-winning musical to an absurdist comedy and a much-loved classic!