Orion Series presents filmmaker Ali Kazimi

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:

Ali Kazimi

Documentary filmmaker

“Documentarian as Witness: The Making of Beyond Extinction

10:30am-noon, Thursday, May 30

Online only via Zoom  Free & open to all

(Meeting ID: 839 7959 0560. Password: 119640)

Presented by UVic’s Department of Art History & Visual Studies

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

About Ali Kazimi

A professor of cinema and media arts at Ontario’s York University, Ali Kazimi is a filmmaker, writer and visual artist whose work deals with race, social justice, migration, history, memory and archive. He was presented with the Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in Visual and Media Arts in 2019, as well as a Doctor of Letters honoris causa from UBC. In 2023 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

“My body of work reflects a commitment to storytelling that addresses social issues, cultural complexities, and historical injustices, aiming to provoke thought, inspire change, and foster understanding within diverse communities,” he says.

Kazimi has interwoven themes of place and belonging through many of his works—including Beyond Extinction (2022), which traces three decades of action by the Indigenous matriarchs of the Autonomous Sinixt for recognition of their existence and their claim to their ancestral territories and is an important document of BC history.

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

Remembering guitarist Alexander Dunn

It is with profound sadness that we share the news that our friend and School of Music colleague, Dr. Alexander Dunn, passed away unexpectedly on the morning of May 8. “This is a loss that will be deeply felt by members of our School and the wider music community,” says School of Music director Alexis Luko. “On behalf of the School of Music, our deepest condolences go out to Alex’s to loved ones, family, friends and colleagues.”

His sudden passing at just 68 was marked in this May 11 Times Colonist article, which quoted his cousin and lifelong guitar partner Robert Ward as saying, “even in high school, [Alex] was singled out as having a really unique talent.” Ward and Dunn performed together in Boston as recently as April 20, with Ward noting he was in fine health, good spirits and played magnificently. “It was a brilliant performance,” Ward told the TC. “We had a great time playing what was a very difficult program.”

An enviable musical legacy

Beyond spending nearly 34 years at UVic building one of the strongest guitar programs in Canada, Alex also served as president and artistic director of the Victoria Guitar Society, the board of examiners for the Royal Conservatory, and worked as an instructor at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and at the University of California, Irvine.

“This news is a great shock to the classical guitar world and leaves a chasm in the Victoria guitar scene, where Alex was instrumental in bringing us an amazing array of performers over the years,” posted the Victoria Guitar Society. “We will always remember Alex for his passion for music and his talent at passing this knowledge down to new generations. We’ve lost a friend and an artist.”

An internationally renowned guitarist, Alex was the recipient of UVic’s Sessional Lecturer Teaching Excellence Award in Fine Arts (2019/20), and he received the Provost’s Advocacy and Activism Award (2019) for his work in bringing the Orontes Guitar Quartet from Syria to UVic as visiting artists.

International respect

A virtuoso performer, acclaimed teacher, dedicated mentor and enthusiastic supporter of emerging young talent, Alex was a frequent guest performer at international guitar festivals and a popular adjudicator and competition judge across North America. He was also a protégé of internationally acclaimed flamenco guitar master Pepe Romero, with whom he toured.

“His sight reading and analytical skills are phenomenal,” Romero noted on Dunn’s website. “One need only to bring up his name in the guitar world, and you will sense immediately the respect he commands.” As the TC article notes, Dunn hosted several fundraising concerts by Romero in Victoria, and was instrumental in arranging for his former instructor and mentor to receive an honorary doctorate from UVic. Romero regards Dunn as one of the finest teachers he has encountered. “When I think of Alex, I think of a musician’s musician — a man who commands a vast knowledge of the repertoire,” Romero wrote. “He seems to know more about lute and early music than most specialists.”

Alex was also the recipient of an Institute of International Education grant and the prizewinner of the Internationaler Wettbewerb Freiburg. As a performer, he enchanted audiences across North America and worldwide in South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Mexico, Cuba, South Africa and New Zealand.

With a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a PhD in musicology from the University of California, San Diego, Alex also spent extensive summer studies at the Aspen Music Festival and the Salzburg Mozarteum.

Dunn with the Orontes Quartet in 2018

Advocacy & Activism

Alex passionately advocated so that people who come from less fortunate backgrounds could excel—a perfect example of this advocacy and activism was his effort in 2018 to bring the Orontes Guitar Quartet to UVic from war-torn Syria.

After the classical guitar ensemble were denied entry to the US in 2017 due to the ongoing Syrian travel ban, Alex spent nearly 18 months working with two US-based organizations — the Artist Protection Fund (APF), an innovative initiative of the Institute of International Education, and the non-profit organization Remember the River — to secure the Orontes a placement at UVic.

As the Canadian arm of Remember the River — a non-profit organization that brings guitars to refugee camps in the Middle East — Alex had already been helping send guitarists into impoverished communities, including on some First Nations. Building on that experience, he helped the Orontes Guitar Quartet escape war-ravaged Syria and to come to UVic to work under his mentorship. He described it at the time as “an exhilarating experience”. 

“Knowing that a group of musicians on the other side of the world — connected by common interests but separated by the chasm of human rights abuses and the outrages of war — was life-changing,” he said. “Suddenly the abstraction of religious and cultural conflict occupied my thoughts in a very real way.”

As a result, the quartet performed across Canada in numerous events supporting refugees and people from war torn countries, bringing a unique narrative of music surviving in times of violence and war. For his efforts, he was named one of just two recipients of UVic’s 2019 Advocacy & Activism Awards (below)

Alexander Dunn with UVic’s Director of Equity & Human Rights Cassbreea Dewis (left)
&  fellow award winner Sage Lacerte, plus then-VP Academic & Provost Valerie Kuehne

Climate Disaster Project wins national award

UVic’s Climate Disaster Project has been named the winner of a Special Recognition Citation at the National Newspaper Awards—Canada’s top journalism awards.

Announced at a gala event in Toronto on April 26, the award is designed to recognize exceptional journalism that doesn’t fit into existing categories and to open the door to experimentation in journalism. This is only the second time the National Newspaper Awards have bestowed the honour.

“We are entering a new era of disaster, where our seasons will become increasingly defined by the traumatic events they bring, and we need to learn how journalism can help us survive those traumas together,” says Sean Holman, UVic’s Wayne Crookes Professor of Environmental and Climate Journalism, who founded the project in 2021. “We are so honoured the National Newspaper Awards have recognized our efforts to empower disaster-affected communities inside and outside Canada.”

About the Climate Disaster Project

The Climate Disaster Project is an international teaching newsroom whichtrains students to work on the frontlines of humanitarian crises and create an extensive archive of eyewitness accounts. To date, 219 students in 13 post-secondary institutions have been trained in trauma-informed interviewing skills and co-created 288 disaster-survivor testimonies, many of which have appeared in local, national and international publications.

Their work has also been featured in national radio and television broadcasts, and at the Royal BC Museum. “Each semester, educators at post-secondary institutions across Canada and around the world spend hundreds of hours teaching students how to compassionately help survivors share their stories,” says Holman. “Our students then take that knowledge into the community to co-create a people’s history of climate change that honours the human dignity of their experiences.

Our partners 

Institutional partners for this award include Carleton University, the Campus Journalism Lab (Philippines), First Nations University of Canada, Humber College, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langara College, MacEwan University, Mount Royal University, Simon Fraser University, Toronto Metropolitan University, and the University of British Columbia, the University of the Fraser Valley and the University of Stirling.

Media partners include the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Asparagus magazine, Canada’s National Observer, The Fraser Valley Current, Megaphone street news and The Tyee, plus Neworld Theatre, the Reach Gallery and Royal BC Museum.

The Climate Disaster Project aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of good health and wellbeing, quality education, sustainable cities and communities, climate action and life on land, and demonstrates how UVic is powered by climate traction.

More for the CDP

The Climate Disaster Project, in partnership with The Tyee, is also currently nominated for awards with the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Canadian Journalism Foundation.

Brazil’s largest newspaper will soon publish testimonies co-created by students at the Federal University of São Paulo. A live theatre project from Neworld Theatre featuring verbatim testimonials will be making its debut at UVic in fall 2024, and an anthology of survivor testimonies from Purich Books is forthcoming in 2025.

Coming up next, the Climate Disaster Project will be hosting the two-day workshop Stories on Fire: Sharing Lived Experiences with Climate Change as part of the Legacy Gallery’s new exhibit, Fire Season.

In this two-day workshop (running 9am-5pm Sat-Sun May 11-12), CDP editors will teach you the trauma-informed process to create powerful first-person testimonies from fellow participants’ experiences of climate change. Past testimonies have been published by Reader’s Digest, the Royal BC Museum and The Tyee, and interviews from this workshop may be shared by similar publications and organizations. Register online for this free event.

Through learning how to compassionately listen to other people’s stories and telling them, you can help show the world that climate change isn’t something that’s far away. Instead, it’s something close at hand that’s affecting each of us in countless ways: from the smoke that keeps us indoors during the summer to the floods and droughts that affect so many communities in so many ways.

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.)