Summer Arts Series now registering

Looking to add some hands-on art-making to your summer plans? Curious about how art can transform our experience of the world and the way we engage with each other?

The UVic Summer Arts Series is back in July with a series of Fine Arts alumni-led public workshops focused on art and the urban landscape —- including drawing in the urban landscape, writing place-based fiction, interdisciplinary environmental field guides, textiles and wearable art, and a Victorian Medievalism walking tour.

These short workshops are appropriate for learners of all backgrounds as you learn from experts how art transforms our experience of the world and the ways we engage with one another.

The Summer Arts Series is offered by UVic’s Division of Continuing Studies, in partnership with the Faculty of Fine Arts and Alumni Relations.

Here’s the full info:

Sentimental Affects: Textiles, Wearable Art and Urban Life – July 2, online

This lively and informative presentation by Danielle Hogan is designed to encourage you to think deeply about textiles and the role they play in shaping not only our own lives but also the urban landscape. Consider a wide range of objects that have been created, or transformed, by different makers some of whom are professional artists and others who are not. Danielle will touch on subjects including affect theory, feminism, urban fashion, wearable art and maker culture, in addition to sharing ideas about creative mending and repurposing to express personal history or style.

Urban Spaces in Place-Based Fiction – July 3, 8 & 10

Many stories in the cultural canon are set in “recognizable” cities, but how many of us actually live there? What are the stories of our urban spaces? How can we begin to capture the cities we call home in our writing? Through lectures, writing exercises and workshops, Hana Mason will help you develop a more intimate understanding of the urban spaces that are significant to you and leave the sessions with a draft of your own place-based fiction.

Drawing in the Urban Landscape – July 6-7

Drawing outdoors, in public spaces, presents numerous challenges such as overcoming the fear of being seen and observed. Liz Charsley with help you see how drawing with a group minimizes this concern, leaving room for the next hurdle: how to take all the visual information in front of you — UVic’s landscape and embellished, modernist buildings — and refine it into a balanced composition that reflects what you see. This workshop will increase your confidence in drawing in public, enhance your observational drawing skills and also give you the freedom to create abstract compositions.

Victorian Medievalism Walking Tour – July 6 & 13

This walking tour will introduce you to tangible manifestations of the 19th century medieval revival movement in Victoria. Join Michael Reed to explore Ross Bay Cemetery and Pioneer Square, and discuss iconic examples of medieval revival funerary markers. We will also visit Christ Church Cathedral and the Church of Our Lord and discuss the Gothic Revival architectural aesthetic.

Lost and Found: A Field Guide – July 14

Join us for an immersive workshop by interdisciplinary artist Laurel Terlesky. Dive deep into sensory awareness exercises, mindful walking and navigational mapping as we navigate the urban terrain. Through creative outdoor exploration and nature immersion, you will craft field guides and explore environmental field guides discovery, uncovering hidden ways to inform place making.

Congratulation to the 2024 grad class!

Jude Wolff Ackroyd, BFA Honours 2024

Congratulations to our 2024 grad class! Whether you’re graduating from our department of Art History & Visual Studies, Theatre, Visual ArtsWriting or the School of Music, you’re now part of an extended community of nearly 10,000 other Fine Arts grads!

“While many of you started your current academic journey back in 2020—arguably, the most trying of recent times—we’re hoping you’ll look back on your degree as a time of rewarding and inspiring creative and scholarly exploration,” says Dean Allana Lindgren. “While the weeks ahead will be a whirlwind of emotions ranging from excitement and uncertainty to relief and anticipation, never forget that you’re well-prepared for wherever life takes you. Be bold. Be creative. Believe in yourself. Know that you are ready to succeed.”

Watch the livestream of the Fine Arts convocation starting at 10am Friday, June 14.

We would also encourage you to pause and thank the people who have supported and mentored you during your studies— be they family, friends, faculty, staff, donors or anyone who helped along the way. No matter your career path or the distance you travel, let us know about your projects and events, so we can celebrate your accomplishments.

“The world urgently needs fresh ideas and fresh energy: I challenge you to use your critical thinking and creative skills to give back to society and make a difference as you become the voice of a new generation,” says Dean Lindgren. “Always know that we are very proud to call you a UVic Fine Arts grad!”

2024 Victoria Medal winner Stella McCaig 

Special congratulations also go out to Visual Arts student Stella McCaig, who is graduating with a truly remarkable grade-point average of 9.0. Her perfect GPA earns her the 2024 Victoria Medal, presented annually to the Fine Arts student with the highest grades. 

“Stella McCaig is a daring and sensitive artist,” says Visual Arts professor Beth Stuart. “She combines personal narrative and material investigation fearlessly and from a place of raw vulnerability — in a way that generates art that is singular and resonates deeply with those who have the privilege to experience it.”

Stuart well knows of which she speaks: in summer 2023, while completing and installing a mammoth public art commission in Montreal, she brought Stella along to help with the process as a directed study — which involved undertaking many processes and pathways with which she was not familiar.

“Stella took up this task with effervescent good humour, meeting each obstacle and new set of knowledge with tenacity and grace,” says Stuart. “The project unfolded at breakneck speed, and Stella was completely instrumental in its success . . . . There is no standard metric that can express what this person is capable of — she’s a gift to the field, and I count myself blessed to have been able to work with her. Someday I will say, ‘I knew her when’.”

About the artist

“My sculptural work considers the idiosyncratic material language and forms that are developed through diving into the material and process, responding to and solving the challenges that exist due to experimentation and play. The body dispersed; transformation from the organic to the synthetic — and back again; a growing positive embrace of female sexuality, and an ownership of the gaze. These threads of interest become the genesis of intense sculptural works and installations, and become contemplative rather than predictive.

“Through an entirely personal practice of sewing, I create mangled and uninterpretable objects, that which become sanctified, having an unmatched virility in their endlessness. Because I primarily work from banal found objects and materials, the work enshrines the objects asking the viewer to realize the beauty of that which exists in the world; artificial or once alive. In an attempt to realize this idea, I adorn, embellish, and prettify the forms and objects that emerge, in preserving the infatuation I have with the unaesthetic, the disingenuous, and the absurd.

“I present the installations and sculptural works that I create in a moment of transmutation, from what they once were, to how they stand in front of the viewer. Every choice is presently there for the viewer to see. Everything is something, even the tiniest morsel of material becomes a point of love and thoughtful consideration. Each of the works arrive to and for the moment, functioning as tools gently resting between what is real and what is imagined, acknowledging the beauty of artificiality.”

—Stella McCaig

“There’s always more to learn” says graduating professional musician Philip Manning

When it comes to career paths, most music students aspire to professional positions after graduation—playing with an orchestra, say, or becoming a chamber musician or band teacher. Not so with Philip Manning, who took a different approach to his own musical career: about to graduate with a Bachelor of Music, he’s already been performing as a full-time violinist with the Victoria Symphony since 2016.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in your career, there’s always more to learn,” he says. “Coming back to school when you’re a bit older, you take different things away from your classes and your instruction . . . you just need a clear focus on whatever it is you want to do.”

Filling the gaps during COVID

For the 32-year-old Manning, the Victoria Symphony’s COVID-era performance closures offered the ideal chance to enroll in UVic’s School of Music in 2020.

“When COVID started, it provided an opportunity to fill in some gaps in my training,” he explains. “Work got thrown up in the air for a time and we weren’t nearly as busy as usual—even when we started playing virtual concerts again—so I thought, ‘Okay, how can I be productive with this extra time I have? What are my long-term goals? I just wanted to give myself more options.”

Born and raised in Victoria, Manning has music on both sides of his family (his pianist mother was also a music teacher, and his centenarian grandfather was a post-war semi-professional jazz musician) but he’s the first to work full time as a professional musician. As a young violinist, he took lessons at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and was involved with the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival, but after graduating from Langford’s Lighthouse Christian Academy he enrolled in Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University in 2014, where he earned an artist diploma in violin performance.

“I’m kind of doing life a bit backwards,” he chuckles. “After high school, I was still trying to figure out if I wanted to carry on with music and make it a career, so I did an artist diploma, which is actually more like a graduate-level program.” After two years of intense training, he then auditioned successfully for both the Calgary Philharmonic and the Victoria Symphony, before choosing to return to the Island.

Long ties to the Symphony

No question, the School of Music has long ties to the Victoria Symphony, thanks to a number of instructors and alumni who regularly perform with them, as well as the likes of the Lafayette String Quartet and VS associate conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia, who has been teaching in Music and leading the UVic Symphony Orchestra since 2022. Then there’s Music’s voice program, whose students sing in the chorus of Pacific Opera Victoria, for whom the VS also play.

“I’ve known Ann Elliott-Goldschmid and the other LSQ members very well for a long time, so it just made sense to study here at UVic because we’ve always had a good relationship,” says Manning.

As part of his degree work, Manning undertook a directed study with Elliott-Goldschmid, focused specifically on the audition process. But, with seven Victoria Symphony seasons already under his bow, how important is a course like that? “It’s actually very important,” he stresses. “Any audition for a professional orchestra involves multiple rounds, and preparing for that means a lot more than just practicing.”

Practical career prep

Case in point? Manning just successfully auditioned for the position of assistant concertmaster with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, which has now resulted in the offer of a short trial period with the orchestra—a next-step success story that might not have happened without that directed study.

“My goal was to audition for a title position with another orchestra, which would essentially mean more responsibility—and ideally more pay—and would offer me a new experience. Ann was instrumental in helping me prepare for that audition.”

And while his professional schedule over the past few years meant he didn’t have the time to play with UVic’s own Symphony Orchestra, he does lead sectional rehearsals for them and does a bit of tutoring with the other students.

“It’s not so long ago that I was in the same shoes as they are right now, so I understand how it is for them,” he says. “But I’ve got a different perspective from when I was in my late teens and early twenties, when I didn’t fully understand what was being given to me and was trying to figure out how to implement it. Now, I have a much better focus and have gotten so much more out of my education. This has been a really good experience for me.”

A passion for art history fuels Aashna Kulshreshtha’s international experience

Taking online classes during COVID at 3 a.m. India-time may not have been the ideal first-year experience, but it didn’t deter Aashna Kulshreshtha from enthusiastically pursuing her undergraduate degree in art history.

Born and raised in New Dehli, Aashna finished high school at an international boarding school in Uttarakhand, India, before initially enrolling at university in Rome. Unfortunately, she found that art history program to be excessively Eurocentric (and somewhat racist), which didn’t particularly match her own interests.

“We spent months on Italy and France, but only did a week on India and Mexico, which were clearly not so important from their perspective,” she recalls. “We weren’t even going to be tested on them!”

Attracted by the buzz around UVic’s AHVS

Unimpressed with Rome, Aashna was instead attracted by the buzz around UVic’s Department of Art History & Visual Studies, which offered a far more international approach to the field . . . despite Victoria being significantly smaller than either New Dehli (population 33 million) or Rome (4.3 million).

“Going to school in Rome prepared me to be in a culture that wasn’t India, but it also meant I’ve always been a third-culture kid everywhere I’ve gone,” she admits with a quick laugh. “So yeah, I had a bit of culture shock when I came here, but I don’t know from which culture.”

Rather than the excessive focus on big movements (Baroque, Renaissance), Aashna has been energized by UVic’s more global approach.

“I was just so surprised to see the amount of diversity here and the focus on Indigenous cultures, which had never even been brought up before in other places,” she says. “UVic is a great place to study art history because the people here will support you and believe in you and are there to help you get your work done. Every day I found people in the department who would tell me what I could do with my degree, what they’ve done with it . . . honesty, that open dialogue has been the most important thing for me.”

Learning core skills through workstudy

Like many UVic students, Aashna spent her off-hours at campus hotspots like Cinecenta, Felicita’s and the School of Music’s free concert series, but her favourite part was time spent as a paid workstudy student in the AHVS Visual Resources Collection. “Working here, you kind of get to see your degree in action before you even finish it,” she says. “I’ve learned so much about how to archive and research properly doing this job.”

Aashna’s responsibilities include scanning images from books required by the AHVS faculty members, researching online  gallery and museum collections, and updating the department’s database. “It’s a big responsibility to keep the database updated,” she explains. “Since we’re talking about India, for example, there’s a city called Kolkata but the British name for it was Calcutta—so we’ve been changing that in the database. It takes a lot of data entry just to keep up to date with global events. I’ve also gotten to know so many of the professors and staff up close, which has been nice because a lot of my degree was online during COVID so I felt like I didn’t know anyone.”

Understanding the world through art history

Yet despite a childhood interest in history, she feels the general attitude in India doesn’t exactly encourage cultural studies.

“It’s all about making money there, and most people feel you can’t really do that with these streams,” she says. “But art history is just a different way to help us understand the world: it’s a more subjective look at a time and allows you to have more introspective conversations with that era. It can also help you find your own identity and—when you see that in a historical sense—it gives you a more holistic approach to past civilizations.”

Indeed, Aashna has been so taken with her studies that, now that’s she’s completed her BA in art history, she’s already been accepted into the AHVS Master’s program for the fall, looking at India’s own vibrant history of art.

“I’m interested in looking at the effects of colonialism on modern Indian art, specifically in the case of women—not only as artists but also subjects and patrons,” she explains. “When we think about the 1800s onwards, it’s so influenced by colonialism; no one in India at that time was making art without the influence of colonialism. Even if they were rejecting it, the art was still in response to what was happening . . . that’s the research I’m wanting to pursue, in a very broad sense.”

Advice for future students

Now that her undergraduate studies are complete, she’s looking forward to her parents coming over from India for her convocation ceremony this spring. But does she have any for future students?

“Get out of your comfort zone and keep an open mind, because what you’re studying can really surprise you. Everyone tells themselves that they already know everything and don’t need any help, but it’s so important to be open to new experiences.”

She pauses and then laughs again. “Um, and keep frozen food handy. There’s no shame in it—you have to eat.”

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.

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.)