$1500 student mural call

All current UVic Visual Arts students are invited to submit a proposal by March 26 for a new $1,500 mural project in the lobby of UVic’s Island Medical Program. This uplifting & welcoming mural should reflect any of the following themes: health & wellness, happiness, pursuit/enjoyment of good health, Indigenous health & wellness (etc). 

Student artists or teams should submit a proposed design in a 2D medium (including, but not limited, to painting, prints, photography or drawing) plus a short proposal outlining how their design would be suitable for this project. The selected student(s) will then design & create the mural on the designated stand-alone wall in the IMP lobby.

The mural will be located on a 14 x 6 foot standalone wall, which will have the current plaques removed & will be prepared prior to project start date. An honourarium of $1,500 will be paid to the artist(s) once the project is completed (or split evenly between a team), with up to $500 in additional material fees.

Deadline for concept submissions is March 26 and the mural must be completed sometime between April 22 and May 30. The artist(s) must be currently enrolled in UVic’s Visual Arts department. Artist(s) will be chosen by a selection committee. This project is part of the new Fine Arts creative partnership with IMP that is also seeing an AHVS grad student curating a new collection of art for their lobby.

Please visit UVic’s IMP building (between MacLaurin A-wing & Cunningham building) prior to submission to get a sense of the wall & surrounding environment.

For more info or to submit a proposal to finecomm@uvic.ca

Comics as a path to resistance

Kwakwaka’wakw author, artist & activist Gord Hill is the 2024 Lehan Lecturer with UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts. His free public talk runs from 5-6:30pm Thursday, March 7 in room A110 of UVic’s Turpin building (now rescheduled from the original Feb 27 date). 

An artist, author, political activist & member of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation, Hill is the author of The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book, The Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book and The Antifa Comic Book and has been involved in Indigenous peoples’ and anti-globalization movements since 1990.

The annual Lehan Family Activism & the Arts Lecture Series features a distinguished guest presenting ideas on how the arts are a catalyst for change in advancing the understanding and goals of various social justice topics.

And that’s certainly how it worked for Gord Hill, who combined a passion for social justice with his artistic interests to create an accessible learning tool rooted in his own cultural traditions.

“The arts have always been a highly respected craft on the West Coast,” he explains. “Artists were tasked with recreating ancestors in a graphic form — like carvings and paintings in the big houses — so in our culture, there’s a lot of visual reaffirmation of our ancestors in everyday life. For me as an artist, graphic novels are a way of maintaining our history and making it accessible to people.”

From comics to ’zines

Like many of us, Hill says he read comics as a kid — mostly Marvel, but also surprisingly Conan (“I actually thought he was like a native, because he was a nomadic Sumerian warrior with long black hair who was always engaging with different people”) — but it was his teenage involvement in political social movements and the ‘zine culture of the ’90s that really sparked his interest in becoming a comic artist and author himself.

“As an artist, I always wanted to draw comics . . . but I’m not really into making up fictional characters and developing their background and all that,” he explains. “So when I was working with the native youth movement in the late ’90s, I decided I was going to try doing some historical comics — because the story is already kind of written, right? I just had to reinterpret it for a graphic format.”

Given his own activity, some of Hill’s early work focused on crises of the day. “I found that even with our most recent acts of resistance — like the 1990 Oka crisis — there wasn’t really that much information out there, as this was before the Internet was really widespread. So one of the first comics I did was an eight-page comic about Oka, and then I did one about the 1995 Ts’Peten [Gustafsen Lake] standoff in the interior of BC.”

Learning from history

Before long he had created a number of these short educational comics, and a friend suggested doing a larger work looking at 500 years of Indigenous resistance — which, an assist from friend and Art History & Visual Studies professor Alan Antliff, was then published by Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press.

Three books later, Hill’s work is just as relevant today as when he started. “Graphic novels are really accessible, especially today in our era of memes and videos on Facebook and TikTok,” he says.

He also feels historically-based comic books can be a great teaching tool.

“History can help you understand your present situation: you can learn from what resistance movements have done in the past and apply that to today,” he says.

“Historically, we’re taught that Indigenous peoples were just helpless victims while European colonizers conquered the land and committed genocide. But if you actually look into it, there’s a really strong history of resistance — there are areas where it took Europeans centuries to conquer Indigenous peoples — and I think that’s really inspiring.”

“Resistance movements can inspire and empower us, show us that we’re not helpless victims,” he continues. “It can contribute to a fighting spirit to know the oppressor isn’t omnipotent, that they have actually suffered defeat. I hope my work contributes to resistance movements today, so they’re able to learn from the history of resistance, which is an important part of maintaining a culture of resistance.”

NEW DATE & TIME: Due to a weather-related incident, we have now rescheduled this talk. All are welcome to hear Gord Hill’s free public talk as the 2024 Lehan Family Activism & the Arts guest lecturer, from 5-6:30pm Thursday, March 7, in room A110 of UVic’s Turpin building

Latent: Critical Conversations about Collections

On Saturday, January 27, the Department of Art History & Visual Studies hosted Latent: Critical Conversations about Collections a day of public lectures and a roundtable discussion about art collections, organized in conjunction with Legacy Gallery’s current Latent exhibition.
 
These free public sessions were held at UVic’s Legacy Gallery Downtown (630 Yates).
 
Opening Remarks (10-10:30am)

Dr. Erin Campbell (Chair, UVic AHVS), Dr. Elizabeth Croft (UVic Provost) & Dr. Allana Lindgren (Dean, UVic Faculty of Fine Arts)

Distinguished Women Scholars Lecture (10:30am-noon)

“Getting the Keys to the Vault: how feminist, decolonizing and anti-racist work is changing collections” with Dr. Anne Dymond (Associate Professor of Art History, Department of Art, University of Lethbridge)

 

Orion Visiting Scholar Lecture (12:15-1:45pm)

“Curating in Crisis: Benin Bronzes to Extreme Weather” with Dr. Alice Ming Wai Jim (Professor of Art History and Concordia University Chair in Critical Curatorial Studies and Decolonizing Art, Department of Art History)

Roundtable Discussion (3-4pm)

“Critical Conversations about Collections” with panelists Lynda Gammon (Associate Professor Emeritus, UVic Visual Arts), Dr. Heather Igloliorte (Professor and Canada Excellent Research Chair, Decolonial and Transformational Indigenous Arts Practices, UVic Visual Arts), Ry Moran (Associate University Librarian, Reconciliation), Dorian J. Fraser (PhD Candidate, Art History, Concordia University and UVic AHVS alum), Dr. Alice Ming Wai Jim and Anne Dymond.

Moderator: Dr. Carolyn Butler Palmer (Associate Professor and Legacy Chair in Modern and Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest, UVic AHVS).

About the exhibition

The exhibition Latent emerges from conversations between artist Lynda Gammon and curator Carolyn Butler Palmer over the past several years about how artists who identify as women are often overlooked, ignored and sidestepped. The Legacy Art Galleries is proud of the fact that, over the past decade, the majority of solo exhibitions have featured the work of women artists and this exhibition furthers our desire to bring forward their work by honouring the many women who remain hidden in UVic’s Art Collection and the mechanisms that conceal them from view: the vault, accessioning, and the catalogue.

Latent is on view at UVic’s Legacy Galleries until April 6, 2024.

Fine Arts in the news: media roundup

When it comes to announcements, publications and media appearances, there’s never really a slow time for Fine Arts faculty, alumni and students — and the past couple of months have been no exception. Here’s a quick roundup of who’s been speaking with the media lately.

 

Art History & Visual Studies

In this December article for Forbes magazine, professor Catherine Harding comments on the use of AI in identifying another artist involved in a 16th century painting by Raphael. “It is wonderful if we can use AI in this way,” Harding said. “It won’t be irrefutable. It will depend entirely on the expertise of the people doing the programming, but if they can write the right kind of algorithm, it will be very useful.”

As part of the new Jeffrey Rubinoff Nexus for Art as a Source of Knowledge, professor Allan Antliff has been selected as the inaugural Rubinoff Legacy Professor. This named professorship is just one facet of $230,000 in new funding from the Rubinoff Foundation, which also includes 15 annual graduate student scholarships and the expansion of experiential learning initiatives at Hornby Island’s Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park. Read more in this announcement.

Professor Carolyn Butler Palmer and Visual Arts professor emeritus Lynda Gammon were interviewed on this Jan 6 segment of CBC Radio’s North By Northwest in support of Gammon’s Latent exhibit at Legacy downtown, which is curated by Butler Palmer. There is also an accompanying short visual story with pictures in this issue of the NXNW newsletter.

Adjunct professor Martin Segger recently wrote this fantastic Times Colonist piece about the history of not only Centennial Square but the overall planned design of Victoria’s downtown district.

Adjunct professor Grace Wong Sneddon co-curated the recent exhibit The Magic of Tony Eng (with local historian John Adams) for the Chinese Canadian Museum in Fan Tan Alley. A goal for this museum is to recognize Victoria’s Chinese Canadians and, as such, Eng is an ideal subject: a vibrant and active member of the city, many remember him as a charismatic stage magician, teacher and mentor to generations of local magicians. In other news, Wong Sneddon recently co-authored two chapters in a new book, Diversity Leadership in Education: Embedding Practices of Social Justice (2024, edited by UVic’s Catherine McGregor & Shailoo Bedi): “Unpacking the Equity Myth: Diversity & Leadership Deficit” (with Reeta Chowdhari Tremblay) and “Race and Gender: Chinese Canadian Women and Leadership” (with Lokpriy Shrma & Tremblay).

Alum India Young is cited in this Vancouver Sun article about a career retrospective exhibit by Nuu-chah-nulth artist George Clutes at Vancouver’s Bill Reid Gallery; the exhibit was created by Young plus UVic’s Andrea Walsh and Jennifer Robinson.

School of Music

Marking their official retirement from performing, the “trailblazing” Lafayette String Quartet were recently profiled in this feature article from Strings Magazine. “I hope we’ve instilled a deep love of chamber music in our audiences and students,” said Ann Elliott-Goldschmid. Our students benefited enormously from observing four musicians who respect each other and worked together, unified, in overseeing their studies and musical growth.”

Ahead of his final concert featuring live piano accompaniment to a silent film, professor Bruce Vogt was interviewed by CBC Radio’s All Points West (not archived) and in this Times Colonist story. “I’m certainly not retiring from playing,” said Vogt. “I just won’t be teaching any more. I’ll still be around, until I hear the chimes at midnight.”

January’s masterclass with guest mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy got a shout-out in this Times Colonist roundup.

Professor Benjamin Butterfield plus alumni Isaiah Bell and Timothy Carter all appeared on this segment of CBC Radio’s On The Island talking about their recent concert, Banned from the Concert Hall. Butterfield was also interviewed for this Times Colonist story about the same event. “I’m not sure everyone goes around talking about their arse all day in Baroque circles,” Butterfield said with a laugh. “But this type of thing has been around a long time.”

As the new leader of the annual TubaChristmas fundraiser, instructor Scott MacInnes was featured in this December Times Colonist article. “It’s awesome that such a lowly instrument can provide so much happiness,” said MacInnes, who will be conducting the festive ensemble for the first time.

Arbutus Middle School’s music program was recently announced as the winners—again—of CBC’s annual national Music Class Challenge. While not named in the article, Arbutus’s music program is led by alumni Jennifer Hill & sessional Michael Mazza.

Theatre

As co-author, professor Yasmine Kandil was recently announced as one of the winners of 2023’s Wayman Mullins Award for Best Journal Article, as awarded by the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology Board of Directors. This award is given for the best scientific article as published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology. Kandil, along with co-authors Jennifer A. A. Lavoie & Natalie Alvarez, picked up the award for their article “Developing Community Co-designed Scenario-Based Training for Police Mental Health Crisis Response: A Relational Policing Approach to De-escalation”.

Alum Jena Mailloux (MA Interdisciplinary Studies: Applied Theatre/Curriculum & Instruction) recently published the article “Elevating Critical Pedagogy Through Dramatic Principles: A Comparative Framework Analysis of Anti-Bullying Drama Education and Theatre Research Initiatives” in the Drama Australia Journal.

Alum Alynne Sinnema (MA Applied Theatre) was recently awarded the Canadian Association for Theatre Research Robert G. Lawrence Scholarship for her for the project “Coming to her Senses: Women’s Sexual Empowerment Through Applied Theatre”, which the adjudicating committee found “inventive and insightful in the ways it aims to combine applied theatre, specifically physical theatre, and feminist theory as a way to support women’s voices, embodied and scholarly considerations of women’s pleasure and sexual agency, and mental health.”

Alum Narges Montakhabi was awarded the Canadian Association for Theatre Research (CATR) Heather McCallum Scholarship for her project “Politics and Poethics of Precarity in Contemporary Middle Eastern Canadian Theatre.” Describing her project as “ambitious”, the committee found her work “amplified the voices of less-heard and younger generations of underrepresented Middle Eastern Canadian playwrights, focusing on contemporary (mostly 21st century) plays and playwrights from Iran, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq.”

Visual Arts

Recent MFA alum Maryam (whose last name is not being used in the media due to safety concerns) was quoted in this Times Colonist story about her work in the latest Victoria Arts Council exhibit, You Are Welcome. “I’m still very impressed,” she said of the protests in Iran, where most of her friends and family reside. “The metal [in my piece] represents the strength and power of the women in my country when they were killed and shot in the streets.”

While the late-’90s children’s TV show Nanalan is currently going viral on TikTok, none of the coverage mentions the fact that professor Kelly Richardson worked on the show in between her BFA and MFA degrees. She worked on 71 episodes, making the set & greenery but also puppeteering; this allowed her to buy her first computer which entirely changed her art practice. “I’ve never really stopped making plants and animating bugs in my work,” she says. You can see some behind-the-scene photos Kelly has posted on her Instagram feed.

UVic Impact Chair Carey Newman was involved in the first fully bilingual colloquium of the New Uses of Collections in Art Museums Partnership  at the National Gallery of Canada in December. The conference outlined some of the innovative practices changing the standards and practices of art acquisition. This colloquium was jointly produced by the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) and the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) as part of the CIÉCO Research and Inquiry Group’s Partnership New Uses of Collections in Art Museums.

In other news Carey Newman news, this Vancouver Sun article notes that the traveling exhibition of his Witness Blanket will be on display in the West Vancouver public library from Jan 26-March 8. This touring version is a detailed photographic replica of the original 13-panel sculptural installation, which is now permanently housed in Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Following this stop, the current 17-city tour next comes to the Saanich School Division (March 25–May 10) before moving on to Nelson and Nova Scotia, with more dates booking into 2025.  

Work by current MFA candidate Eeman Masood was featured in Frozen Forest, the recent curated exhibition at Abu Dhabi Art, and will also be displayed at the India Art Fair exhibition in New Dehli via her gallery representative Galerie ISA, from Feb 1- 4. 

 

Writing

Recent Writing grad and Climate Disaster Project managing editor Aldyn Chwelos was recently featured on this story for CBC Radio’s All Points West, speaking about their work documenting testimonials from survivors of severe wildfires and floods—some of which are getting a reprint in the December/January issue of Readers Digest. Chwelos was also featured in a separate interview with CBC Kelowna’s Radio West (not archived).

Teaching professor Marita Dachsel’s new essay collection Sharp Notions: Essays from the Stitching Life was mentioned in the Globe and Mail’s book gift guide for “The Mindful Maven” this year. “As the editors [Marita Dachsel and Nancy Lee] point out, in the 21st century we don’t need to knit, embroider, weave, bead, make lace or spin yarn. But what these essays by crafters get at, instead, is the nourishment found in the meditative (rather than productive) solace of fibre-arts handiwork.” Dachsel was also interviewed for this Vancouver Sun article exploring two new books with Vancouver Island fibre connections. Sharp Notions was also recently positively reviewed for The British Columbia Review, and it was included inAll Lit Up’s “Refresh Your Shelf: New Non-Fiction” list, which included five notable nonfiction reads for 2024.

Professor David Leach spoke with residents at two Isralei kibbutzim for this story for Jewish Renaissance Magazine. “In 2010, I completed a circuit around Israel to research a book about the founding ideals, hundred-year history and slow decline of the kibbutz movement,” writes Leach. “These 270 or so rural communes, dreamed into reality by young Jewish pioneers as a fusion of socialism and Zionism, had marked the borders of the future state and shaped many of its leaders and artists.”

Crookes Professor Sean Holman announced in December that Rappler — the Philippines’ leading digital media company — has published five students stories as part of the Climate Disaster Project Philippines, appearing just in time for COP28. As part of the CDP’s international outreach, UVic’s Division of Continuing Studies provides certificates to the Philippines students for their work in trauma-informed environmental journalism. All five harrowing stories can be read here, here, here, here and here.

MFA Sam Shelstad’s novel The Cobra and The Key was recently included on CBC Book’s list of “30 books to read this winter”. Things are getting meta with this new satirical novel, which is centred on the life of a writer (also named Sam Shelstad) who is busy working on a book about his failed relationship, while he awaits word from a publisher about the manuscript he’s sure will make him a star—a how-to book for aspiring fiction writers detailing the finer points of the craft.

MFA alum Kyeren Regehr has been named the new director of Victoria’s venerable Planet Earth Poetry Reading Series—which, at 28 years, is surely the city’s longest-running continuous literary series. PEP runs weekly, 7-9pm Fridays at Russell Books on Fort Street.

Fine Arts

UVic’s Fine Arts + Grants & Awards Librarian Christine Walde recently presented her book-themed art exhibit Salvage at the Bruce Hutchinson public library branch, in conjunction withthe Victoria Arts Council. Salvage is a collection of driftwood books salvaged from the beaches of Vancouver Island and the Cascadia bioregion of the Pacific Northwest over a ten-year period.

Did you know Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren hosts the pre-show talks for the DanceVictoria series? A dance historian herself, Lindgren speaks ahead of each show in the performance series.

Finally, the winners of our 2023 Student Community Impact Awards were mentioned in Monday Magazine’s coverage of the Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards.

Allan Antliff named inaugural Rubinoff Legacy Professor

The Faculty of Fine Arts has developed a strong relationship with the Jeffrey Rubinoff Foundation since 2016 when the late BC sculptor created the Jeffrey Rubinoff Scholar in Art as a Source of Knowledge Endowment at UVic in 2016.

Today, that relationship is being strengthened further by the Jeffrey Rubinoff Nexus for Art as a Source of Knowledge — this includes $230,000 in new funding which creates a named professorship, a robust set of graduate student scholarships, and the expansion of experiential learning initiatives at the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park (JRSP) on Hornby Island.

Rubinoff understood art to be a source of knowledge because of its capacity to influence the viewer’s perspective by means of original perceptions. Indeed, Fine Arts students who have spent time at the JRSP since 2017 have expressed profound appreciation for their experiences  and their perspectives and ideas have grown.

The Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park on Hornby Island

New professorship rooted in engagement

Art History & Visual Studies (AHVS) professor Allan Antliff has been selected as the inaugural Rubinoff Legacy Professor in Art as a Source of Knowledge. Antliff brings to the position not only a personal history with Rubinoff and an interest in the Modernist ideas expressed in his sculptures, but also a deep history of engagement with the JRSP’s annual Company of Ideas forum — an international gathering of scholars, artists and thinkers which has been exploring key issues in art and knowledge since it was established in 2008.

AHVS has been involved with the Company of Ideas since 2016 in a variety of ways, including a four-year PhD graduate fellowship, travel awards for AHVS grad students, and smaller fellowships for outstanding AHVS grad students in need — all of which was initiated by Antliff and quickly brought to realization by former Fine Arts Dean Susan Lewis and UVic’s Development Office.

“I first met Jeffrey in summer 2015 and we quickly forged a personal friendship based on shared intellectual interests and ethical concerns related to the arts,” recalls Antliff. “Since then, I’ve been organizing annual graduate student participation in the Company of Ideas with the invaluable help of JRSP curator Karun Koernig and Company of Ideas Director and Cambridge University art historian James Fox . . . . Our students derive great benefit from these forums: they are ‘idea generators’ and a chance to meet scholars of note in a congenial atmosphere unlike any other.”

An unparalleled opportunity for students 

AHVS PhD candidate Munazzah Akhtar attended the Company of Ideas forum in 2016 and found the experience invaluable. “The forum offered an unparalleled opportunity for students to learn from and engage with artists, writers, curators and academics from distinguished universities,” she says. “These are fantastic occasions for students to network with renowned scholars, which could certainly be beneficial for their future endeavors.”

The Rubinoff Foundation itself is excited by Antliff’s appointment. In response to the news, the Board of Directors have affirmed that “Jeffrey had the opportunity to exchange ideas with Dr. Antliff on many occasions, and he would be pleased to know that Allan was named as the first Jeffrey Rubinoff Legacy Professor. The Jeffrey Rubinoff Foundation is honoured to continue Jeffrey’s legacy through support for the University of Victoria that contributes to innovative scholarship, connecting art and knowledge.”

Expanded scholarship opportunities

A significant part of the Nexus for Art as a Source of Knowledge is $100,000 in annual funding for a set of new graduate scholarships to be shared by each of our five Fine Arts units — plans for which Antliff and Rubinoff discussed back in 2016.

“The scope of Jeffrey’s critical interests encompassed the entirety of the arts, and it is appropriate that these awards be divided equally amongst our five departments,” says Antliff. “The scholarships reflect Jeffrey’s spirit of generosity and commitment to learning, which the Foundation board shares — and, of course, they are testimony to how important he felt artistic endeavours are for advancing knowledge, both culturally and politically.”

Antliff (centre) at 2023’s Company of Ideas

Fifteen graduate students in AHVS, Theatre, Writing, Visual Arts and the School of Music will benefit from this new funding during the 2023/24, providing them with the opportunity to both visit the JSRP and further their own academic and creative work.

“These scholarships will give students time to contemplate and develop their research free of economic pressures,” notes Antliff. “This is an extraordinary gift — the gift of creative freedom.”

The late Jeffrey Rubinoff with one of his sculptures at the JRSP

New experiential learning opportunities

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Rubinoff’s legacy is his 200-acre sculpture park on Hornby Island, where he lived and worked for over four decades. Home to over 100 of Rubinoff’s steel sculptures — which range from human to monumental scale — the JSRP not only hosts the annual Company of Ideas forum but has also welcomed several Fine Arts field schools since 2017.

With the new Nexus funding, experiential learning opportunities on site will be further enhanced with an annual budget of $75,000.

In his new role as the Rubinoff Legacy Professor, Antliff — who has previously taught a course at the JRSP exploring the intersection of Rubinoff’s views with those of select artists and art critics — is developing a new AHVS seminar, “Sculpting Modernism”. This will offer students three days at the sculpture park to engage with Rubinoff’s artwork firsthand, with accommodation and expenses funded by the Nexus.

“My intent is to transform May into the ‘Faculty of Fine Arts Month’ at the JRSP, with different departments bringing groups of students to the park every week for short residencies,” says Antliff. “To this end, I have invited faculty in other departments to develop their own seminars incorporating the JRSP and offered to underwrite related costs drawing on my Legacy Chair funding. Additionally, I’ll be visiting Hornby Island to consult Jeffrey Rubinoff’s archive and library: this research will enhance my ongoing engagement with his ideas.”

Plans are also underway for the first of a series of related biannual conferences, tentatively scheduled for fall 2024 or winter 2025. “I have a series of topics in mind, which will be themed to my department’s research areas and incorporate issues that concerned Jeffrey Rubinoff,” explains Antliff. “For example, I am in conversation with Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, Senior Curator at National Gallery of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum,about collaboratively organizing a UVic-based conference devoted to art historian and anti-colonial activist Ananda Coomaraswamy.”

Inspired by a previous conference Mustafa organized at the Dhaka Art Summit in 2018 (where Antliff gave a talk on Coomaraswamy’s impact on US modernism during the WWI period), this conference might also involve UVic’s Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives.

“Ideally, I imagine these conferences serving as a catalyst for enhancing the faculty’s impact in the University of Victoria and beyond,” says Antliff. “The conferences will also draw attention to the JRSP and Rubinoff’s legacy as a critical thinker and artist. Finally, they will be a catalyst of learning for faculty, students and the general public.”

Fine Arts students during
previous JRSP field schools

Building the future

As someone who knew him personally, Antliff thinks Rubinoff would have been excited by the renewal of this important relationship with both UVic and the Faculty of Fine Arts.

“Before he passed, Jeffrey gave me a copy of a critical anthology edited by James Fox, The Art of Jeffrey Rubinoff (2016), with this dedication – ‘Allan: Builder of the Future.’ I think that speaks volumes regarding his faith in my commitment to furthering the synergy between the JRSP and Fine Arts,” concludes Antliff.

He adds, “Jeffrey spoke of his initial [2016] endowment to AHVS as the ‘institutional mainstay of the unfolding, permanent educational program at the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park, which will continue to explore the future of art as a source of knowledge.’ When he characterized art as ‘a source of knowledge,’ he had the interface of art and society in mind, which dovetails wonderfully well with the values propelling research and teaching in the Faculty of Fine Arts.”

Transformational reconciliation through exhibitions

Dr Heather Igloliorte at UVic, November 2023 (UVic Photo Services)

If it wasn’t for a hurricane, the life of globally renowned Inuk and Nunatsiavut art historian and curator Dr. Heather Igloliorte would have taken an entirely different turn.

Back in 2003, she had just graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (major: fine art, minor: art history) and intended to pursue an MFA with the intention of becoming a practicing artist.

Then came the plot twist: Hurricane Juan blew in from the Atlantic and blew out Halifax’s power grid — including the traffic lights — resulting in a car accident that left Igloliorte seriously injured and requiring a year of painful physiotherapy. “I had muscle damage from my neck to my shin . . . but particularly in my shoulder and arm, so I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to paint again,” she recalls.

Thanks to that BFA minor, however, Igloliorte was able to switch her focus to art history while she was in recovery. That’s when she first began exploring the history of Inuit art, which soon inspired her to pursue a master’s degree.

“I learned for the first time how much of Canadian Inuit art history had been written by non-Inuit,” she says. “Although there were thousands of exhibitions and articles and catalogues and books about Inuit art, almost none of it had been written by Inuit . . .. I came to realize that there was so much work to be done and felt I needed to contribute to that.”

A well-deserved global reputation

Igloliorte was announced on Nov. 16 as UVic’s inaugural Canada Research Excellence Chair in Decolonial and Transformational Indigenous Art Practices — an $8-million research chair funded through the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program and administered by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council on behalf of Canada’s federal granting agencies.

Read the UVic news release.

Canada’s first Inuk art historian to hold a doctoral degree, Igloliorte has developed a well-deserved reputation as an internationally renowned curator whose work has positioned circumpolar Indigenous arts and knowledge at the centre of global exhibition practices.

Her many accomplishments as an independent curator and scholar include holding the Tier 1 University Research Chair in Circumpolar Indigenous Arts at Concordia University; co-directing the Indigenous Futures Research Centre; directing the nation-wide Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership: Pilimmaksarniq / Pijariuqsarniq Project; co-curating a ground-breaking survey of contemporary Inuit art as the inaugural exhibition of the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq Inuit art centre; and co-curating a program of northern Canadian Indigenous-made 360° films, ARCTIC XR, in conjunction with the Sami Pavilion during the 2023 edition of the Venice Biennale.

Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren with Heather Igloliorte at the official announcement on Nov 16 (photo: Megan Dickie)

Exhibitions that change lives

By focusing on decolonizing institutions and foregrounding Indigenous knowledge, perspectives and creativity — while challenging colonialist understandings of resilience, health, resources and technologies — Igloliorte has created or co-created more than 30 curatorial projects throughout her career. Indeed, her first major exhibition — 2008’s oral history project “We Were So Far Away:” The Inuit Experience of Residential Schools for Ottawa’s Legacy of Hope Foundation — is still in circulation across Canada today.

“That exhibit really sparked my interest in curatorial practice and what it can do for people who are from rural, remote and northern communities. Unlike in cities in southern Canada, a lot of places throughout the North — not just Inuit communities — don’t have access to conventional art galleries, don’t have southern Canada-style museums, and don’t necessarily have easy access to post-secondary programs to learn about being a curator or a museum professional. But we figured out how to make that exhibition tour throughout the North, so that the primary stakeholders in the project — Residential School Survivors and their families — could see their stories shared.”

Since that first major exhibition, the joy of Igloliorte’s career has been supporting community members to find innovative ways to share their stories and achieve success on their own terms. “I think big institutions in the south can also learn a lot from the resourcefulness of northerners,” she says.

Igloliorte’s multifaceted and interdisciplinary work aligns with UVic’s commitment to ʔetal nəwəl | ÁTOL,NEUEL, as well as its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals focused on quality education, decent work, economic growth, reduced inequalities and peace and justice.

Installation view of INUA:InuitNunangat Ungammuaktut Atautikkut(2021-2023) in the
main Inuit gallery at
Qaumajuq, courtesy of Winnepeg Art gallery (photo: Lindsay Reid)

Decolonizing and transforming

Now based in UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts as the Canada Research Excellence Chair in Decolonial and Transformational Indigenous Art Practice, the prestigious, eight-year position will advance reconciliation through the transformative power of art and innovative exhibition practices, and support a new generation of students, researchers, educators, curators and artists to drive change through artistic practice.

“I am really excited about the eight years to come,” says Igloliorte. “I feel really humbled by the trust that has been put in me to take this funding and to do good with it.”

Part of that good will include creating more capacity for diverse arts opportunities and leadership.

“A big part of what I want to do with this position is to bring more Indigenous Peoples into spaces that weren’t designed for them — but that they absolutely deserve to be in. How do we change the structures to make the institutions better and more welcoming and more inclusive? This new role is going to amplify things that we’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”

More than just decolonizing physical spaces, however, Igloliorte is equally passionate about extending the artistic reach of technology.

“Another pillar of this project is digital literacy and media arts skill sets,” she says. “Just like the lack of access to museums and galleries in the North, Indigenous people don’t necessarily have access to the same cutting-edge technologies that others do.”

On a practical level, Igloliorte says that means removing barriers and putting innovative media arts tools — like augmented reality and extended reality — into the hands of people through the creation of an Indigenous research-creation focused media arts lab. “They can experiment and see if they’re interested in bringing their current practices into a media art space . . .. The potential is there for people to grow in really exciting directions.”

Heather Igloliorte, center, with students and faculty during the 2022 Inuit Futures curatorial institute, visiting the
Inuit and Sami-led exhibition 
ᐊᖏᕐᕋᒧᑦ / Ruovttu Guvlui / Towards Home, Dec. 3, 2022 (Photo: Julien Cadena)

A perfect home at UVic

For Igloliorte, there’s no better place to be based than UVic and the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Already home to notable Indigenous artists like Kwagiulth/Salish/Settler Witness Blanket creator and UVic Impact Chair Carey Newman, Métis poet Gregory Scofield and Navajo futurist Danielle Geller, the Faculty of Fine Arts also hosts the Audain Professorship in Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest. This long-running, donor-funded, limited-term position has been held by such internationally acclaimed Indigenous artists as Rebecca Belmore, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas and Rande Cook (among others), and is currently held by Kanienke’haka performance artist Lindsay Katsitsakatste Delaronde.

“What an amazing environment!” exclaims Igloliorte enthusiastically. “I can’t believe there are over 70 Indigenous faculty members here at UVic. I don’t know that there’s anywhere else in the country like it.”

Igloliorte is excited to join UVic’s Department of Visual Arts alongside the likes of Newman and globally recognized digital artists Kelly Richardson and Paul Walde.

“It seems like a great fit,” she says, noting current faculty work around technology, climate change, the environment, media arts and decolonization. “There is so much work that overlaps with — and will help to expand — the potential of what this research chair should be. I think we’re going to do a lot of good work together.”

The CERC program, jointly administered by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), supports world-renowned researchers and their teams to establish ambitious research programs at Canadian universities.