New Music & Digital Media Festival

The landscape of new and experimental music in Canada has been greatly influenced by the creative individuals who have taught and studied at the UVic School of Music. From February 2-4, this dynamic community spanning five decades — from former faculty to current students — will converge for a New Music & Digital Media Festival as part of the School’s ongoing 50th anniversary season. 

Music composition has been a vital part of the program at the School of Music since the early days. In 1971 Rudolf Komorous was named Head of Composition and the School’s first analogue electronic music studio was established. “New and experimental music has always been central to what we do,” explains School of Music Director, composition instructor and alumnus Christopher Butterfield. “Many of Canada’s leading composers and interpreters of contemporary music had their training here . . . and our Music and Computer Science program, a major draw for the School, is the only one of its kind in the country.”

Rudolf Komorous & then-student Tony Genge work in the electronic music studio circa 1979

As a direct result of our program, where contemporary music study, creation and practice are at the core, Victoria itself is recognized world-wide as a hub for new music. Faculty and alumni initiatives — including the Aventa Ensemble, A Place to Listen, the Victoria Composers Collective, and collaborations with organizations such as the Victoria Symphony, Pacific Opera Victoria, and Open Space — continue to produce and perform some of the most exciting music of our time, all on the tip of this island off Canada’s west coast. “Show me any place in the country with that kind of activity,” says Butterfield.

The festival will be a great opportunity to hear music by many of the School’s alumni. On February 2, the UVic Orchestra will perform Cassandra Miller’s Round, a new commission from the Toronto Symphony; Miller has twice received the Jules-Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, Canada’s highest honour for composition. 

In a UVic Minute on February 3, features clarinetist Heather Roche and pianist Tzenka Dianova — two leading interpreters of new music — with the Chroma String Quartet performing a smorgasbord of miniature compositions (some written especially for this occasion) by 20 Music alumni. Along with works by Linda Catlin Smith, Anna Hostman, and Nicholas Fairbank, you’ll hear festina lente by Rodney Sharman. Sharman was recently awarded the prestigious $50,000 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, which recognizes the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievements by a Canadian professional artist in music, theatre or dance. The Faculty Chamber Music concert on February 3 offers a program of music by the School’s current and former composition faculty as well as Kristy Farkas and Liova Bueno.

Music alumna Tzenka Dianova

Many UVic School of Music faculty and alumni can be seen and heard during the screening on February 3 of five short films from the Canadian Music Centre BC’s Legacy Composer Film Series. Produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker John Bolton, each film features a performance of a signature work by the composer juxtaposed against a storyline unique to that piece. 

A highlight of the festival is sure to be the lecture-recital with electronic music pioneer and Buchla synthesizer specialist, Suzanne Ciani, on February 4. While the School of Music has a vintage Buchla 200 Series from the 1970s, Ciani will perform on her own Buchla 200e, a modern model of the instrument. 

Of course, our current student body is central to the festival. Find out what the School’s composition students are up to at the Fridaymusic  concert on February 2. UVic’s experimental music ensemble, Sonic Lab, as well as the UVic Percussion Ensemble, will each also give performances on February 4. 

—Kristy Farkas

 

Iconic literary journal celebrates 50 years of excellence

It’s said nothing succeeds like success, which is an aphorism well-appreciated in the offices of The Malahat Review. Currently celebrating both its 50th anniversary and 200th issue, UVic’s venerable and revered literary journal has served as a springboard for some of the most recognizable names in Canadian publishing over its lifetime.

Writing grad & outgoing Malahat Review editor John Barton (UVic Photo Services)

For instance, the Malahat was the first magazine to publish a short story by Yann Martel — 14 years before he went on to win the Booker Prize for the international bestseller Life of Pi. In 1977, the journal dedicated an entire issue to Margaret Atwood’s work, before she became internationally known. Poets such as Michael Ondaatje, Dionne Brand, Patricia Young and beloved Department of Writing professor Lorna Crozier have frequently graced its pages.

“Publishing in The Malahat is a rite of passage for many writers, who feel that they have ‘arrived,’” says outgoing editor, poet and Writing alumnus John Barton, who has nurtured the journal for more than a decade. “Writers who have won our contests have gone on to win National Magazine Awards, the Journey Prize and to get book contracts.”

Hear Barton discuss the Malahat legacy on this January 9 CFAX Radio interview, or in this January 4 Times Colonist article. He was also interviewed on CBC Radio’s All Points West recently (link not available).

Established in 1967 by fabled Writing professor Robin Skelton and English professor John Peter, The Malahat Review has showcased works by established writers, discovered promising new talent and presented perceptive critical comment on other pieces including essays on both literature and the visual arts.

“Without The Malahat Review, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now,” admits Martel, whose short story “Mister Ali and the Barrelmaker” was published in 1988. The journal has won more National Magazine Awards than any other literary journal in the country and has had six editors over its lifetime, including Writing professor emeritus Derk Wynand, Constance Rooke, Marlene Cookshaw, Barton, and Skelton and Peter.

“The magazine has been an inspiration to generations of writers and students at UVic, in Victoria and across the country — as a place to read some of the best writing from around the world and as a high-profile publication to dream of seeing your own work in one day,” says Writing chair and alumna David Leach. “As a student at UVic, I remember reading one of Yann Martel’s early stories in the Malahat and being blown away by its originality . . . . To have one of the best literary magazines in the world located right here on campus has helped to establish UVic and Victoria as important centres of Canadian literary culture.”

And while the Malahat may have gotten its start back in the days when Writing was part of UVic’s Faculty of Humanities, it has long ties to us here in Fine Arts. “The Malahat Review has a long history with the Faculty of Fine Arts that spans decades,” says Dean Susan Lewis.

“Colleagues in the Department of Writing play key roles on editorial and advisory boards, and our students have learned about the literary publishing industry through the Department of Writing Internship program, established in 2004. The Malahat’s status as one of Canada’s leading literary journals makes it a desirable place for our faculty to publish. The journal enjoys an impressive list of accolades — including 12 times as either winner or finalist of the Western Magazine Award’s ‘Magazine of the Year’ and 14 Malahat authors in the National Magazine Foundation’s roster of finalists, with five gold and four silver awards.”

It’s already been a busy anniversary for the Malahat, given last November’s 200th issue launch party, which paid tribute to the Victoria literary scene and artists — past, present and future — with two previously unpublished poems from the late P.K. Page and creative nonfiction from painter Emily Carr. The issue also offers work by Writing professors (current and past), including Tim Lilburn, Patrick Lane, Lorna Croizer, Shane Book and Patrick Friesen, plus alumni Kyeren Regehr, Danielle Janess, Leah Callen, Philip Kevin Paul, Arlene Pare, Jason Jobin and Annabel Howard, as well as former Writing instructors like Madeline Sonik and Alisa Gordaneer.

To better mark the occasion, UVic Libraries is releasing a limited-edition monograph on January 25, edited by Barton: The Malahat Review at Fifty: Canada’s Iconic Literary Magazine is richly illustrated with archival material from UVic Special Collections and University Archives. Contributing authors include broadcaster and UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers, as well as Martel, Paul, Wynand, Young, Eve Joseph, Jay Ruzesky, Nicholas Bradley, Heather Dean, Jonathan Bengtson, Jan Zwicky and rising alumna literary star Eliza Robertson, among others.

The Malahat Review at Fifty features extraordinary stories and memoirs from a range of celebrated contributors, recognizing the vital culture impact of The Malahat Review on the Canadian and international literary scene,” says UVic librarian and local poet Christine Walde,  who, as general editor of the series, led the commemorative project.

There will also be a special art exhibition, Landmarks: The Art of The Malahat Review. Curated by Caroline Riedel of UVic Legacy Art Galleries, Landmarks opens January 25 in UVic’s Legacy Maltwood gallery, located in the lower level of the UVic library. Running until May 13, it highlights the role of art in the journal and includes 200 selected cover images. Canadian artists have dominated the visual identity of The Malahat Review and the synergy between art and literature is particularly evident in the cover art and essays of the journal’s first decade, which featured new work by internationally acclaimed artists such as Henry Moore, Andy Warhol, Mel Ramos and Joan Miró.

Indeed, it would be hard to beat Dean Susan Lewis for a more simple, heartfelt acknowledgement of the magazine’s accomplishments. “My congratulations to The Malahat Review on its 50th anniversary and best wishes for continued excellence in the decades to come.”

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.

Two Visual Arts grads win national art prize

Two 2017 Visual Arts BFA graduates are gaining some national attention this month, thanks to their selection as prize winners in the annual BMO 1st Art invitational competition.

As was previously announced this past summer, recent graduates Xiao Xue and James Fermor have been selected as the national and BC provincial winners (respectively) in the Bank of Montreal Financial Group’s 15th annual BMO 1st Art! competition.

As the national prize winner, Xue wins $15,000 for her sculpture, “Something to Ponder On: A Walking Camper,” while Fermor earns $7,500 as the BC provincial winner for his digital piece, “The Collection No. 3.”

Their work was selected from 303 entries submitted from across the country, and both will have their work displayed as part of a special exhibition at the University of Toronto’s Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, running from November 16 to December 16, 2017. And both will be featured in a special spread in the upcoming Winter 2017 issue of Canadian Art magazine.

As was earlier reported, Xue won the top prize in the Rainhouse Technology Challenge in June 2017, with her camper beating out other prototype entries including a drone, satellite and submarine. And, during her studies, she was also awarded the Dr. Milada Horakova Scholarship and the Martlet Chapter IODE Prize for Scholarship in History in Art.

Xiao Xue with her walking camper

The $15,000 prize is “an amazing financial support for future projects,” says Xue, who is now pursuing her MFA at the University of Guelph and is using some of the proceeds for a “chemical-based project” on which she is currently working. “It certainly helped me move to Ontario as well,” she adds.

Xue also assisted Visual Arts professor emeritus Sandra Meigs on her complex solo exhibit, Room for Mystics, on view throughout fall 2017 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. “It was very fun to figure out the technical issues — including electrical, coding and woodworking — and I am very glad it all worked out,” she says. “Sandra is an excellent role model and I am extremely glad to have the chance of working with her.”

Local Times Colonist art columnist Robert Amos featured Xue’s walking camper project in this April 30 article, and while he wrote about both artists in in this October 8 article, he mostly focused on Fermor’s video art projects, which show the human cost of first-person shooter video games. And while the BMO exhibition will feature a colour photograph of Fermor’s “The Collection No. 3,”  the overall work is in fact an 18-minute video.

Fermor describes being named the BC winner as “really affirming. It tells me that what I am exploring in my art practice is not just something that only I find interesting.”

Indeed, Fermor says the inspiration behind his winning piece came from a fascination with “what we embrace, generate within ourselves and ignore” when we interact with specifically narrative-driven video games.

“This piece came about from working with the game Dishonored 2 and thinking about what was going on between the fictional environment that I was enticed by the game to buy into and what was actually there,” he says.

James Fermor’s “The Collection No. 3”

While he’s unsure of what kind of long-term impact this prize may have (“none of my work has had this much exposure before and so I am not sure what to expect”), in the short term, he feels the award “really enables me to pursue my art practice beyond what I did in school.”

As for the prize money, he plans on putting it toward future projects. “Things like getting more equipment for developing content or purchasing a game that I want to explore and experiment with.”

It’s not the first time Visual Arts students have won a BMO 1st Art prize. In 2011, the winner of the BC provincial prize was undergraduate maegan rose mehler. “I had picked up a copy of Canadian Art magazine a couple of years ago and put a tab beside the BMO 1st Art! award and thought, ‘I should apply for this’ — then totally forgot about it,” mehler said at the time. “I just found it again recently, because I save all my art magazines, and realized that’s exactly what I did. It was a pretty focused two years, so it’s pretty cool that that happened.”

Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2017, the annual BMO 1st Art! competition recognizes visual arts excellence amongst post-secondary school students from across Canada. Deans and instructors of undergraduate certificate, diploma, and degree arts programs from colleges and universities across the country were invited to select three outstanding graduating students from each of their studio specialties to make submissions to the competition.

“Since this competition’s inaugural year, we have been privileged to celebrate and share the works of 198 promising young artists from across the country,” said Dawn Cain, Curator of the BMO Corporate Art Collection. “Over the past 15 editions of the competition, we have been captivated by the creative range and artistic vision represented in the submissions we receive each year. We look forward to providing this unique opportunity to students for years to come.”

This year’s judges include Hugues Charbonneau, Director of Montreal’s Galerie Hugues Charbonneau; Naomi Potter, Director/Curator of Calgary’s Esker Foundation; Pan Wendt, Curator of Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre Art Gallery; Kim Simon, Curator of Toronto’s Gallery TPW; and Dawn Cain, Curator fo BMO Corporate Art Collection.

The exhibit continues until December 16, 2017. Click here to see the winning entries by all the provincial winners.

 

Music alum Rodney Sharman wins Excellence in the Performing Arts prize

Celebrated School of Music alumnus Rodney Sharman was announced as the recipient of the $50,000 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts on November 20.

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

Awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Walter Carsen Prize recognizes the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievements by a Canadian professional artist in music, theatre or dance.

Established in 2001, this prize is only awarded to musicians once every four years.

“I feel honoured,” says Sharman in a press release. “I am also pleased to be able to devote time to writing pieces I have been thinking about for years.”

One of Canada’s most frequently performed composers, Sharman graduated from UVic with a Bachelor of Music in 1980 with a focus on composition, before going on to study at Staatliche Hochschule für Musik (Freiburg, Germany) and the State University of New York at Buffalo, from which he received a Ph.D. He was awarded first prize in the 1984 CBC Competition for Young Composers and Germany’s 1990 Kranichsteiner Prize in Music, Darmstadt.

“We are delighted that Rodney Sharman has been awarded this prize,” says composer Christopher Butterfield, a fellow Music alumnus and current Director of UVic’s School of Music. “Rodney is one of Canada’s most vital composers: his music is a powerful mixture of beauty and rigour — it has a recognizable style, marked as much by its exquisite orchestration as by the clarity of its form. And it is always beautiful.”

“He is one of the reasons UVic developed its reputation as a preeminent training ground for young composers,” continues Butterfield. “Rodney joins composer R. Murray Schafer, flutist Robert Aitken and the Gryphon Trio as being only the fourth musical artist to be so honoured by the Walter Carsen Prize.”

Originally from Biggar, Saskatchewan, but now based in Vancouver, Sharman is currently Composer-in-Residence of Early Music Vancouver’s New Music for Old Instruments. Among his many credits are a number of Composer-in-Residence positions with the likes of the Victoria Symphony, National Youth Orchestra of Canada and Vancouver Symphony, as well as having served as Composer-Host with the Calgary Philharmonic’s New Music Festival, Hear and Now.

Sharmon in his early days as a composer

In addition to concert music, Sharman writes music for cabaret, opera and dance. He regularly writes scores for choreographer James Kudelka’s works at the Oregon Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet and Citadel Compagnie (Toronto).

“I am touched, too, that my first dance collaboration with James Kudelka — Thrust — was dedicated to Walter Carsen in celebration of his 2000 Ramon John Hnatyshyn award for volunteerism in the performing arts,” notes Sharman.

Recent premieres include Notes on “Beautiful”, a 2010 transformation of music by Stephen Sondheim for New York pianist Anthony de Mare, and Violin Concerto, for Jonathan Crow and the Victoria Symphony conducted by Tania Miller in 2011. His chamber opera, Elsewhereless, with libretto and direction by Atom Egoyan, was performed in concert in Amsterdam, and has been staged 35 times since its 1998 premiere in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.

Sharman was also please to share the announcement with Montreal-raised cellist Vanessa Hunt, who won the $25,000 Virginia Parker Prize, which is devoted to an artist under 32 who shows outstanding talent. “Her parents and I went to the Victoria Conservatory of Music together. Vanessa is also a wonderful interpreter of my work,” Sharman told Vancouver’s Georgia Straight in this article.