Orion Series presents Gary Farmer

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:

Gary Farmer

Actor, filmmaker, musician, publisher, activist

“My Life as a Baby Clown”

12:30 – 1:30 pm (PST) Tuesday, March 23, 2021

 

Free & open to the public via Zoom

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

A pioneer in Indigenous media 

Gary Farmer is a filmmaker, musician, publisher, activist, and multi-award-nominated actor, who has worked in film, theatre, radio and television. He is currently performing the role of Dan Twelvetrees in Syfy Network’s TV show Resident Alien.

Farmer has won Best Actor awards at the American Indian Film Festival for his roles in Powwow Highway in 1989 and Dead Man (opposite Johnny Depp) in 1997. He received nominations for the Independent Spirit Award for his roles in Powwow Highway, Dead Man, and Smoke Signals. In 2001, he was honoured with the Taos Mountain Award for lifetime achievements of an outstanding Native film professional, and in 2017, with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Annual Native American Music Awards for his role as the harmonica playing frontman in the band, Gary Farmer & The Troublemakers.

Farmer is also widely recognized as a pioneer in the development of media for Indigenous peoples in Canada, launching the magazine Aboriginal Voices and founding the Aboriginal Voices Radio Network.

In this lecture, Gary will discuss his freedom to explore his cultural identity through the performing arts, working with diverse human storylines for better thinking humans since 1975.  

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

Victoria Wyatt Wins REACH Award

As anyone who has ever benefited from one well knows, having an inspirational teacher or teaching mentor can make all the difference in an academic career—for both students and instructors alike. Those who know her will not be surprised to learn that Art History & Visual Studies professor Victoria Wyatt has been named the recipient of the Harry Hickman Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching and Educational Leadership for 2020.

Wyatt, who joined AHVS (or History in Art, as it was then called) in 1989, has been recognized with UVic’s highest teaching award because of her commitment to foster inclusive and culturally aware teaching practices, emphasizing non-linear thinking and Indigenous ways of knowing.

AHVS professor Victoria Wyatt
2020 REACH Award winner Victoria Wyatt (UVic Photo Services)
“It means a tremendous amount to me that my students and colleagues supported me in this way,” she says, noting that both were required to nominate her for this honour. “AHVS has been a very supportive place for me . . . we have a lot of flexibility to develop our own approaches to teaching and our curriculum so we each can apply our own strengths in our classrooms. That environment made this award possible for me . . . . I appreciate working in a department of colleagues so dedicated to research-informed teaching.”

That’s a sentiment shared by Art History & Visual Studies.

“The department is delighted that Dr. Wyatt has received this significant award,” says chair, Dr. Marcus Milwright. “We are fortunate to have such a dedicated and innovative instructor. She is a passionate advocate for students and, for many years, has embraced online technology in her teaching. She is committed to decolonizing the curriculum and teaching practices through respect for Indigenous ways of knowing.”

Embracing creativity & resilience

Victoria Wyatt’s teaching and research focuses on the creativity and resilience of North American Indigenous artists in response to colonization—an interest that originated during her Masters and PhD studies at Yale.

“I got the opportunity to curate an historical exhibition focusing on ways Northwest Coast Indigenous artists responded with inspiring creativity and resilience to contact with settlers, despite the devastating impacts of colonization,” she explains. “At a time when—even more than today—academic historical disciplines were based on written sources left by settlers, these arts spoke directly in the voices of the artists. I wanted to keep exploring that.”

Wyatt’s innovative teaching practices include adapted lesson plans, flexible due dates and meeting a wide range of learning needs; her commitment to teaching is also reflected in her leadership roles within the faculty, UVic and the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

“An inspirational teacher can help students develop the habit of considering diverse perspectives and alternative explanations,” she says. “That orientation is important in all areas of life; for our society to make progress with anti-racism, decolonization and social justice, it’s essential.”

She says she was “very fortunate” to have great instructors as a post-secondary student herself. “I went to Kenyon College, a small undergraduate liberal arts college [in Ohio], which put a very strong emphasis on research-informed teaching,” she recalls. “There were so many tremendous instructors there, with very diverse teaching styles. I absorbed a lot about teaching from watching them. As students, we got to know them well, and some of my instructors there have remained lifelong friends

Wyatt (right) with undergrad Baylee Woodley in the new AHVS art collections classroom in 2017

Fostering inclusive & culturally aware teaching

While art history may be Wyatt’s passion, she feels her practice of fostering inclusive and culturally aware teaching practices—as well as emphasizing non-linear thinking and Indigenous ways of knowing—should apply to all students in all courses.

The world works like an ecosystem, a constellation of complex relationships, rather than a linear hierarchy,” she explains. “Non-linear thinking—the awareness that everything connects—is essential to addressing the global challenges we face. The alternative—focusing on individual components of a system while ignoring the dynamic relationships between them—is based on the fallacy that we must simplify to understand.”

Wyatt feels this kind of reductionism is typical of a Western perspective. “Many cultures in various parts of the world never stopped acknowledging and celebrating such interconnections,” she continues. “I’m curious what the impact of the Internet will be: it is a very nonlinear system, and now an entire generation in colonial contexts has grown up with it. I’m hoping this will encourage more nonlinear thinking and more focus on interconnections and relationships.”

Celebrating diversity & complexity

She admits her own teaching has significantly changed over the years, noting an “Aha!” moment where she was having difficulty writing an introductory lecture for the first class of the year.

Rather than “artificially slice interconnected experience into discrete categories” that inherently “disrespected these arts” and “misrepresented reality”, she instead decided to explore how themes of diversity, complexity, relationships and process converge in each art work and in all our lived experiences.

“In a colonial context, we’re often expected to label and classify . . . . I was trying to isolate, but everything connects,” she explains. “We need to think in such terms—which represent the way the real world functions—if we are going to address global challenges such as climate change,” she says.

Wyatt (far right) participating in a Fine Arts panel on creativity during UVic’s Ideafest in 2013 (Photo: Colton Hash)

Advocating for innovation & mentorship

A passionate advocate for innovative pedagogy locally and nationally, Wyatt provides invaluable mentorship to colleagues at all career stages.

“There are great opportunities at UVic to talk with other instructors and exchange ideas,” she says, pointing to the Learning & Teaching Support & Innovation workshops and annual Let’s Talk About Teaching symposium. ”It’s exciting and revitalizing to hear what others are doing and what has worked for them. At the same time, teaching has to feel authentic, and an approach that suits one instructor may feel awkward to another. So it’s a process of listening to a lot of ideas and experimenting with those that seem like a good fit for one’s personality and style.”

Wyatt also stresses the importance of maintaining a lifelong commitment to learning for instructors.

“It is hard to teach effectively if one doesn’t,” she says. “It’s often less of a conscious commitment to continue learning, and more just what naturally happens from an eagerness to keep current with contemporary issues and to demonstrate the ongoing relevance of our work.”

Writing grad Kai Conradi explores words, life and how they fit together

While it’s not unusual for a Department of Writing student to get their first publishing credit while still an undergraduate, it is rare when their story gains national attention and a shot at a $10,000 prize. But as an emerging poet and short-story writer, there’s no question Kai Conradi offers a fresh voice to Canada’s literary scene.

Despite having just completed their degree, Conradi’s work has already appeared in The Malahat Review,Poetry, Grain and PRISM magazines, and has been nominated for the Journey Prize, the Pushcart Prize and the National Magazine Awards.

Their first published story—“Every True Artist”, which also appeared in Best Canadian Stories 2019—earned them national recognition and a trip to a Toronto literary gala as one of three shortlisted finalists (all UVic alumni) in the 2019 Journey Prize.

“I was really nervous, mostly because if you win, you have to give a speech—and I really didn’t want to give a speech,” laughs Conradi about their shortlist experience.

“It was weird to step into that Toronto literary world—it was very fancy and I very felt out of place; it’s a different writing atmosphere out there.” (When asked if any literary big-wigs slipped them a card, Conradi just chuckles: “Everyone said that was going to happen to me . . . but then it didn’t happen at all.”)

Creating a literary identity

Toronto’s literary scene would be different indeed for a kid raised in small-town Cumberland, who then moved to Comox as a teenager before coming to UVic to pursue their writing degree.

“Working on a line level is what excites me the most—words, and how they fit together,” says Conradi of their writing process. “In that sense, I feel really excited by poetry, but I like that it can be applied to fiction as well. My work tends to be quite narrative, so there’s a lot of crossover.”

As a queer and trans writer, Conradi admits to struggling with issues of representation . . . and the obligations that come with it.

“It seems like there are a lot more diverse voices writing about identity than ever before, which excites me—I think about what I wish I’d been reading when I was younger, so it’s important for me to be one of those voices for other people.”

But that doesn’t mean Conradi only wants to be known for their gender identity.

“It’s overwhelming at times—especially when it comes to writing about trans people or queer people—because there’s not that much out there, so I feel a lot of responsibility to get it right. It’s important to be open and visible to a certain extent . . . but it’s also important to write about all the things I care about, and not just one facet of my personality.” 

Next steps

Already enrolled in Writing’s MFA program with a poetry focus, Conradi’s first poetry chapbook is due out this fall: Notes From The Ranch is being published by Vancouver-based Rahila’s Ghost press (run by fellow Writing alum Mallory Tater).

“I go back and forth between writing poetry and fiction: right now I’m working on a mix of both,” they note.

And, with the literary bar raised fairly high so early in their writing career, are there any concerns about living up to expectations?

“I still tend to feel like they made a mistake, but any kind of publication or recognition is affirming,” Conradi says. “It gives me a little more energy to keep doing it.”

Practice, praise, publication, prizes, parties and poetry: it seems Conradi made the right decision in applying to the Writing department.

“I do feel quite lucky I ended up here,” they conclude.

A new & different academic year

A new (and different) school year

Welcome to issue 13 of the Fine Arts Connector and the start of a new academic year—one that we can definitely say will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

With only about 3,500 students on campus and the majority of classes being held online, there’s no question UVic looks and feels different right now. But here in Fine Arts, we are still offering a number of face-to-face courses—primarily in Theatre, Visual Arts and the School of Music—and the changes to our campus spaces mirror the changes in our teaching curriculum.

If you’re curious about what life will be like on campus this fall, check out this short UVic video.

Normally, Fine Arts offers well over 200 public events a year, but while we have a few events confirmed (see below), we’re still figuring out exactly what our fall events will look like. More on that in the weeks ahead, but be sure to keep an eye on our social media feeds in the meantime.

As always, please enjoy—and circulate—this collection of material featuring our faculty, students, alumni, staff and guests as a way of both sharing what our creative community is up to and keeping us all connected. You can also help by keeping us in the loop if you’re working on a live-streaming project, have online material to share or are involved in something you’d like people to know about: just email either fineartsevents@uvic.ca or johnt@uvic.ca.

Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each issue.

 New faculty members

The new academic year also sees three new full-time faculty members joining Fine Arts: Beth Stuart as an assistant professor in Visual Arts, Kathryn Mockler as an assistant professor in Writing and Dr. Anthony Tan as the School of Music’s new assistant professor of composition.

Beth Stuart works in an expanding range of media including writing, painting, ceramic, performance, textiles and sculptural installation, and has taught at OCAD University, the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto Mississauga. Recent material research has convened bizarre Victorian bathing customs, the politics of stretch, time travel, melting rock with her bare hands, pizza and contemporary art as a site of ritual sublimation.

An award-winning teacher who comes to us from Western University, Kathryn Mockler is the author of four poetry books and six short films. A TIFF Talent Lab Alumnus, Praxis Screenwriting Fellow and San Francisco Film Society Screenwriting Fellowship winner, she specializes in film/TV writing, poetry, short fiction and climate/ecological writing, among other areas. Her latest short film, Tornado, appears as part of the Arizona Underground Film Festival this month.

Anthony Tan is an award-winning composer, pianist and electronic musician who draws artistic influence from conceptual metaphors, an attention to the psychophysical experiences of sound and a reflection on music’s cultural context. A fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, he comes to us from the University of Colorado (Colorado Springs). He has presented his music at major festivals in North America and Europe, and has been commissioned by numerous international ensembles.

Welcome to all!

Beth Stuart, Kathryn Mockler, Anthony Tan

Media roundup

Carey Newman on colonial statues

Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman was recently quoted in The Tyee article “Tearing Down Our Monumental Mistakes” about the push to remove problematic historical monuments across Canada, and the need to focus on how to transform the spaces these colonial statues held.

“They’re anti-reconciliation,” said Newman in the article. “They are not history. They are an illustration of a version of history . . . . They don’t serve the same kind of purpose as art.”

“For me, art is about expression of ideas about challenging people to think differently, about bringing beauty or commemoration for things that we never want to forget. Those things don’t exist in statues that are really about remembering a particular person for a particular purpose and, very often, a person who was an architect of something that was inherently oppressive.”

A new position

In August, very busy Theatre PhD alumnus Taiwo Afolabi appeared on the OMNI TV program New Canadians as part of a panel discussion on how his experience as a UVic Crossing Borders Scholar provided opportunities to find connections in the community. And while Afolabi had been the Manager of Artistic and Community Engagement with the Belfry Theatre (a position for which they are now hiring), he recently accepted a position as assistant professor Socially Engaged Creative Practices with the University of Regina’s Faculty of Media, Art and Performance.

As part of his farewell to Victoria, Afolabi speaks with Belfry artistic director Michael Shamata about his time at the Belfry in this short video, and in August he also held this artist conversation for the Creative Mornings series titled “Stress: To Peel or Not to Peel?” We congratulate Taiwo on his new position!

Music student explore reconciliation

As reported in this September 20 Times Colonist article, first-year School of Music student Lucas Hung has created a series of video interviews with four WSANEC members to explore what reconciliation means in Canada. Hung hopes his project—titled Taking Reconcili-Action—will inspire others to seek out their own first-hand learning about Indigenous cultures.

Hung has interviewed SENĆOŦEN language revitalization advocates John Elliott and Pena Elliott, as well as Tsartlip master carver Charles Elliott and Salish artist Chris Paul. The project, funded in part by the Heritage B.C. Heritage Legacy Fund, includes a guide for teachers to lead students through their own Reconcili-Action projects.

“We wanted to show teachers, if you want to do something like this, here’s all the things that you can learn from just having a single conversation,” Hung said.

Student involved in social justice mural

Back in August, a group of 17 artists united to paint a mural in Bastion Square, with the intention of raising awareness around injustices suffered by Black and Indigenous people and people of colour. One of the artists is current Visual Arts undergrad Laveen Gammie.

The finished mural reads “More Justice More Peace”, with each artist changing large white block letters into individual pieces of artistic expressions. “It is perhaps a fitting metaphor for the project,” said Gammie in this Times Colonist article. “The letter starts out as white in the beginning and becomes filled with colour as the day wears on.”

Theatre student Zooms over Shakespeare

As the arts community continues to adapt to the new restrictions, our students continue to find new ways of staying involved. In this recent BC Local News article, current Theatre student Ryan Kniel discusses teaching and producing virtual stage plays using video conferencing platforms.

“Learning how to film on Zoom, how to collaborate as an ensemble in an online environment and how to communicate with scene members that you don’t see in a physical rehearsal are all important skills in this new world of theatre,” says Kneil.

Kniel was among 12 young actors from across Canada selected for funding from the RBC Emerging Artists Project, which included a spot in the Riotous Youth program—a paid internship with Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach festival, whose 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Alumni guitarist

As noted in this recent article in The Province, School of Music alumnus and Vancouver-based guitarist Adrian Verdejo has put his COVID time to work developing new music initiatives.

Now an instructor at both Vancouver Community College and Douglas College, Verdejo has made a name for himself as a new music guitarist over the past decade, but with COVID cancelling planned travel activities, he’s been busy developing videos, podcasts and new online performance opportunities for other musicians. “Fortunately, projects started to come in,” Verdejo says in the article.

Improving diversity

Vancouver’s CityNews recently spoke with Theatre alumni Cecilly Day and Rahat Saini, who shared their perspectives and experiences facing race-based barriers in the program. Acting Dean of Fine Arts Allana Lindgren is quoted about the department’s commitment to improved diversity, inclusion and anti-racism efforts.

“While we have actively sought ways in recent years to expand our awareness and build skills in equity, diversity and inclusion, including ant-racism, we realize that there is more to do,” says Lindgren.

Festival voices

Writing professor Deborah Campbell kicked off the 2020 author season for the Sunshine Coast Literary Reading Series—which has been running for more than 40 years—by offering the first public reading in their pivot to Zoom. The event was mentioned in the Coast Reporter newspaper.

Carey Newman

Taiwo Afolabi

Upcoming events

Orange Shirt Day is September 30

UVic is committed to reconciliation. We’re working to foster respect and mutual understanding with all Indigenous peoples and communities. You can partner in the work of reconciliation by listening, learning and sharing on Orange Shirt Day.

Orange Shirt Day at UVic goes virtual this year, featuring a conversation between UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers and Phyllis Webstad, whose story sparked the drive to recognize Orange Shirt Day. Join the at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to wear an orange shirt (available at the UVic Bookstore) on Sept. 30 as a visual symbol of our awareness of the need for ongoing reconciliation. The UVic shirt was designed by Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman.

You can show your support by uploading a photo of yourself wearing an orange shirt (or email your photo to socialmedia@uvic.ca) and be part of UVic’s social media campaign (use the #OrangeShirtDayUVic).

Proceeds from t-shirt sales support the Elders Engagement Fund and the Witness Blanket Project. If you already have an orange shirt, please consider making a $20 donation directly to the Elders Engagement Fund this year.

Read more about the history of Orange Shirt Day here.

The Art of Living in the Time of COVID

Given this year’s topic, it’s appropriate that the 15th annual Lafayette Health Awareness Series will take place as a webinar at 7pm on Thursday, October 1.

Hosted by Chancellor Shelagh Rogers and featuring a performance by the School of Music’s Lafayette String Quartet, guest speakers include BC Chief Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry, UVic Medical Sciences instructor Terence Tam (of the Victoria Symphony) and Steven Taylor (author of The Psychology of Pandemics).

“We’ve long believed that what affects one of us truly affects all of us—and we’ve never had a topic been more true to that idea than this,” says the LSQ’s Pamela Highbaugh-Aloni. “Let’s just keep living and figuring out what we need to do.”

The Art of Living in the Time of COVID is presented in partnership with UVic’ Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health. Donations will help establish a Lafayette Music and Health Legacy Fund.

Shelagh Rogers, Bonnie Henry, Terence Tam, Steven Taylor & the Lafayette String Quartet

Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards

Formerly known as the ProArt Alliance Awards but now dubbed the Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards, watching for a livestream broadcast of the 2020 program from 5-6pm Saturday, October 3.

Fine Arts will be participating this year, with Acting Dean Allana Lindgren making an announcement, as well as Audain Professor Carey Newman once again presenting his award for the Witness Legacy Award for Social Purpose and Responsibility Through Art. Last year’s awards saw Fine Arts alumni Matthew Payne, Lindsay Delaronde and Colton Hash win all three categories; this year, there will be more awards presented in more categories.

The 2020 awards will be expanded to include a number of new categories and broaden the accolades to a wider number of local arts practitioners. Find out more here.

Resources

Free UVic masks for all

Even with limited numbers of people on campus, common areas can be congested, making it difficult to consistently maintain a safe physical distance. If you’re working on campus this fall, UVic recommends that you wear a mask in public indoor spaces like hallways, stairways, building entryways and other high-traffic areas, especially where it’s more difficult to keep distance.

With that in mind, UVic-branded reusable face masks are now available for each on-campus student, faculty and staff member. Just show your ONECard at the University Centre ONECard office to receive your mask throughout September and October.

AGGV FASP program

Our colleagues at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria would like to remind all faculty and students about their Fine Arts Student Pass program.

Whether students are visiting solo for artistic inspiration or as part of a class assignment, the FASP program offers unlimited admission to the AGGV for the entire academic year—for just $12. (That’s only $1 more than a single admission ticket!) The FASP Membership is valid from September 1, 2020 (or date of purchase) to August 31, 2021.

Simply forward this link to your students and they can register online, then present their e-ticket at the front desk along with student ID. In addition to unlimited free entrances to the AGGV, Fine Arts students also receive email invitations to gallery events, their e-magazine and a 10% discount in the gallery shop.

While possibly of most interest to Visual Arts and Art History & Visual Studies students, this offer is open to any student currently registered in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Students may also want to get involved with the AGGV’s volunteer program. With more than 300 volunteers working together with staff as assistants, docents and special event hosts in a variety of departments (education, curatorial, collections, advancement), it can be a good opportunity to gain experience for students who love art.

A giant achievement

The work of Department of Theatre design professor Patrick DuWors was featured in the 2020 edition of the Critical Costume Conference and Exhibition, hosted by the Costume Agency Artistic Research Project.

Originally intended to be a live event in August, the international exhibition was moved online due to COVID. With a focus on the agency of costume in performance and how costume can generate or be a centre of gravitation in performance, Critical Costume 2020 is supported by the Norwegian Artistic Research Program, Oslo National Academy of the Arts and Norwegian Arts Council.

DuWors, an alumnus of the Theatre department himself, was featured for his costume designs—alongside Robert Leveroos’ puppet designs—for Ghost River Theatre’s award-winning production of GIANT. As part of the exhibition, DuWors moderated two of the conference’s working group sessions.

GIANT tells the story of wrestler Andre the Giant. As a way of exploring the hyper-masculine, yet incredibly flamboyant, world of professional wrestling, five female actors played all parts—including Andre.

The Critical Costume Exhibition presents artworks that treat costume as their main medium—often as a starting point for a performance, and always as a crucial aspect of a performance. This exhibition aims to emphasize the immediacy and intrinsic nature of costumes to everyday human life and a person’s sense of self: connection to body, movement, identity, expression, sensuality, emotionality. The costume is a bridge between the body and the world.

Built on two main strands of costume performances—communication and exploration—eight further categories then unfold under these two central ideas, including “Identity Agency”, in which DuWors’ work is featured.

“The puppet design explored the dramaturgical role of scale, while the idea of masculinity-as-character was expressed through the costume design,” notes DuWors in the Critical Costume description of the production.

“Skins and shells formed the foundation of our approach. Shapes and textures meant to augment and distort the bodies of the five women inhabiting a very masculine profession were inspired by action figure versions of Andre once sold as toys. In each scene, the performers would attempt to put a different piece of Andre ‘on’ – to wear him as a way to understand him.”

Be sure to explore the remarkable range of work on display at Critical Costume 2020.

Patrick DuWors
Robert Leveroos’ puppet designs for GIANT (Photo, and above: Tim Ngyuen)

Singing for life

When graduating School of Music soprano Chelsea Kutyn decided to film a rehearsal for her graduation recital this spring, she had no idea that it would soon lead to national press coverage as a result of a life-threatening health risk.

When the campus started to shut down in March, Kutyn thought it would be a good safety measure to film herself singing.

“When we heard that countries were going into lockdown, my accompanist and I decided to film something just in case—we thought the building might be closed, but we never expected one of us to get sick,” she says.

Yet shortly thereafter, Kutyn fell ill. “They weren’t testing for COVID yet, but the doctors and nurses all said it was ‘suspected COVID’ due to my symptoms and the timeline of how it progressed.”

And while the School of Music did indeed close, Kutyn suddenly found herself unable to perform her grad recital due to illness—yet her performance video not only saved the day (“Luckily I passed with flying colours!”) but also helped her win the Victoria Medal, awarded annually to the Fine Arts student with the highest GPA in the faculty.

But the story of the young singer who contracted COVID but still graduated top of her class caught the attention of the media, with interviews appearing in the Times Colonist, CHEK TV, CBC News, Global TV, CBC Radio and even Newsweek magazine.

While she’s wary of being branded a cautionary tale, Kutyn does see the value in sharing her story. “I just hope it brings awareness to others who feel it’s not as much of an issue as it really is,” she says.

“If you don’t personally know someone who has been affected, people seem to assume it can’t happen to them. I would never wish that situation on anyone; it was a really terrifying situation.”

Read the full version of this story here.

Chelsea Kutyn

Art on view locally

As the weather turns, it’s a good time to head indoors and see some of the art on view by faculty, students and alumni of the Department of Visual ArtsThe first Visiting Artist on the 2020 academic year, being offered online by the Visual Arts department, features Toronto-based artist Kim Dorland.

Dorland pushes the boundaries of painted representation through an exploration of memory, material, nostalgia, identity and place. Drawing heavily from the Canadian landscape and his huge appetite for the history and language of painting, the loose yet identifiable scenes are interjected with areas of heavy abstract impasto. His refusal to remain faithful to one medium or approach plays into the symbiotic nature of his work.

You can watch & engage with Dorland’s Visiting Artist lecture starting at 7pm Wednesday, September 23 at this Zoom link.

Culturally Modified, a solo installation by MFA candidate and former Audain Professor Rande Cook, runs through to October 10 at Empty Gallery (833 Fisgard, 12-5pm Thursday-Saturday), a local gallery run by MFA alumnus Matt Trahan.

A Kwakwaka’wakw multimedia artist, Cook says this installation represents Umetl, The Raven, who had the ability to transform and carry messages between the spirit world and the life we live today.

“This installation is about Umetl rising up again, restoring the balance that has been broken by governments who are signing agreements over resource extraction with corporations, contaminating the waters, the inequality being forced upon the minority races and sexes, the lack of support and protection for women and children, the LGBTQ community, BLM, ILM, and the many more who are suffering due to capitalistic power and gain.”

Three alumni at Legacy

The work of three Visual Arts alumni are part of a pair of exhibits current open at UVic’s downtown Legacy Gallery (630 Yates).

TUKTUUYAQTUUQ (Caribou Crossing) features work by Maureen Gruben. Tuktuuyaqtuuq is the Inuvialuktun name of Gruben’s home on the Arctic coast (known in English as “Tuktoyaktuk”) and means “looks like a caribou.”

In TUKTUUYAQTUUQ (continuing to November 14), Gruben works with multiple facets of the animal to show how integral they are to Inuvialuit life, providing food, clothes, tools and stories.

Also on view is To Fish As Formerly: A Story of Straits Salish Resurgence (to November 21) a group exhibit curated by UVic alumni XEMŦOLTW̱ Dr. Nicholas Claxton (School of Child and Youth Care) and Katie Hughes, and featuring work by Visual Arts alumni Sarah Jim and Colton Hash alongside the likes of TEMOSEN Charles Elliott, J,SIṈTEN John Elliott, Chris Paul, Dylan Thomas, Temoseng, aka Chasz Elliott.

Art on view distantly

Out of town, professor Paul Walde’s Weeks Feel Like Days, Months Feel Like Years is on view at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska until October 31. A generative sound artwork in which performers are invited to interpret a series of five text-based scores responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Weeks Feel Like Days is available as both an audio/video installation at the museum and an audio gallery on the website.

The scores were composed to be performed by individuals or groups in isolation, and welcomes performers to reflect on their own experiences during the pandemic.

Walde’s Tom Thomson Centennial Swim video installation recently closed at Touchstones Museum of Art and History in Nelson, after a run interrupted by the COVID outbreak, and three works from his Alaska Variations album were recently featured on the UK radio show, Signal to Noise.

Professor Richard Leong is showing as part of the group exhibit RELATIONS: Diaspora and Painting at Montreal’s PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art until November 29. This group show explores the complex and multiple meanings of diaspora, its condition and its experiences as expressed through painting.

“The questions and concepts of diaspora are of deep, personal interest to me as a person of colour born in Canada of mixed Asian heritage,” says curator and managing director Cheryl Sim.

RELATIONS presents a selection of work by artists who address questions of diaspora from diverse perspectives, methodologies and aesthetic languages. The medium of painting, with its deep and complex history, becomes a particularly provocative lens through which to explore the complications and diversities that are analogous to the richness of diasporic experiences. This collective body of work also aims for an intergenerational dialogue and presents artists whose work has pushed the boundaries of what painting is and can be.

Finally, Professor Kelly Richardson‘s future-focused Mariner 9 is running at the Attenborough Art Centre in the UK until December 18.

Created with software used by the film and gaming industries, and using data from NASA’s missions to Mars, Richardson has created a realistic representation of the Mars landscape covered by the debris of centuries of exploration. Despite the apparent abandoned state of the planet, some of the spacecraft continue to work, looking for signs of life.

Works by Kim Dorland
Rande Cook’s Culturally Modified
Work by Gruben, Hash and Jim on view at the Legacy Gallery
Two of Paul Walde’s prompts from Weeks Feel Like Days, Months Feel Like Years
Rick Leong’s “Goldstream” and “Wild Willows” on view in Montreal
Kelly Richardson’s Mariner 9. Photos by Ruth Clark (left) & PaolaBernardelli.

New book for chair

The latest book by Art History & Visual Studies chair Marcus Milwright is now out: Middle Eastern Encounters: Collected Essays on Visual, Material, and Textual Interactions between the Eighth and the Twenty-first Centuries was recently released by Georgia Press.

A wide-ranging volume, Middle Eastern Encounters focuses on interactions between the Islamic world and other regions. Topics explored are as varied as relief-moulded pottery production in Raqqa, the construction of palaces in Samarra, portraiture in Arabic manuscript painting, images of Muslim rulers in early Modern printed books and the broadcast of the medical examination of Saddam Hussein.

Milwright, a professor of Islamic art and archaeology, also focuses on the challenges involved in the study of cultural interactions between Islamic and non-Islamic regions. The volume also includes a previously unpublished study of recently discovered photographs, drawings and writings relating to the Middle East made by soldiers during and after World War I.

You can keep up on Milwright’s varied interests and influences via his frequent (and fascinating) posts on the Fine Arts Gateway to Art website.

Award noms for alumni & instructors

Along with the start of classes, September also sees the start of the annual book awards season—and so far, we’re looking at a bumper crop of nominations for Fine Arts alumni and instructors.

Kicking off the awards season is the $10,000 Writers’ Trust McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, which annually celebrates the top short stories by Canada’s brightest emerging talents.

Among the 13 finalists for the 2020 awards are three Department of Writing alumni—Susan Sanford Blades, Cara Marks and Rachael Lesosky—all of whom will also see their work appear in the annual anthology, The Journey Prize Stories 32. (Winners announced October 21.)

Of the eight new books nominated for the annual $10,000 Victoria Book Prizes, only one wasn’t created by a member of our Fine Arts community. Nominees for the $5,000 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize include Writing alumni Carla Funk (Every Little Scrap and Wonder: A Small-Town Childhood) and Steven Price (Lampedusa), former Writing faculty Lorna Crozier (The House The Spirit Builds) and Christin Geall (Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style), and Audain Professor Carey Newman and former Writing instructor Kirstie Hudson (Picking Up The Pieces: Residential School Memories and the Making of The Witness Blanket). Nominees for the $5,000 City of Victoria Children’s Book Prize include Writing/Theatre alumnus and current Writing instructor Mark Leiren-Young (Orcas Everywhere: The Mystery and History of Killer Whales) and Writing alumna Sara Cassidy (Nevers). (Winners announced October 4.)

Newman and Hudson’s Picking Up the Pieces is also a finalist in the $10,000 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction, part of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards.

Victoria Festival of Authors

Writing alumni are well-represented at the upcoming Victoria Festival of Authors—Vancouver Island’s largest literary festival, which this year is being held online for free from September 30 to October 4.

Featured alumni writers include current City of Victoria Poet Laureate John Barton (Lost Family), Carla Funk (Every Little Scrap and Wonder), Kyeren Regehr (Cult Life), Mallory Tater (Pushcart Prize nominee), Amanda Leduc (The Miracles of Ordinary Men), Serena Lukas Bandhar (Pushcart Prize nominee), Arleen Paré (Earle Street ), Yvonne Blomer (Sugar Ride) and former student K.P. Dennis (former Victoria Youth Poet Laureate), plus Lorna Crozier (Through the Garden), and Carey Newman in conversation with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

You’ll find the full schedule and find registration info here.

Alumni film debut

Finally, acclaimed novelist and Writing alumna Eden Robinson is having a great fall, thanks to a feature film adaptation of her debut novel, Monkey Beach (screening Sept 24 at UVic’s Cinecenta—with will also hopefully include an afterword conversation piece between Robinson and director Loretta Todd). Robinson is also seeing her recent novel, Son of a Trickster, transformed into the new CBC TV series Trickster.

Chelsea Kutyn sings for life

When graduating School of Music soprano Chelsea Kutyn decided to film a rehearsal for her graduation recital this spring, she had no idea that it would soon lead to national press coverage as a result of a life-threatening health risk.

As the campus started to shut down in March, Kutyn thought it would be a good safety measure to film herself singing.

“When we heard that countries were going into lockdown, my accompanist and I decided to film something just in case—we thought the building might be closed, but we never expected one of us to get sick,” she says.

Surviving COVID-19

Yet shortly thereafter, Kutyn fell ill. “They weren’t testing for COVID yet, but the doctors and nurses all said it was ‘suspected COVID’ due to my symptoms and the timeline of how it progressed.”

And while the School of Music did indeed close, Kutyn suddenly found herself unable to perform her grad recital due to illness—yet her performance video not only saved the day (“Luckily I passed with flying colours!”) but also helped her win the Victoria Medal, awarded annually to the Fine Arts student with the highest GPA in the faculty.

“I had no idea I had won it until they phoned me,” she admits. “I knew I had good grades, but I really wasn’t expecting to finish at the top of the class. It was a really nice surprise after having gone through such a chaotic end to the semester, and being so sick.”

Describing her as “a committed student who was a delight to teach,” School of Music professor Benjamin Butterfield has high praise for Kutyn—beyond her grades.

“She was always bringing new, challenging repertoire to the table, working diligently in the practice room, always stepping up for master classes and being a friend to all,” he says.

“We were so lucky to have such a bright light for the past four years. She was a model student who exhibited determination, flexibility and a genuine love for singing and learning. “

Media attention

Indeed, the story of the young singer who contracted COVID but still graduated top of her class caught the attention of the media, with interviews appearing in the Times Colonist, CHEK TV, CBC News, Global TV, CBC Radio and even Newsweek magazine (“College Student Who Battled Coronavirus for 29 Days Graduates Top of Class”).

“It was all a bit strange,” she says in retrospect. “I didn’t expect it would gain that much traction. I guess it’s a story people wanted to tell because it has a positive outcome and I’m in the younger age bracket.”

Kutyn had previously appeared as part of the chorus in a number of Pacific Opera Victoria productions, including Il trittico, La traviata, La bohèmeJenůfa and Countess Maritza, and was scheduled to be in Carmen this spring before it was postponed due to the COVID shutdown.

“Chelsea has grown up in the Victoria arts scene through dance and singing,” says Butterfield. “She held a job for some years as an usher at the Royal Theatre before becoming a mainstay in the POV chorus and taking on small parts as she grew in the company.”

Moving ahead

Now based in Winnipeg to pursue her Masters in Music Performance (Voice) at the University of Manitoba—where she is studying with POV regular Monica Huisman—Kutyn continues to deal with the after-effects.

“I haven’t been sick since April, but my lung capacity has been really impacted,” she explains. “I find any kind of cardio activity hard—even just stairs.”

And, as a singer, her illness has been particularly problematic.

“Even after four months, I’m still trying to relearn how to breathe and build back my lung capacity for singing, as well as doing some speech-therapy exercises with my new teacher. We’re just trying to get things working properly again.”

While she’s wary of being branded a cautionary tale, Kutyn does see the value in sharing her story.

“I just hope it brings awareness to others who feel it’s not as much of an issue as it really is,” she says.

“If you don’t personally know someone who has been affected, people seem to assume it can’t happen to them. I would never wish that situation on anyone; it was a really terrifying situation.”

Chelsea Kutyn

Writing prize nominations feature alumni, instructors

Along with the start of classes, September also sees the start of the annual book awards season—and so far, we’re looking at a bumper crop of nominations for Fine Arts alumni and instructors.

Journey Prize

Kicking off the awards season is the $10,000 Writers’ Trust McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, which annually celebrates the top short stories by Canada’s brightest emerging talents.

We’re proud to announce that among the 13 finalists for the 2020 awards are three Department of Writing alumni: MFA Susan Sanford Blades for her story “The Rest of Him” which appeared in EVENT magazine; BFA Cara Marks for her story “Aurora Borealis” in Exile magazine and BFA Rachael Lesosky for her story “She Figures That” in The Malahat Review.

The selected stories by all 13 nominees also appear in the annual anthology, The Journey Prize Stories 32. Winners will be announced October 21.

Writing students, faculty and alumni are no stranger to the Journey Prize, either: past winners include the likes of alumni Eliza Robertson and Yasuko Thanh, as well as current professor Lee Henderson, while previous nominees include the likes of Kai Conradi (while still an undergraduate student), Samantha Jude Macpherson and Angelique Lalonde.

Victoria Book Prizes nominated authors Kirstie Hudson, Carey Newman, Mark Leiren-Young Young and Sara Cassidy, with Visual Arts alumnus Gareth Gaudin, seen at an Orca Book launch event in November 2019 (photo: Leon Fei)

Victoria Book Prizes

Wow! Of the eight new books nominated for the annual $10,000 Victoria Book Prizes, only one wasn’t created by a member of our Fine Arts community. Much like Victoria itself, the nominated books represent a wide range of interests and genres: from non-fiction about floral design, the history (and mystery) of orcas and the creation of a travelling residential school memorial sculpture to more traditional forms of memoir, poetry and novels, the nominees once again offer a remarkable breadth of material.

Nominees for the $5,000 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize include:

Nominees for the $5,000 City of Victoria Children’s Book Prize include:

Winners of the 2020 Victoria Book Prizes will be announced at a free virtual gala hosted by CBC Radio’s Gregor Craigie on October 4, where you can also hear the nominated writers read from their books.

Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards

Carey Newman and Kirstie Hudson‘s Picking Up the Pieces is also a finalist in the $10,000 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction, part of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards—which annually awards $175,000 in prizes in eight different categories.

“A book for bookshelves everywhere, this thoughtful and beautiful book takes a look at the dark history of residential schools through the making of the Witness Blanket,” notes the prize jury. “The book itself is a rich artefact to treasure the memories, narratives and images of the Witness Blanket . . . artist Carey Newman takes the reader on his journey from the first idea to completion.”

Winners of the CCBC awards will be announced this fall.

BC & Yukon Book Prizes

Alumni nominees in the various categories of the previously announced BC and Yukon Book Prizes include Yasuko Thanh (Mistakes to Run With), Steven Price (Lampedusa), Ali Blythe (Hymnswitch), Kayla Czaga (Dunk Tank) and Sara Cassidy (Revers).

And, at the online awards presentation on September 19, Steven Price was announced as the winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, awarded to the author of the best original work of literary fiction. Congratulations!

CBC Books Poetry Prize

Five Writing alumni are on the longlist for the 2020 CBC Books Poetry Prize—congratulations go out to Yvonne Blomer,

Leah CallenTroy Sebastian, Amanda Merritt, Patricia Young and Anna Moore! These five are among the 32 poets who made the longest out of nearly 3,000 submissions. The shortlist will be announced on November 5, with the winner announced on November 12. The winner will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books & attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity; four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts & have their work published on CBC Books.
And while we have no nominees for the 2020 Scotia Bank Giller Prize, it is worth noting that this year’s Giller jury includes acclaimed novelist and Writing alumna Eden Robinson. Robinson is having a great fall, thanks to a feature film adaptation of her debut novel, Monkey Beach (screening Sept 24 at UVic’s Cinecenta), and the new CBC TV series Trickster, based on her recent novel Son of a Trickster.

Congratulations to all nominees!

Victoria Festival of Authors

Finally, UVic Writing alumni are well-represented at the upcoming Victoria Festival of Authors—Vancouver Island’s largest literary festival, which this year is being held online for free.

Running September 30 to October 4, the fifth annual VFA will host 28 authors from across Canada, taking part in 11 different events featuring poetry, prose, music, panels, readings and a poetry walk, all culminating with the presentation of the Victoria Book Prizes.

Featured alumni writers include current City of Victoria Poet Laureate John Barton (Lost Family), Carla Funk (Every Little Scrap and Wonder), Kyeren Regehr (Cult Life), Mallory Tater (Pushcart Prize nominee), Amanda Leduc (The Miracles of Ordinary Men), Serena Lukas Bandhar (Pushcart Prize nominee), Arleen Paré (Earle Street ), Yvonne Blomer (Sugar Ride) and former student K.P Dennis (former Victoria Youth Poet Laureate), plus Lorna Crozier (Through the Garden), and Carey Newman in conversation with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

You’ll find the full schedule and find registration info here.