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! 

Orion Series presents Randi Edmundson & Shizuka Kai

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Randi Edmundson

& Shizuka Kai 

 

Visiting artists & puppeteers, offering a pair of public workshops:

 

  • “That Elusive Life: Searching for ‘Canadian’ Puppetry” 

    9:30-10:30am Wed, March 20

     

  • “The Making of Otosan: Snapshots of a Japanese-Canadian Puppet Show”:

    9-10am Thur, March 21

UVic’s Roger Bishop Theatre (Phoenix Building)

 Free & open to all

Presented by UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts

For more information on this lecture please email: theatre@uvic.ca

About Randi Edmundson

Driven by curiosity, UVic alumna Randi Edmundson wears many hats in the world of theatre, including producing, directing, performance, and design. Her passion for puppetry has taken her across the country and the globe, including recent research with Papermoon Puppet Theatre in Indonesia.

She has a background in devising new works for a wide range of audiences and has worked as a puppeteer and puppet creator with Chemainus Theatre Festival, Neworld Theatre, Caravan Farm Theatre, the Canadian Academy of Mask and Puppetry, the National Arts Centre, Lunchbox Theatre, and Western Canada Theatre. She has studied under puppet thinkers Peter Balkwill, David Lane, Ronnie Burkett, Mervyn Millar, Clea Minaker, Jeny Cassady, and Ingrid Hansen.

With her Jessie Richardson Award-winning company Little Onion Puppet Co., Randi has toured several original puppet works across Western Canada. She holds a BFA in Performance from UVic and an MFA in Directing from the University of Calgary.

Randi is grateful to create as a freelance artist and as Interim Artistic Producer of Carousel Theatre for Young People on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territory in Vancouver and as the Artistic Producer of Project X Theatre in unceded Secwepeme territory in Kamloops.

About Shizuka Kai

Shizuka is a multidisciplinary artist who has been working professionally in puppetry and set design for over 12 years. She also delves in TV/film puppetry, extends her design into illustration and graphics, and is  emerging in directing. Shiz is a five-time Jessie Richardson Award winner with multiple nominations; an Ovation Award winner; the recipient of the Earl Klein Memorial Scholarship and Steven B Jung Award; and a graduate of Studio 58.

She has trained with many incredible artists such as Wendy Gorling, Jeny Cassady, Peter Balkwill, Clea Minaker, Juanita Dawn, and the folks at Marionetas de la Esquina. Recent puppetry credits in theatre: Division Infinity Saves the World! (Neworld), Le merveilleux voyage d’Ines de l’Ouest (Théâtre la Seizième), and Yellow Objects (rice & beans). Recent TV/Film: London Drugs – To Do Hissss (Rethink), FortisBC – Energy is Awesome (Media Button), and Lost Ollie (Netflix). Next up for Shiz: Otosan (Little Onion Puppet Co), a table-top puppet show based on her childhood growing up with a wildlife cinematographer father.

She is also currently working as a set design instructor and (newly appointed) production program coordinator at Vancouver’s Studio 58.

 

About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Visit our online events calendar at www.events.uvic.ca

Distinguished Alumni Awards honour Carrie Tennant, Dennis Gupa & Ivy Martin

UVic announced the recipients of the 2024 Distinguished Alumni Awards on March 4 and Fine Arts was once again proud to see three of our outstanding graduates included among the 18 recipients being recognized across the three categories: Presidents’ Alumni Award recipient Carrie Tennant (Music), Emerging Alumni Award recipient Dennis Gupa (Theatre) and Indigenous Community Alumni Award recipient Ivy Martin (CRM). You can view all the awardees and read about them on the alumni awards webpage.

“This diverse group of graduates contribute their skills, passions and leadership to many different fields, including the arts, education, law, science, engineering and business,” says UVic President Kevin Hall. “Advocacy, community building and climate action are common threads woven through their work. In that sense, they shine a light on the values and priorities that define and unite us at UVic.”

Once again, the awards show the calibre of UVic alumni and their impact across the world—but it’s also a great reminder of the potential future impact of the work we do every day to create positive student experiences.

Carrie Tennant, Presidents’ Alumni Award

Presented by UVic’s President and the President of the UVic Alumni Association, this award recognizes the outstanding lifetime accomplishments of alumni who have either earned national or international regard, or had a significant local impact as a result of their outstanding professional achievements and/or service to society.

For the past 20 years, the Vancouver-based Carrie Tennant has worked with young singers, developing their leadership and artistry. Holder of a Bachelor of Music in Music Education (1999) and a Teaching Certificate from Faculty of Education (2000), she is currently the founder and artistic director of the Vancouver Youth Choir.

Carrie’s choirs have won several awards and have performed at international events in Istanbul and New York City. She is also an affiliate conductor with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and a frequent clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor across North America and around the world. She is the editor and curator for two choral series: the Vancouver Youth Choir Choral Series (Cypress Publishing), which promotes diverse Canadian voices on the international stage, and the brand new Carrie Tennant Choral Series (Hal Leonard). She received the 2023 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Arts and Culture, and in a past life she toured, performed and recorded with her husband as a member of Vancouver-based indie-pop group the Salteens.

When asked for her favourite memory of attending UVic, Carrie points to playing in the ensembles with retired Music Ed and Wind Symphony director Gerald King and singing in UVic Chamber Singers with Bruce More. “I went to Korea and Thailand and China with him and the choir,” she recalls. “Bruce was an incredible mentor and a fantastic role model, and he let me conduct in Korea. That gave me the conducting bug. It was really a transformative experience for me.”

You can hear Carrie and the Chamber Singers in action at a special 50th Anniversary concert at Vancouver’s Pacific Spirit Church on April 21, which will also feature an alumni reception before the concert.

One aspect of her UVic training that really helped shape Carrie was what she describes as the “spirit of thinking outside the box, which I really have carried forward with me.” But she also credits our “incredible” music education program: “I walked out of that program ready to be a successful teacher in the public system, and I didn’t realize at the time that that was not the norm until I connected with other first-year teachers from other post-secondary programs who were overwhelmed and treading water and couldn’t handle it,” she says. “Even though I’m not a teacher in the traditional sense now, I think a lot of the foundational principles and methodology comes from that strong background of music ed from UVic.”

Read more of the interview with Carrie here—including her thoughts on community building, her own personal motivations, the best advice she ever received, her go-to karaoke song (spoiler: it’s Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”) and her secret talent.

Dennis Gupa, Emerging Alumni Awards

Recognizing the outstanding professional achievements and/or contributions of recent alumni (graduated within the last 10 years) to the community, one of this year’s Emerging Alumni Awards goes to the now Philippines-born but now Winnipeg-based Dennis Gupa (Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Theatre, 2021).

Dennis is a theatre director, performance maker/researcher, applied-theatre practitioner and an assistant professor at the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of Winnipeg. He has an MFA in Theatre (Directing) from UBC, an MA in Theatre Arts from the University of the Philippines and completed his PhD in Applied Theatre at the University of Victoria as a Vanier Scholar; his dissertation centred on climate change and Indigenous ecological knowledge, which was amplified with his role as UVic’s Ocean Networks Canada Artist in Residence during the pandemic.

Dennis has directed and devised performances in Southeast Asia and North America. He received the 2023 inaugural Green Award (Individual Artist Runner-Up) from the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) and Boca del Lupo and RBC Foundation’s 2023 SLaM (Successor, Leadership and Mentorship) Program. He is a Dwight Conquergood Laureate of the Performance Studies International (PSi) and The Ada Slaight Drama in Education Awardee of Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre. Dennis is mentioned in the Cultural Centre of the Philippines’ Encyclopedia of Philippine Arts for his contribution to the contemporary theatrical heritage of the Philippines.

He describes his experiences at UVic as “life transforming,” noting that he’s the only person in his family who received both an international education and a PhD.

“But having such an achievement is empty when you are not connected to the purpose of the work that you’re doing,” he says. “UVic taught me to have an attentiveness to one’s purpose—a kind of an attention to the things that I wish to contribute to the world. It made me reflexive, value collaboration and to have the courage to constantly interrogate and question the work I create, communicate and circulate. My academic and artistic experiences at UVic made me realize that I have to constantly evolve with my own craft as a scholar, teacher and artist to become a better human being.”

Read more about Dennis here—including the one essential trait for his continuing work (humility), a good piece of advice, his favourite way of relaxing, one food he can’t resist (Filipino adobo) and who (or what) he’d like to play him in the movie of his life.

Ivy Martin, Indigenous Community Alumni Award

Long before obtaining her Diploma in Cultural Resource Management in 2023, Tofino-based (but Port Alberni-born) Ivy Martin played a key role in caretaking, documenting and promoting the traditional knowledge and cultural treasures of the Tlaoquiaht First Nation.

She has successfully repatriated several ancestral treasures to the community and helped build a custom space with temperature and humidity control to secure their long time use and preservation. Ivy works with Tlaoquiaht’s Tribal Parks department and archaeologists on cultural surveys to ensure cultural sites and treasures are handled with the proper traditional protocols of the Tlaoquiaht First Nation, and to establish a repository for artifacts found within the traditional territory. She records, documents and shares cultural knowledge, and is currently building an online database and learning resources as part of the nation’s efforts to revitalize the endangered Tlaoquiaht language.

When asked for a favourite memory of her time at UVic, Ivy recalled the cultural regalia that went missing from her family years before. “My mother’s the eldest daughter of my grandfather, who was chief,” she explains. “I was in my 20s when I started collecting, documenting culture and our history, because it was intriguing to me . . . and [my grandfather] shared his wish for me to find this regalia and to bring the regalia home.”

So when one of her CRM assignments was to do a repatriation request, Ivy  already knew what her family wanted. “Now we have a room that is a designated chief’s regalia space. That’s come from part of my course work with UVic. It’s helped me to see how it can be a reality for my community. It’s been an awesome journey, very culturally healing. My experience has made it such a personal thing, connected to that identity in my family, of having that regalia coming home.”

Read more about Ivy here, including key skills, underappreciated characteristics (“We don’t shine enough light on our abilities to push forward each day”), valuable advice, what she does to relax, and what brings her joy (“seeing my kids enjoy life”).  

“My education with UVic has helped me to create opportunities for my family to learn and experience things that are meaningful,” she concludes.

Nominate a Distinguished Alumni

You can read more about previous Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award winners.

Nominations for the 2025 Distinguished Alumni Awards are now open through October 18, 2024.