Top 10 Fine Arts stories of 2017 – part two

What else happened in Fine Arts in 2017? More than we can mention in one blog post, so here’s part two of our top-10 stories of the year.

International attention

Considering we’re based on an island at the edge of the continent, it’s surprising how much international attention UVic continues to get — and while there’s no arguing our extraordinary sense of place here in Victoria, credit must go to our exceptional faculty who always seem to be busy across the country and around the world.

Ajtony Csaba at the Hungarian Liszt Academy of Music (photo: Réka Érdi-Harmos)

School of Music professor Dániel Péter Biró and some Music students participated in UVic’s interdisciplinary field school “Narratives of Memory, Migration, and Xenophobia” this summer, which brought together scholars, students and artists from Canada and Europe to examine issues including the recent resurgence of nationalist and xenophobic movements in North America and Europe. Biró also had a number of compositions commissioned, premiered and performed in Europe this year, as well as in Brooklyn. Ajtony Csaba was honoured to perform a special Canada 150 concert for the Hungarian Ambassador in Ottawa this summer, as well as having the opportunity to lead the orchestra at the Hungarian Liszt Academy of Music this fall. Merrie Klazek presented a solo recital at the International Women’s Brass Conference in New Jersey in June, Joanna Hood was featured on German radio this fall, and Benjamin Butterfield appeared once again at the Amalfi Coast Music Arts and Music Festival, teaching and directing the opera Gianni Schicchi with some of his UVic voice students, past and present (including Kaden Forsberg, Margaret Lingas, Ai Horton and Nick Allen).

Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson saw her art exhibited in solo and group exhibits in Scotland, England, France, China and the United States this year, while Paul Walde had two separate exhibits on view in Norway and Scotland, and Cedric Bomford had work in California, as well as an ongoing public art commission in Seattle. And sessional instructor Charles Campbell had work exhibited at both the Los Angeles’ Museum of Latin American Art and San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora this year.

Finally, Theatre professor Patrick Du Wors was the only Canadian selected for the prestigious 2017 World Stage Design exhibition in Taiwan, and Art History & Visual Studies professor Marcus Milwright published a new book, Islamic Arts and Crafts: An Anthology  with Edinburgh University Press.

Indigenous action

Lindsay Delaronde supported by dancers during ACHoRd (Photo: Peruzzo)

Considering the City of Victoria declared 2017 a Year of Reconciliation, it was perhaps fitting that we saw a great deal of activity by Indigenous alumni, guest speakers and faculty — most notable of which was the announcement that Visual Arts MFA alumna Lindsay Delaronde would be Victoria’s first Indigenous Artist in Residence. “I hope to create artworks that reflect the values of this land, which are cultivated and nurtured by the Indigenous peoples of this territory,” she said at the time. “I see my role as a way to bring awareness to and acknowledge that reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is a process, one in which I can facilitate a collaborative approach for creating strong relationships to produce co-created art projects in Victoria.”

2017 also saw the completion of Rande Cook’s two-year term as the latest Audain Professor in Visual Arts — on top of his duties as chief of Vancouver Island’s ’Namgis Nation and his commitments as an in-demand contemporary artist with an international practice. “Two years in the position allowed me to really reach students,” says Cook. “I was able to delve into the role art plays in politics, and got them to dive deep within themselves. I pushed my students a lot and they seemed to appreciate that — the feedback at the end of the year said it was one of the more profound classes they had ever taken.”

The call is currently out for the next Audain Professor, with a January 31 application deadline.

Theatre professor Kirsten Sedeghi-Yetka continues her applied theatre work in the area of Indigenous language preservation, and Theatre also hosted acclaimed Indigenous playwright Marie Clement as a guest this fall. AHVS professor Carolyn Butler-Palmer‘s 2017 Legacy Gallery exhibit on early female Indigenous carver Ellen Neel was featured in this national Globe and Mail article, Legacy Gallery also hosted an exhibit by Visual Arts MFA alumna Marianne Nicholson focusing on the impact of smallpox on local first nations, and fellow Visual Arts MFA Hjalmer Wenstob had a high-profile longhouse installation on the lawn of the BC Legislature this summer as part of the OneWave Gathering.

High-profile Indigenous Writing alumni Richard Van Camp and Eden Robinson were in the news repeatedly this year, with Robinson being shortlisted for the Giller Prize and winning a prestigious Writers’ Trust Fellowship. And everyone in Writing and Fine Arts were saddened to hear of the passing of former Southam Lecturere, Richard Wagamese.

Daniel Laskarin with his new public art sculpture, now installed in Richmond

Art with impact

Visual Arts faculty had a busy year with a number of prominent exhibitions and projects. Paul Walde’s Tom Thomson Centennial Swim project received a great deal of local, provincial and national media attention this summer — with 10 different radio interviews and day-of coverage by the Toronto Star — as well as making UVic’s list of top news stories of 2017.

The spotlight was definitely on the recently retired Sandra Meigs — now professor emeritus — who was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in September, opened a solo exhibit at Winchester Galleries early in 2017 featuring work created after winning the Gershon Iskowitz Prize, and launched an impressive solo show at the Art Gallery of Ontario in October, in collaboration with Music’s Christopher Butterfield. Listen to this interview with Meigs on CBC Radio’s Q, in which Butterfield’s audio component is also discussed.

Daniel Laskarin debuted a new public art sculpture at the Cambie Fire Hall No. 3 / Richmond North Ambulance Station and had a local solo show at Deluge Gallery, while Robert Youds had no less than three solo exhibits this fall, with two in Victoria and one in Toronto. Cedric Bomford had his work on view in California, Quebec and Toronto’s Nuit Blanche this summer, and very busy new professor Kelly Richardson participated in 14 solo and group exhibitions across Canada and Europe — with more planned in 2018.

10 years of acclaimed journalists

The stage may have been crowded, but not as much as the audience!

For the past 10 years, Writing students have benefited by learning from veteran journalists and authors, thanks to the Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction. In November, Writing celebrated a decade of Southam Lecturers with a special “all-star” anniversary panel featuring six former Southams together for the first time, in a lively moderated discussion on “The Future of Journalism in the Age of #FakeNews”

“The idea for the panel was sparked by a perfect convergence,” says Writing chair David Leach. “A chance to mark the 10th anniversary of the Southam Lectureship, the opportunity to thank the Southam family for their generosity, and to respond to a sense of global urgency around the role of journalists as guardians of our democratic institutions — especially when the most powerful elected official on the planet keeps attacking the free press as #FakeNews.”

Leach acted as emcee and moderator for the event, which broke all previous Southam attendance records and saw close to 250 fill every seat, aisle, ledge and doorway. six returning Southams — Jody Paterson, Terry Glavin, JoAnn Roberts and Tom Hawthorn, plus departmental alumni Mark Leiren-Young and Vivian Smith — as well as recent Writing grad Quinn MacDonald, now the publisher/editor of the local urban agriculture magazine Concrete Garden.

“All were keen to talk about their experiences as guest lecturers and debate the future of journalism,” says Leach. “Taken together, it offers a broad range of ways to look at contemporary journalism.”

A strong year for new donors

Samantha Krzywonos (far right) marks the
98th birthday of longtime donor Tommy Mayne, with three Theatre student recipients of his scholarship, in 2016

Another way to measure a faculty’s health and success is through the strength of its donors. And while Fine Arts couldn’t boast of another monumental donation like the one we received in 2016 from Jefferey Rubinoff — who sadly passed away earlier this year — 2017 remained a healthy year for donors and donations. Fine Arts Development Officer Samantha Krzywonos reports that we attracted 103 first-gift donors this past year — as compared to 48 in 2016 — and received an overall 476 donations for a total of nearly $500,000 that will support students.

Donations of all sizes are essential not only for scholarships and awards, but also for the need for innovative technology, space modifications and equipment upgrades — all of which contribute to the success of Fine Arts students in all our departments. Donors can range from alumni and retired faculty to parents of students, corporate partners, arts patrons, current and former staff, and community members. Indeed, we currently have over 250 active donors and nearly $10 million in planned gift expectancies invested in Fine Arts students.

Krzywonos feels meeting with donors is the most rewarding aspect of her job. “It’s all about saying thank-you and sharing the impact of that support. If a student can focus on their studies and not have to take on extra work just to get by, that donor support can make a huge difference in their life.”

Top 10 Fine Arts stories of 2017 – part one

There’s no easier measure of just how creative the activity is here in the Faculty of Fine Arts than by looking back at what happened over the previous year. From classes and guest lecturers to concerts, exhibits, plays, readings, seminars and our core research and creative practice, it’s often hard to believe just how much happens in a given year. In fact, a recent tally of this year’s media coverage showed our faculty, students and alumni had been covered more than 250 times in 2017 — and those are just the stories we know about.

In no particular order, here’s part one of our annual wrap-up featuring some — but certainly not all — of the leading Fine Arts stories of the year.

50 years and counting

Christopher Butterfield, Susan Lewis & Jamie Cassels at the School of Music’s Gala Anniversary Concert in December

2017 saw the wrap-up of 50th anniversaries in both Theatre and Art History & Visual Studies, and the ongoing half-century celebrations in the School of Music. Theatre completed its celebrations with a trio of final events in the spring: their Human Library Project, the Tempest Orion Project, and the public mounting of A Queer Trial, a brand new play by professor Jennifer Wise, in downtown’s Bastion Square. “The people who started our department were fearless in their vision and commitment,” Theatre chair Allana Lindgren said at the time. “They transformed one of the old military huts on campus into a stage and that ‘can do’ attitude has never left.”

AVHS finished their golden anniversary year with a public panel on “Why Art Matters in Dangerous Times” and their extensive Learning Through Looking exhibit at the Legacy Maltwood Gallery. “We were pioneers in the field when we were founded 50 years ago — not just in Canada but across North America,” noted department chair Erin Campbell of what was then the History in Art program. “At the time, art history was very Western-focused but we were one of the few institutions willing to look at Asian and Indigenous art. And we are still one of the largest world art history departments in Canada.”

While the School of Music just wrapped up its own 50th gala and reunion weekend earlier in December, they’ve still got their New Music & Digital Music Festival coming up from February 2-4. Music director Christopher Butterfield feels it’s their unique connection between faculty, students, alumni and the community that sets the School of Music apart. “We’re never going to be the place for everybody, but the people who do come here soon realize we’re punching way above our weight,” he says.

With three anniversaries down and two to go — including the Faculty’s own 50th in 2019 — it’s not hard to see the impact Fine Arts has had on the evolution of UVic itself, which is currently only 54 years old.

Award-winning achievements

Zhao Si presents Tim Lilburn with the Homer Medal

It’s been another year of outstanding achievement for our faculty, with a number of notable recognitions. Department of Writing professor and acclaimed poet Tim Lilburn was the first Canadian to win the prestigious international Homer Prize, while School of Music professor Dániel Péter Biró earned a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship, and Visual Arts professor emeritus Sandra Meigs became a Fellow of the Royal Society,

Internally, AHVS professor Victoria Wyatt won the Fine Arts award for Excellence in Teaching, while School of Music professor Suzanne Snizek‘s research into the forgotten works of suppressed composers earned her a place among the 10 recipients of UVic’s inaugural REACH Award, alumna Althea Thauberger was honoured as the faculty’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni, and POV Maestro Timothy Vernon being named an Honorary Doctor of Music at spring convocation.

Grad student successes

Fine Arts saw exceptional success in 2017 when it comes to the research and creative activities of our current doctoral and graduate students. Art History & Visual Studies had three successful SSHRC doctoral recipients — international students Atri Hatef and Hamed Yeganehfarzand (Iran) and Zahra Kazani (Pakistan) — which, considering only 20 were awarded to UVic as a whole, makes AHVS responsible for a remarkable 15 percent across campus in this category. Kazani also holds a CSRS Fellowship, as well as the Sheila & John Hackett Research Travel Award and a top-up to assist with international research at the Warburg Institute and the Wellcome Collection and Library, both in London.

Applied theatre PhD candidate Taiwo Afolabi

Also notable are two outstanding international PhD candidates in Theatre: national Vanier Scholar recipient Dennis Gupta, who also received the Ada Slaight Drama in Education Award, and Queen Elizabeth Scholar Taiwo Afolabi, a Crossing Borders Scholar with UVic’s Centre for Asia-Pacic Initiatives and a graduate fellow with the Centre for Global Studies.

Additionally, we’ve had great success when it comes to Canada Graduate Scholarships – Master’s Awards, with three CGS M’s in AHVS, two in Writing, and one each in Visual Arts and the School of Music. With seven out of 36 awards on campus, Fine Arts earned an impressive 19.5 percent of UVic’s allocations. Two other high-achieving graduate students include AHVS’s Su Yen Chong, another CAPI Crossing Borders Queen Elizabeth Scholar, and Elsie-May Mountford, the Ian H. Stewart Graduate Student Fellow with UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society.

Amazing alumni

Composer & celebrated Music alumnus Rodney Sharman (photo: Bell Ancell)

It’s also worth noting that 2017 has been a remarkable year for alumni achievement. In November, School of Music alumnus Rodney Sharman received the Canada Council’s $50,000 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, while composer Tobin Stokes saw one of his compositions performed for Queen Elizabeth II as part of the Canada 150 celebrations in London this summer, sung by alumna soprano Eve Daniell. Several School of Music alumni are featured in the 10-CD Canadian Composers Series on the UK’s Another Timbre record label — including the likes of Cassandra Miller, Alex Jang and Lance Austin Olsen — which also comes with an accompanying book. And Musicworks magazine has a feature on Victoria composers — including current concert manager Kristy Farkas — which comes with an accompanying CD.

Writing alumni have also been receiving a good deal of attention this fall, with Eden Robinson winning the $50,000 Writers’ Trust Fellowship, Yasuko Thanh winning the Victoria Book Prize, Connor Gaston and Karolinka Zuzalek both winning Leo Awards for their latest film projects, Shanna Baker winning the photojournalism category in the Canadian Online Publishing Awards for this Hakai magazine piece, Theatre alumna-turned-author Carleigh Baker winning the Vancouver Book Award, and Writing professor and alumna Joan MacLeod’s 1987 play Toronto, Mississippi being named one of Canada’s 14 essential plays.

In the nominations department, both Deborah Willis and Eden Robinson received Giller Prize nominations, Ashley Little and Steven Price were nominated for the €100,000 International Dublin Literary Award, Carleigh Baker was nominated for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and Writing chair David Leach — himself a departmental alum — was nominated for the Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature.

Xiao Xue with her award-winning walking camper

Visual Arts saw MFA alumna Lindsay Delaronde named the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence, while two 2017 alumni won two categories in the national BMO 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition: national prize winner Xiao Xue, and BC provincial prize winner James Fermor. But while graduate students may be taking centrestage, And two very recent alumni were nominated for the Lind Prize in photography: Brandon Poole (for the second time) and Laura Gildner.

In Theatre, alumnus Chris Wilson has joined the cast of CBC TV’s legendary Air Farce comedy troupe, Meg Braem was recently announced as the newest Lee Playwright in Residence at the University of Alberta Department of Drama, Amiel Gladstone continues to reap accolades with the award-winning musical Onegin, which he co-created and directed, and continues to tour across Canada (including a recent Belfry Theatre production starring Meg Roe), and former CBC TV Being Erica star Erin Karpluk continues to pop up on such TV shows as Masters of Sex, Criminal Minds and the continuing A Fixer Upper Mystery.

The Mercer Report

Rick Mercer sings the headlines

And there’s nothing like a bit of celebrity to wrap up part one of this post: the School of Music (and UVic as a whole) was thrilled when legendary CBC TV host Rick Mercer came to campus in October to film a segment for the final season of The Rick Mercer Report — including a live, on-camera singing lesson with voice professor Benjamin Butterfield and student Taylor Fawcett. A highlight was hearing Mercer sing the day’s Globe & Mail headlines!  “I always thought I couldn’t sing but [Butterfield] convinced me that I, maybe, potentially, might be able to in the future. So I’ll be back doing my degree in opera,” quipped Mercer in this Martlet interview with Writing student Cormac O’Brien.

That’s part one—be sure to check back for part two of our top-10 stories of 2017.

Try your luck with this Art History Christmas quiz!

Like art? What about quizzes? How about art quizzes with a word-play twist? If you answered yes to any of these, then you’re in for a real treat: the return of the Art History Christmas Quiz!

Designed by Art History & Visual Studies professor Marcus Milwright, the Art History Christmas Quiz was first mounted back in 2013. Like so many of us, the idea of spending the holidays doing a challenging quiz comes naturally to Milwright.

“Our family was always keen on quizzes, from crosswords to tests of general knowledge,” he says. “There used to be a quiz in a newspaper that asked readers to identify a painting from a little section. This provided the inspiration for the AHVS Christmas Quiz, although I wanted to add some new elements.”

On each of the eight slides in the quiz, you’ll see a composite picture. Identify each image, then follow the instructions to find certain letters drawn from the name of the artist, the subject, the name of the object, and so on. (For example, take the “g” from Van Gogh and add it to the “v” from da Vinci to reconstruct a series of words.) Click here for full contest rules and details.

“It was fun to assemble faces from different paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures, but the challenge was to make the words and names from them,” says Milwright. “There should be some teasing images mixed in with some familiar ones.”

To take part in the quiz, write the completed words (or as many as you have been able to complete) on a postcard with your name and contact email. Hand this postcard into the main office of the Art History & Visual Studies department — that’s room 151 of the Fine Arts building — by January 5, 2018. Or if you’re on campus, you can send it by interoffice mail, or go really old-school and mail it in: AHVS Christmas Quiz, PO Box 1700, University of Victoria, Victoria, B.C., V8W 2Y2.

Looking for some visual assistance for the quiz? If you’re an AHVS student, you can access our DIDO image database; if you’re outside the faculty, try one of the public access sites like ARTstor, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the website for London’s National Gallery.

This quiz is open to all UVic students, and you may compete as teams (but only one postcard submission per team). There will be a main prize and two also for runners up. The winners will be announced on January 12. Remember, partial submissions will be accepted.

And while the top three winners of the original AHVS Christmas Quiz were all AHVS students, don’t let that dissuade you from playing along. “It was really funny and exciting,” said winner Atri Hatef at the time.

“I had some answers right away within each question, but often had to really search for the complete answer,” said previous winner Terry Rodgers.

Good luck!

Congratulations to Hamed, Kirsten & Atri!

Update on the winners!

Congratulations go out to the two winning teams of the 2017 AHVS Christmas Quiz: Atri Hatef & Hamed Yeganehfarzand, and India Cornell & Kirsten Matulewicz (not pictured).

Not surprisingly, all are AHVS students—Hatef and Yeganehfarzand are PhD candidates, while Matulewicz and Cornell are Masters students. Both teams worked together to get the correct answers to as many questions as possible, and came closest to completing the entire quiz. In addition to gift certificates for a local bookstore, they also received some art-based Canadiana: a puzzle and a calendar!

 

Art History alumni fuel Integrate Arts Festival

It’s not often you find an off-campus arts event that’s almost exclusively organized by Fine Arts alumni and students, but that’s exactly what you’ll find when you peak behind the curtain at 2017’s Integrate Arts Festival.

Originally dubbed the Off-The-Grid Art Crawl, Integrate is now organized annually by the Integrate Arts Society — where two of the three current Board of Directors are Art History & Visual Studies alumni (president Brin O’Hare and vice-president Alanah Garcin). Even better, eight of their nine planning committee members also have ties to the AHVS department: development coordinator Regan Shrumm & operations coordinator Stephanie Dermann are both alumni, while communications coordinator Kristi Hoffman, partnership coordinator Megan Quigley, art coordinator Zahra Kazani and event coordinators Olivia Prior and Margaret Lapp are all current students. Rounding out the pack is art director Anna Shkuratoff, a recent Visual Arts alumna.

AHVS grad & Integrate president Brin O’Hare

IAS president Brin O’Hare credits AHVS for providing an “initial awareness” of the vibrancy of Victoria’s art scene, and says it helped push her — and many of Integrate’s team — to become involved in the festival.

“I think UVic’s Art History program, and particularly their graduate program, facilitates students awareness and involvement in this community,” she says. “For example, field trips to the Legacy Gallery and Kilshaw’s Auctioneers, and work experience within the arts community, are often available to students, and many courses use local artists, galleries and organizations as case studies for learning as well. This provides students with an opportunity to become aware of the arts community within Victoria.”

Now in its 11th year, the Integrate Arts Festival runs August 25-27 at a number of downtown locations and serves to do exactly what it’s name implies: integrate various galleries and exhibition spaces with a series of exclusive events, performances and tours.

Centered around an en-masse art crawl, it encourages interaction with artworks and performances by local artists, as well as the exploration of local galleries, art spaces, and artist-run centres. Best of all, Integrate remains a completely free festival celebrating Victoria’s diverse arts community.

To see a complete list of events, performances, parties and tours, be sure to check out the complete festival program.

Putting her academic training to good use, O’Hare — who worked as a research assistant for AHVS professor Carolyn Butler Palmer and graduated with an MA in 2014 — feels her work with Integrate provides a good opportunity to correct the “misguided perception” that art history is solely a study of the past.

“To give a personal example, my focus was modern and contemporary Canadian art. As a UVic Art History student, we did, of course, study artists of the past; however, we also focused a great deal on living, contemporary artists. A particular interest of mine — which was fostered by my studies at UVic — is how art historical traditions and concepts of the past play a role in shaping the practices of contemporary artists. This interest to a great extent pushed me to become more familiar with the artists working in Victoria and to help further awareness of our city’s amazing arts community by getting involved in the festival.”

Laura Gildner

Given that two of Integrate’s goals are to raise awareness of Victoria’s arts scene and to help facilitate the growth of diverse, emerging artists within the community, their collective Fine Arts background is serving them well — especially when you consider that a number of the festival’s featured artists are alumni of the Visual Arts department, including Courtney Chaney, Colton Hash, and Romi Kim, plus current students Laura GildnerLeah McInnis and Libby Oliver. Also on view at various galleries and locations during the festival will be work by alumni Maddy Knott, Jim Holyoak and Matt Shane.

Artist Laura Gildner, for example, will be guiding a participant-driven performative walking tour between selected Integrate exhibitions in the downtown core from 1 to 2pm Saturday. Fueled entirely through anecdotal recollections sourced by interviewing strangers throughout Victoria, the piece — titled “Public Displays of Affection” — will examine layered intersections between the body, identity and art as they relate to urban geography.

Libby Oliver

There are also a number of workshops and special events planned, ranging from performance art and artist talks to dance, podcasting and zine-making workshops, . . . and, of course, the de rigueur opening night party running from 7-10:30pm Friday at Integrate HQ in the Bay Centre.

One highlight features alumna artist Courtney Chaney offering a performance of “Habitat,” which focuses on “the relationship between human and nature by allowing the viewer to encounter an exposed vulnerability within the space as the performer embodies a fetus or seed through direct contact with composted soil.” You can see that from 7-9pm Saturday at Integrate HQ.

Whether you go for the whole weekend or just take in one or two exhibits, Integrate offers a fantastic opportunity to catch some of Victoria’s emerging artists and to see our dynamic Art History alumni in action.

Legacy Art Galleries does the Wright thing

2017 marks the 150th anniversary of celebrated US architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth. It is also the year UVic will return seven Wright-designed stained glass windows to their original setting in Buffalo, New York.

Mary Jo Hughes (left), Emerald Johnstone-Bedell and one of the light screens (UVic Photo Services)

UVic acquired the windows only five years after the university was founded and nearly 10 years after the death of Wright, and has made good use of them as a highlight of our significant arts-and-crafts collection.

“This decision reflects our university’s ongoing commitment to artistic stewardship and heritage preservation,” says Mary Jo Hughes, director of Legacy Art Galleries. “We are grateful for these five decades with this exquisite collection of art glass. And we know we are doing the ‘Wright’ thing by reuniting them with their original home and within a meaningful context.”

Within their original context

Wright didn’t use the word “windows.” Instead, he called them “light screens.” The three individual screens and two pairs owned by UVic since 1968 include “Wisteria” light screens once used in clusters to hide heating radiators, as well as a set of cabinet door screens—all part of a home designed and built by Wright for wealthy US executive Darwin D. Martin.

Martin’s patronage of the young Wright brought acclaim to the architect’s early career, and the Darwin D. Martin Complex in Buffalo is one of his most impressive structures. It is Wright’s only residential project to involve multiple buildings. Martin House originally included a brilliant collection of nearly 400 art glass windows, doors, skylights and casements, as well as custom furnishings and other decorative objects.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House

Construction of the complex, an outstanding example of Wright’s “Prairie” period, was completed in 1907 but, as a result of the stock market crash in the 1920s, the family was deeply in debt when Martin passed away in 1935. The site was abandoned and left in disrepair. Recent renovation efforts have now restored this national historic landmark under the auspices of the Martin House Restoration Company and today, many pieces of the original art glass are being reinstalled.

“The light screens represent a broad sampling of Wright’s genius in glass, which is critical to the scholarly interpretation and general appreciation of the complex,” says Mary Roberts, executive director of Martin House.

The transfer of ownership of the light screens includes a $25,000 CDN donation from the Martin House Restoration Corporation to establish a collection care and research fund at UVic.

Dynamic learning

The interior of Martin House

Art History & Visual Studies alumna Emerald Johnstone-Bedell, curator of the upcoming exhibition So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright — running July 15 – September 16 at Legacy Downtown — remembers as a UVic co-op student “getting valuable hands-on experience learning how to care for collections.”

“The ability to see and handle objects, like the windows and other artwork, is a completely different experience than looking at pictures of them on a computer screen,” she explains.  “Seeing artwork in person is essential to its study because you observe details, light, colour and texture that would otherwise be muted in digital imagery.”

“And it’s not only about putting art on the walls,” explains Hughes. “Cultural and academic collaborations, along with conversations using art to explore deeper issues, are vital aspects of the vision of Legacy Art Galleries.”

What’s next

“Pair of Pier Cluster Casement Light Screens.” Frank Lloyd Wright, 1904-05. (photo: Mary Matheson)

People will have a chance to bid farewell to the light screens during the exhibition at UVic’s free downtown public art gallery on Yates Street. The windows return to the US in October. Johnstone-Bedell, who holds an Art History BFA (2012) and an MFA from Queen’s University (2015), was a curatorial assistant at the gallery through an internship with the federal program Young Canada Works and is currently on contract as an assistant curator.

She explains that the art glass is an intrinsic decorative and architectural part of Wright’s unifying design principle called “organic architecture,” which integrated the natural environment, his vision and architectural plan, and the home’s interior fixtures and furniture into a single harmonious scheme.

Legacy Downtown is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm, with Thursdays until 8pm for the summer.

 

“Our women have always carved”

Carolyn Butler Palmer with one of Ellen Neel’s masks in the Legacy Gallery exhibit

The newest exhibit at UVic’s Legacy Gallery Downtown seeks to correct gendered colonial myths with works by Ellen Neel, a woman carver of the Northwest Coast.

Ellen Newman Neel (Kwagiulth, Kwickwasutaineuk and ‘Namgis) is often described as the first Northwest Coast woman carver. A prolific artist, she was only 49 years old when she passed away in the 1960s. But her defiance of gender barriers and federal law carries deep resonance for all Canadians to this day—and now within the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s calls to action—and her legendary impact and artistic legacies live on in the work of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The first exhibition of Neel’s work in more than 50 years is showing at UVic’s Legacy Art Gallery Downtown until April 1.

Exhibit co-curator and Art History and Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler Palmer was assisted throughout the process by two advising curators, David A. Neel (Neel’s grandson and the son of David Lyle Neel) and Lou-ann Ika’wega Neel (her granddaughter and the daughter of Neel’s son Ted). The exhibit includes artwork from six generations of the Neel family, including David’s two children.

The Globe and Mail recently featured a story on Neel and the exhibit in its national arts section. Lou-ann was interviewed by The Globe. She said that it’s “‘really a colonial idea that our women didn’t carve. Our women have always carved. I’ve already heard a few people say, “Well, you know, our grandmother was also a carver.” Good, I want to hear about her. Let’s talk about her, too. Because all of our communities need these role models to come from the last couple of generations and encourage our young girls and women to pursue the arts, too.’”

The exhibit was also covered in these articles by both the Times Colonist and Oak Bay News.

Mary Jo Hughes (left) and Butler Palmer at the exhibit opening (Photo: Corina Fischer)

Born in Alert Bay in 1916, Neel learned during the 1920s to carve from her grandfather—the eminent master carver Yakuglas/Charlie James—at a time when the Indigenous art of carving was banned in Canada under the Indian Act. She then launched her artistic career in the 1940s during the potlatch prohibition when carving was rare and the idea of a woman carver was even rarer still.

Butler Palmer, also UVic’s Williams Legacy Chair, worked for 15 years on research in support of the exhibit at UVic’s downtown public art gallery and a book project. “Ellen Neel was a remarkable woman,” she says. “Seven decades before the TRC published its findings, Neel graciously and very publically supported the rights of Indigenous people, to fish, to fair wages, to an education and to make art. Neel was also an important role model and mentor for young artists such as Bill Reid, Art Thompson and Robert Davidson. It is hard to imagine the Northwest Coast art world today without the foundation laid by Neel in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.”

Director of UVic Legacy Art Galleries Mary Jo Hughes adds, “We are honoured to be able to facilitate this exhibition and be able to mobilize the important research by Dr. Butler Palmer and the Neel family. This project brings to public notice Ellen Neel who, perhaps unbeknownst to many of our gallery visitors, played such a pivotal role in the art of the northwest.”

Ellen Neel’s family attending the exhibit’s opening (Photo: Corina Fischer)

In 1947, with the ban still in place, Neel established her own carving business. She opened a retail outlet in Stanley Park, The Totem Arts Shop, in 1951 where she taught her children to make art. They carved hundreds of items destined for the tourist market. She also produced monumental and miniature memorial poles, including The Wonderbird Pole of 1953 for White Spot Restaurants, as well as an extensive collection including masks, hand puppets, textiles, jewelry and totemware ceramics.

Neel designed the famous Totemland Pole too, which was a commission from a tourism organization with hundreds of the miniature poles gifted to visiting dignitaries, as well as other people beyond BC including Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn.

As she told a UBC audience during a keynote address in 1948: “Were it not for the interest created by the tourist trade, the universities and the museums, we would no longer have any of our people capable of producing this art. I have strived in all my work, to retain the authentic, but I find it difficult to obtain a portion of the price necessary to do a really fine piece of work. Only when there is an adequate response to efforts to retain the best of our art will it be possible to train the younger generation to appreciate their own cultural achievements.”

—Written by Tara Sharpe. This piece originally ran in UVic’s Ring newspaper