Distinguished Alumni Talk: Mercedes Bátiz-Benét on supporting IBPoC voices

When it comes to working in the arts and theatre sectors, IBPoC artists (Indigenous, Black, People of Colour) face a number of barriers due to systemic discrimination—yet IBPoC artists have always created innovative and bold new work.

As Puente Theatre’s artistic director, UVic Distinguished Fine Arts Alumna Mercedes Bátiz-Benét (Writing BFA ’02) has a number of IBPoC initiatives underway—including the conVERGE micro-residency with Intrepid Theatre—that will help address the gap in mentorship and support across the industry and in our own community.

Join us from 12 – 1pm Monday, March 29 via Zoom to discover how Mercedes and Puente Theatre supports and amplifies IBPoC voices and perspectives in this important discussion with professor Adam Con, Acting Associate Dean of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

Register here for the free Zoom webinar.

 

About Mercedes

A multi-disciplinary artist, writer and award-winning director, Mercedes’ direction of Fado, The Saddest Music in the World earned Puente Theatre the $15,000 JAYMAC Outstanding Production Award at the 2020 Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards.

Born and raised in Mexico, she moved to Canada in 1997 to attend UVic, where she earned both a BFA in Writing and a BA Honours in Philosophy; she also has a diploma in film production from the Pacific Film & New Media Academy. Approaching expression from as many angles as possible, she has worked as writer, dramaturge, theatre director, translator, adapter, actor, puppeteer, multi-media artist, screenwriter, film and video editor, cinematographer, and director.

In addition to her stage work, Mercedes did camera and cinematography for Look At What The Light Did Nowthe 2012 Juno Award-winning feature-length documentary about singer/songwriter Feist. She is also the poetry, fiction, and non-fiction editor at Bayeux Arts. In 2015, she was named a Distinguished Alumni of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

Learning from other cultures

“I think it’s paramount for local audiences to learn from other cultures, especially in the multicultural experiment that is Canada. We need to learn from each other so we have a greater and better understanding of what it means to be human,” she said in this 2015 interview.

“Every culture experiences life from a different angle, from a different point of view—and, in my experience, the more points of view you have, the more your understanding expands and deepens. I have a Mexican way of understanding and viewing the world, as well as a Canadian one, which enables me to develop a third point of view—a Mexicanadian one, if you like.”

New IBPoC initiatives

With theatres closed due to COVID, Mercedes has been busy this past year putting the JAYMAC Outstanding Production prize to work in developing various local IBPoC initiatives, including:

  • the conVERGE micro-residency with Intrepid, a mentorship program supporting emerging and early-career IBPoC artists to develop work in 2021
  • changing Puente’s WORKPLAY series into an annual playwriting residency for two emerging IBPoC playwrights (6-8 months of biweekly dramaturgical support, $1,500 per playwright, 40 hours of studio space, staged reading of the plays)
  • launching the Victoria Foundation-funded “Bridging the Gap”, a one-time initiative designed to support female IBPoC playwrights in the creation of new work (8 months of biweekly dramaturgical support, $6,000, a one-week workshop + presentation of their play with professional actors)
  • commissioning three IBPOC artists to create a 5 minute video piece each as part of a national project presented by the National Arts Centre
  • launching a Victoria chapter of The 3.7% Initiative, which was created by the Vancouver theatre company Boca del Lupo for the express purpose of helping women who self-identify as ethnically and culturally diverse, of Indigenous or of mixed-racial heritage find greater success in their performing arts practice.

Don’t miss the chance to hear her speak about the impact these various initiatives will have on Victoria’s arts community.

Susie Winter’s feature film screenplay started as student project

It all started with an empty boat floating on a lake. Screenwriter Susie Winters (BFA ’16) recalls driving alongside the vast expanse of Cameron Lake just east of Port Alberni when the image first drifted into her mind, inspiring what would become the screenplay for her first feature film, All-in Madonna.

Susie Winters (BFA ’16) wrote the initial screenplay for the film All-in Madonna while attending UVic’s Creative Writing program

Finding inspiration

“I feel like it’s a prompt you might find in one of those books 500 Writing Prompts or something. But that’s what came into my head,” Winters says from her home in Edmonton where that day it’s a bone-chilling -25 degrees Celsius.

As is often the case with inspiration, the empty boat on the lake is nowhere to be found in the final draft of Winters’ script, although there is a lake and there is a boat. But that sense of mystery and menace lurks beneath the surface of the story centring on 17-year-old Maddie. The teen attends public school for the first time, where she learns dark secrets about her father and must reconcile herself with the man she thought she knew and the things he may or may not have done. 

Melanie Rose Wilson plays a teenager in a small Vancouver Island town forced to reconcile with her family’s dark past in the feature film All-in Madonna

Facts into fiction

Set in the fictional Vancouver Island town of Blue Lake, the film is as much about small town life as it is navigating the social dynamics of being an outsider despite everyone knowing, or thinking they know, your history.

“I moved around a lot growing up… so I drew from being a teenager going into a new place,” says Winters, who grew up in northern Alberta. “I think it’s so interesting the first friends you make in a new place and how that comes with no context or politics… But what if that’s different when you go to a new place and everyone knows who you are, but you don’t know who anyone else is.”

Winters completed the initial script for her fourth-year screenwriting class at UVic as part of her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. From there she was introduced to director Arnold Lim and producer Ana de Lara. The team received a BravoFact grant (worth $32,500) to create a short film of All-In Madonna, which served as a calling card to secure a $125,000 Telefilm Canada Talent Fund grant and a $25,000 BC Arts Council grant for the feature.

Arnold Lim (centre) directs a scene in the feature film All-in Madonna

Local film, local filmmaking

Lim, who grew up in the small community of Blue River, BC, says he felt an instant connection to Winters’ script. “She really has a strong understanding of people and personality that goes way beyond the surface,” Lim says, adding, “Her understanding of human dialogue, human nature and her understanding of how the structure of a small town works—those were the things that really attracted me to the story.”

The independent film, which was shot in Victoria and around Vancouver Island, has started making the festival circuit, with screenings at the Whistler Film Festival and the Victoria Film Festival. While Winters acknowledges the finished product deviates slightly from the source material—there was a magical- realism element in the original script, new characters were added and others cut—along with the empty boat floating on a lake—she enjoyed watching her script move from page to screen.    

“It’s exciting to see what it gets transformed into,” says Winters, who currently works in the field of public art administration. “What drew me to screenwriting was the collaborative nature. And it was a good challenge to drop the ego a bit knowing there are three different people with a major creative hold on what happens. So I was prepared to let go, and I think what Arnold did was beautiful. It’s a beautiful film.”

—Story contributed by Michael Kissinger (BEd ’94) and originally published on UVic’s Alumni Relations website  

In Memoriam: Dr. Anthony Welch

It is with great sadness we mark the passing of Dr. Anthony Welch, noted art historian, scholar and academic leader. Dr. Welch had a long and distinguished career at the University of Victoria, beginning in 1971 as a lecturer with the Department of History in Art (now Art History & Visual Studies) and progressing to full professor in 1980. Dr. Welch also served as Associate Dean (1982-1985) before becoming the longest-serving Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts for a remarkable 13 years (1985-1998).

Accomplished dean

As author Ian MacPherson noted in his history of UVic, Reaching Outward and Upward, “Under the leadership of the Dean of Fine Arts, Anthony Welch, the faculty enjoyed remarkable success. Each of its schools — Visual Arts, Theatre, Music, Writing and History in Art — flourished; each possessed faculty members with international accomplishments and excellent reputations as teachers.”

Indeed, a number of professors who came to be synonymous with UVic were added under Dr. Welch’s leadership, including Canadian arts icon Mavor Moore, conductor János Sándor, poet Lorna Crozier and the Lafayette String Quartet.

“Tony’s contribution to the university, the faculty and the department was a major one,” recalls professor emeritus Martin Segger, a longtime colleague and close friend who first met Dr. Welch in 1971 when they were both young academics. “Tony was a serious and dedicated scholar but he loved teaching. His passion for the arts of Islam was infectious.”

Remarkable scholar

Among his many accomplishments as Dean, Dr. Welch established the Orion Artists-in-Residence in Asia program, pioneered the establishment of what would become the Studios for Integrated Media as well as interdisciplinary programs in film studies and cultural resource management, and helmed the expansion of the Fine Arts complex with the construction of both the Visual Arts and Fine Arts buildings. He later worked as the first executive director of the Office of International Affairs, was on the board of directors for UVic’s Innovation and Development Corporation, and was Vice President of the board of the McPherson Foundation.

Dr. Welch was a remarkable scholar, who was equally at home studying architecture, epigraphy and the arts of the Islamic book. His areas of specialism encompassed Iranian painting, Mughal painting in India, Islamic calligraphy and Sultanate architecture in medieval India. He was the author of several books, including Shah ‘Abbas and the Arts of Isfahan, Artists for the Shah: Late Sixteenth Century Painting at the Imperial Court of Iran and, with Stuart Carey Welch, Arts of the Islamic Book: The Collection of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. He was also a visiting professor at the universities of Minnesota, Washington and Chicago.

Committed to teaching

Throughout his career he remained committed to teaching, particularly enjoying the supervision of graduate students—many of whom went on to have successful careers as teachers or curators of Islamic art in North America, Europe, and Asia.

“Tony took his student papers very seriously and spent hours reviewing them and in the individual conversations that resulted,” recalls Segger. “He earned the admiration and respect of several generations of students whom he mentored through both undergraduate and graduate studies.”

Dr. Welch’s generosity, kindness and gentle humour will be deeply missed by all of those who worked with him during his long and illustrious career.

Tony Welch with AHVS graduate student Fahime Ghorbani in 2015

Orion Series presents alumna curator Charo Neville

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Charo Neville

Visiting curator

 

7:30 – 9:00 pm (PST)
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 

 

Free & open to the public via Zoom

 

Presented by UVic’s Department of Visual Arts
For more information on this lecture please email: visualarts@uvic.ca 

 

A curatorial approach

Charo Neville is curator at the Kamloops Art Gallery, where she has developed a program of contemporary, historical and touring exhibitions along with publications since 2011. An undergrad alumna of UVic’s Art History & Visual Studies department, she graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Critical Curatorial Studies from the University of British Columbia in 2006. Neville has held positions as Curatorial Assistant at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Associate Director at Catriona Jeffries Gallery and Interim Curator/Director at Artspeak. Neville also served on the board of directors at the Western Front (2006-2010).

“Art—visual art in particular—has this amazing capacity to take the world and translate it in through metaphor and through experience that make you see the world differently,” she says.

Neville has also facilitated public art projects throughout Kamloops, including Luminocity, which she initiated in 2014. In addition to developing publications for the Kamloops Art Gallery since 2011, Neville has contributed to magazines including Fillip, Yishu, West Coast Line and Blackflash, and participated on visual art juries—including the 2013 Sobey Art Award.

 

About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Free and open to the public  |  Seating is limited (500 Zoom connections) |  Visit our online events calendar at www.uvic.ca/events

Orion Series presents alumna artist Kelly Jazvac

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Kelly Jazvac

Visiting alumni artist

 

7:30 – 9:00 pm (PST)
Wednesday, February 10, 2021 

 

Free & open to the public via Zoom

 

Presented by UVic’s Department of Visual Arts
For more information on this lecture please email: visualarts@uvic.ca 

Featured image: “Smocking Mouth” (Kelly Jazvac, 2017)

 

A plastic approach to art

Kelly Jazvac is a Canadian artist based in Montréal and an MFA alum of UVic’s Visual Arts department. She is also part of a plastic pollution research team called The Synthetic Collective, which includes scientists, artists, art historians, philosophers and writers who work together to sample, map, understand and visualize the complexities of plastics and micro-plastics pollution in the Great Lakes Region. The work of this research group is highly influential on Jazvac’s artistic practice.

Jazvac currently has exhibitions at The Musée D’Art Contemporain (Montréal), The Museum of Modern Art (New York), and (forthcoming) at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto. Her recent exhibitions include the Eli and Edyth Broad Museum (East Lansing), Ujazdowski Castle CCA (Warsaw) and FIERMAN Gallery (New York). Her work has been written about in National Geographic, e-flux Journal, Hyperallergic, Art Forum, The New Yorker, Canadian Art Magazine and The Brooklyn Rail. Her collaborative art/science research has been published in scientific journals including Nature Reviews, GSA Today, and Science of the Total Environment

 

About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Free and open to the public  |  Seating is limited (500 Zoom connections) |  Visit our online events calendar at www.uvic.ca/events

Esi Edugyan muses on values of a new world

The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered some of the biggest challenges of our time, including systemic racism, economic inequity and the climate crisis. What comes next and will it shape a new world?

In such situations, some people yearn for a return to a remembered (or perhaps imagined) former normalcy. Others hope that perhaps we can put things back—but better. Still others are convinced that we face both the opportunity and the necessity of creating something entirely new.

If there is to be a new world, must it be founded on fundamentally new and different shared values and assumptions?  If so, what might those be? How might they be different from what has gone before and (some would say) brought us to this place? How do we identify and articulate our convictions and beliefs in ways that are honest, humane, productive and inclusive?

Enter the great change

Writing and the Great Change Upon Us looks exactly at these issues. Starting at 5pm on Thursday, Dec 3, internationally acclaimed writer and UVic Department of Writing  alumna Esi Edugyan explores what this new world might look like, and the role of writers in shaping it, in the first of a new series of public lectures organized by UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (CSRS).

Everyone is welcome to register for this free virtual event led by another eminent Canadian literary figure: poet, essayist and current Writing professor Tim Lilburn.

A novelist, essayist and cultural commentator, Edugyan is the author of the best-selling Half-Blood Blues (2011) and Washington Black (2018). She is a two-time winner of the Giller Prize, a Distinguished Alumni of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts and a former instructor in our Writing department.

Lilburn is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, was the first Canadian to receive the European Medal of Poetry and Art, and has been twice nominated for the Governor General’s Award, which he won for his poetry collection, Kill-site.

Values for a new world

Edugyan’s talk is the first of the lecture series, “Values for a New World,” running December through March. The series delves into urgent questions such as:

  • What role, if any, do religion and spirituality play in helping to inform deep conversations about current and future challenges?
  • How do we articulate convictions and beliefs in ways that are honest, humane, productive and inclusive?
  • How do we proceed if respectful yet frank dialogue is becoming increasingly difficult?

The series, presented annually as a joint initiative of CSRS and the Anglican Diocese of Islands and Inlets of British Columbia, is reinvented this year—like so much else in this new time—by going virtual.

Its group of speakers—including Noam Chomsky (Feb 2), Miroslav Volf (Jan 7), Thomas Homer-Dixon (Feb 23) and Linda Woodhead (March 4)—will each participate in an interactive online talk, and one panel discussion on March 16.