Sandra Meigs joins Canada’s academic elite

Contemporary artist and newly retired Visual Arts professor Sandra Meigs has been named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC)—Canada’s highest academic honour.

Sandra Meigs, 2017 (UVic Photo Services)

The title has been bestowed on only 2,000 Canadians in the 134-year history of the RSC, and has just one criterion: excellence. The peer-elected fellows of the society are chosen for making “remarkable contributions” in the arts, humanities and sciences, and Canadian public life.

“Academians are largely associated with scientific and theoretical knowledge, and I’ve always believed that visual art offers a special kind of knowledge—a knowledge giving form to imaginative discovery,” Meigs says in this September 7 article in UVic’s Ring newspaper. “I feel lucky to be able to meet with this large community of thinkers.”

As one of Canada’s leading contemporary artists, Meigs’s work has been presented at more than 100 solo and group exhibitions put on by some of Canada’s most culturally relevant institutions. In 2015, she won both a Governor General’s Award in Visual Arts and Media and the Gershon Iskowitz Prize for professional artists.

“Through her work and commitment to students, Sandra Meigs inspires the next generation of artists and strengthens the Faculty’s core mission of artistic practice and scholarship,” says Dean of Fine Arts, Dr. Susan Lewis. “On behalf of the Faculty of Fine Arts, I extend my congratulations to her on this richly deserved honour.”

Meigs retired in July 2017 after 24 years with UVic’s Department of Visual Arts and has been at the forefront of the studio-integrated learning model now used by many art schools across Canada. Her work has been shown in close to 100 exhibitions, including solo exhibits across Canada, and internationally in Europe and Australia.

“En Trance” by Sandra Meigs (Photo: Winchester Galleries)

She’s recognized as a critically acclaimed visual artist who creates vivid, immersive and enigmatic paintings that combine complex narratives with comic elements. Drawing inspiration from philosophical texts, theory, popular culture, music, fiction, travels and personal experience during her 35-year artistic career, she creates visual metaphors related to the psyche.

Her latest exhibit, “Room for Mystics,” will run at the Art Gallery of Ontario from October 18 to January 13, 2018; part of the Iskowitz Prize, there will also be a exhibit publication and it will feature a collaboration with UVic School of Music professor Christopher Butterfield. An advance look at some of this new work ran at Victoria’s Winchester Galleries back in January 2017 as the exhibit “En Trance.”

But even though she’s retired, Meigs will still remain part of UVic’s Fine Arts community. Now a Professor Emeritus, she believes the university is home to some of Canada’s foremost artists—but is missing one crucial component.

“The University of Victoria should be proud of its Faculty of Fine Arts, but the Visual Arts department is in need of a real, on-campus contemporary art gallery to pursue our creative research and teaching,” she says. “UVic is one of the few universities in Canada that does not have its own contemporary art gallery. Our recitals and concerts at the School of Music are renown, and performances at the Phoenix Theatre are a magnet for the public—whereas Visual Arts has no such venue on campus to showcase its research and teaching.”

Meigs is the fifth Fine Arts professor to be named a Fellow, joining colleagues Harald Krebs (Music), Mary Kerr (Theatre), Joan MacLeod (Writing) and Tim Lilburn (Writing), as well as RSC College member Dániel Péter Biró (Music) and RSC Medal winner Jack Hodgins (Writing, retired).

The Royal Society of Canada was established in 1883 as Canada’s national academy for distinguished scholars, artists and scientists. Its primary objective is to promote learning and research in the arts, humanities, and natural and social sciences. The society has named 72 current, former and adjunct UVic faculty members as fellows over the years.

“Imagination and play, the exchange of ideas and forms, and a sense of wonder and discovery are some of the aspects of academia that inspire,” she says. “I’d be interested in generating a project with an RSC fellow from any other area. Projects are best born when there’s no expected outcome, when there’s just a spark of creative impulse. It just takes making a connection.”

 

A summer of Visual Arts

It’s been a busy summer for Visual Arts faculty, students and alumni — thanks to a number of new projects, installations and exhibits happening locally, nationally and internationally. Here’s a quick roundup:

Daniel Laskarin with his in-process sculpture

Professor Daniel Laskarin unveiled a new sculpture at Richmond Firehall 3 in July. The new piece, titled to be distinct and to hold together, is the culmination of an $80,000 public commission started in 2015 and sits in front of the new building, housing Cambie Fire Hall No. 3 and the Richmond North Ambulance Station.

Created to resemble a fire tetrahedron, Laskarin’s sculpture is a representation of the four elements necessary for fire: fuel, heat, oxygen and a sustaining chemical reaction. Visitors are invited to interact with the work, pushing to rotate it by hand, which gives it both a literal meaning — in presenting the services named and the community served — as well as a metaphoric meaning — by giving vision to the interlinked and interdependent relationships among Richmond Fire-Rescue, BC Ambulance Service and the broader community. You can watch it spin in this video.

Visual Arts professor Cedric Bomford is having a busy summer out of town, with work in the California Pacific Triennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, running until September. This thought-provoking exhibition offers a survey of contemporary art in and around the Pacific Rim, exploring the topic of architecture and the temporal precariousness of the built environment. Among the issues to be addressed are the recording of history and preservation; the concept of home and displacement; and the influence of global power, economics, and political systems on global construction. And, along with his brother Nathan and father Jim, Cedric also has a project opening as part of Endless Landscape in Gatineau, Quebec, running until August 30.

Kelly Richardson

Kelly Richardson, our new digital/extended media professor, is hitting the ground running with a pair of summer exhibits: the Bonavista Biennale in Newfoundland and the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, England. The group exhibit at the Towner features art from 12 leading international artists, including Richardson, who has been living and working at Newcastle University since 2003.

Timed for the Canada 150 celebrations, the Bonavista Biennale is a contemporary visual art exhibition and running August 17 – September 17. Organized by curators Catherine Beaudette and Patricia Grattan, it will present works by 25 leading Canadian artists in non-gallery sites (micro-brewery, fishstore, old schoolhouse, seal plant, beach, etc) and promises a unique encounter with this spectacular area where history and traditional culture combine. It’s already gaining attention as one of Canadian Art magazine’s “20 show we want to see in 2017”.

There was a good deal of media interest in the latest site- and temporally-specific performance piece by department chair Paul Walde: his Tom Thomson Centennial Swim on July 8 resulted in 10 unique interviews, ranging from a full-page piece on page A3 of the Toronto Star to six different CBC Radio shows and the Times Colonist. “Landscape painting is about beauty,” Walde told the Star‘s Murray Whyte. “But the landscape is dangerous. It doesn’t care if you live or die. That was the very limit of what I could do. For me, to be in the water where he died — that was powerful.”

And professor Megan Dickie has a new publication hot off the press: One Way or Another looks at Dickie’s exhibition of the same title that ran at Open Space from January 13-February 18, 2017. The publication features essays by exhibit curator Megan K. Quigley, writer Kyra Korodoski and MFA alumna artist Kerri Flannigan.

Kerry Flannigan in action

Speaking of Kerri Flannigan, the recent MFA alumna will be spending the next eight months in residence at Victoria’s venerable Open Space, which has provided a vital interdisciplinary gallery and performance space for over 45 years now. Flannigan’s residency will include research and production investigating social media and storytelling, relating to early digital telecommunications. A Victoria-based interdisciplinary artist and writer who explores methods of experimental narrative and documentary, her work is grounded in both personal history and in-depth research; recent pieces examined family mythologies, coming-of-age confessions, body language and swimming pools.

Modeling the collaboratory projects that Open Space engaged in the late ‘70s, Flannigan’s project employs archival research, DIY skill sharing, and collaborative production, and will culminate in a series of public workshops and performances. She will be focusing on slow-scan, and will work with artist Patrick Lichty, as well as former Open Space directors/artists Peggy Cady and Bill Bartlett. As one of the oldest artist-run centres in Canada, Open Space has played a significant role in the development of contemporary art in Canada. In addition to hosting thousands of artists over the years; it also publishes, manages a resource centre, maintains archives, and manages a commercial lease for the lower level of its building.

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

In other Visual Arts alumni news, recent MFA Lindsay Delaronde — now Indigenous Artist in Residence for the city of Victoria — presented the powerful dance performance piece AChoRd. A great example of how reconciliation can — and should — involve the arts, AChoRd was performed on June 25 in front of the BC Legislature as part of Victoria’s Canada150 celebrations.

As Emilee Gilpin writes in this fantastic Tyee article, “the performance, called ‘ACHoRd,’ was not a regular dance but the result of weeks of storytelling, healing and transformation. The group, comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous women, explored the theme of reconciliation by listening to and learning from one another, creating movements and strategies of support.” To get more of a sense of the creation, intent and impact of the event, be sure to read Gilpin’s piece, which also features exceptionally strong photography by Peruzzo.

Another recent Visual Arts MFA alumna with work on view this summer is Kwakwaka’wakw artist Marianne Nicolson. Her video installation There’s Blood in the Rocks — running until September 16 at the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown — uses pictographic imagery and song in a quiet but powerful video installation that tells the often-silenced history of the 1862 small pox epidemic in Victoria, which utterly devastated thousands of West Coast First Nations people. With this piece, Nicolson acknowledges the loss of her ancestors while affirming continued Indigenous presence in the land and the strength, endurance and resurgence of First Nations peoples over time.

“Forestrial Brain” in process (photo:
Yannick Grandmont)

Visual Arts alumni Jim Holyoak and Matt Shane have spent the past two months working on the collaborative drawing installation Forestrial Brain at Open Space — the culmination of an eight-day hike on the West Coast Trail, followed by a six-week residency at Open Space. The enormous, immersive drawn installation explores west coast forests and ecologies, steeped in fantasy and imagination. This shared world is one at the borderlands of wilderness and civilization, the real and the imaginary, deep time and the present,” says Shane. To mark their achievement, Open Space is holding a finissage (closing reception) for Forestrial Brain during the Integrate Arts Festival: 7pm Friday, August 25, with music to follow. Read more about what Times Colonist art critic Robert Amos calls “the biggest, most complex and engaging artistic creation I can ever remember in that space” in this article.

Shane an Holyoak are just two of many Visual Arts alumni involved in the 11th annual Integrate Arts Festival, running August 25-27 in a number of venues and galleries around Victoria. Watch for work by Colton Hash, Laura Gildner, Leah McInnis, Maddy Knott, Marianne Nicolson, Elizabeth Charters and Xiao Xue. And don’t miss Laura Gildner’s “Public Displays of Affection” walking tour (1-2pm Sat, Aug 26), a participant-driven performance work touring between selected exhibits in the downtown core. 

In award news, 2017 BFA grad Xiao Xue continues to make headlines with her remarkable walking camper project, titled “something to ponder on” — which will also be on view during the Integrate Arts Festival in downtown’s Bastion Square. As well as being singled out as an outstanding undergrad in this UVic News article, she won the top prize in June’s Rainhouse Technology Challenge—beating out prototype drones, satellites and submarines. “Xiao’s work shows a unique blending of art and technology. It’s a remarkable application of imagination,” said Rainhouse’s Ray Brougham in this Victoria News article. Xiao was also interviewed on CBC Radio’s On The Island on July 12, and was featured in this CHEK TV news segment on July 13.

Xiao Xue with her walking camper

Breaking news! Xue has just been confirmed as the national prize winner in 2017’s BMO 1st Art invitational competition. Not only does she win $15,000, but her work will be featured as part of a special exhibition at the University of Toronto’s Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, running from November 16 to December 16, 2017 (alas, it will only feature a video and documentation of her work, and not the actual camper itself), as well as in a special spread in Canadian Art magazine.

And 2017 BFA grad James Fermor has also been named the BC provincial winner in the same competition, earning him $7,500. His work will also appear in the same Toronto exhibit.

Finally, current third-year student Cassidy Luteijn made the news this summer as one of the finalists for a Canada 150 condom wrapper design contest. Her uniquely “Canadian” imagery includes a sexy beaver and a moose with underwear draped on its antlers. The story has been reported by the Martlet, CBC Radio, the Huffington Post and others.

 

 

 

 

Maestro Timothy Vernon becomes Honorary Doctor of Music

When this year’s group of graduating Fine Arts students cross the stage of UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium on June 13, they’ll find themselves in the presence of a true master — or maestro — as Timothy Vernon will also be receiving an Honorary Doctor of Music (DMus) on the same day.

Maestro Timothy Vernon

The founding artistic director of Pacific Opera Victoria, Maestro Vernon has earned the admiration of audiences by virtue of his artistic vision and fashioned POV into one of the city’s true cultural treasures. Renowned for the quality of its often challenging productions and for bold programming that can range from Handel to contemporary works, Pacific Opera Victoria has proven itself as arguably the most successful, innovative and progressive arts organization in the country — primarily thanks to Timothy Vernon.

“Timothy is an active community leader, volunteer, and an inspiration to aspiring students and professional musicians,” says Dr. Susan Lewis, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “He has conducted for opera companies and orchestras across Canada and is deeply committed to the careers of emerging Canadian artists.

Vernon’s leadership and dedication to the Victoria arts community — and beyond — is well known. As the founding Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Victoria, he has led most of POV’s more than 100 productions since the company’s inception in 1979, including at least three world premieres and numerous Canadian premieres. He has conducted for opera companies and orchestras across Canada, served as Conductor Laureate for Orchestra London (Ontario) and has been a leader in education with his tenure at McGill University and his role as artistic director of the Courtenay Youth Music Centre.

Vernon receiving his Honorary Doctor on June 13. (Photo: Darren Stone, Times Colonist)

Inspiring graduates

In his address to graduating students on June 13, Vernon admitted that he was worried about the future of opera and how its “quiet voice” is in danger of being drowned out — particularly with the disappearance of music programs in the public school system.

“How do we find the faith in this elusive thing that is art, in the face of an apparently indifferent and hostile world?” he asked. Citing a POV rehearsal for La Traviata on September 11, 2001 — the day of the 9/11 attacks in the USA — Vernon spoke of the inspirational realization that came from that terrible day.

“We asked ourselves, what were we doing here making opera in the face of these horrific events? But from that low point came a discovery: that real artists fight. The real way of dealing with the demons within is to invoke the angels of our better natures — and who better than our great creators in all of our arts and traditions and histories? Even reading a page from one of Mozart’s masterpieces offers a glimpse of perfection . . . every performer understands that. Can the world ever have enough of beauty, truth, depth and grandeur? Never, we decided, should we apologize for pursuing a life in the arts; it needs no defense. It is essential for the spiritual heath of society, as in the individual . . . fashion may change, but the truth of the achievement of great art remains relevant.”

School of Music voice professor Benjamin Butterfield has a long history performing with Vernon and POV, and was quick to laud the maestro. “No one deserves greater recognition for their achievements,” he says. “Timothy is a role model to so many, crossing all generations. His unflagging enthusiasm for everything and anything, his integrity towards all he involves himself in and his inexhaustible desire to learn makes him a crucial member of this community. He is eternally young at heart — and yet, at the same time, he can engage about anything with anyone by drawing on his wealth of experience, knowledge and diverse personal interests. It is not only his enthusiasm about life but his understanding of what is important that keeps him firmly embedded in the conscience of this community.”

Timothy Vernon with Benjamin Butterfield at the special reception following Convocation (photo: Kristy Farkas)

In recognition of his work in expanding professional opera in Canada and his commitment to young musicians, Vernon was presented with the Order of Canada in 2008, and is also the recipient of The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, among numerous other honours.

A life lived in music

Raised in Victoria, Vernon studied conducting as a teenager at the Victoria School (now Conservatory) of Music and, at just 14, held appointments as organist and choirmaster in local churches. He went on to study in Europe at the Vienna Academy of Music and Salzburg’s Mozarteum, as well as in Nice, Sienna and the Netherlands, before returning to Canada in 1975 to become conductor and music director of the Regina Symphony Orchestra. In addition to beginning his work as POV’s artistic director in 1980, he began teaching at McGill University’s Faculty of Music in 1986, where he also served as conductor of the McGill Symphony Orchestra and associate director of Opera McGill.

Butterfield fondly recalls participating in Mahler’s 2nd Symphony under Vernon’s leadership while both were at McGill. “That concert remains for many one of the greatest experiences of their lives; Timothy’s knowledge and love of the piece was beyond comprehension — he taught everyone, through that one event, how to love what they do. The fiery ease with which Timothy brought the orchestra and choir to life is still talked about in musical circles. Timothy stood tall that day — as tall as any true leader.”

School of Music chair Christopher Butterfield with Fine Arts Dean Susan Lewis and Timothy Vernon (photo: Kristy Farkas)

Most recently, Vernon was appointed artistic director of Opera Lyra Ottawa in 2015, but it is his continuing work with Pacific Opera Victoria for which he is best loved locally. And given the long history the School of Music’s has with POV — where numerous students, graduates and faculty in the voice program continue to perform — Maestro Vernon is an ideal choice to receive this latest award.

“Timothy has always thrived on sharing his talents, knowledge and wisdom with students,” concludes Butterfield. “He is witty, clever, well-read, well-spoken and a man of great integrity, and has much to offer through his decades of experience in music and in the world. UVic has done a good thing in acknowledging Maestro Vernon with this Honorary Degree. Our arts community is better for it.”

Music research leads to REACH Award

She has helped uncover the forgotten works of suppressed composers and played alongside the likes of the National Orchestra of Taiwan and the Moody Blues. Now, the research and creative practice of School of Music flute professor and music scholar Suzanne Snizek is receiving renewed attention with the news that she is among the 10 recipients of UVic’s inaugural REACH Awards.

Music professor Suzanne Snizek (UVic Photo Services)

“This is a tremendous honour,” says Snizek. “I am very thankful to my colleagues who took the time to nominate me, and happy that my work has been recognized in this way.”

Combining the Teaching Excellence Awards with the Craigdarroch Research Awards, the REACH Awards celebrate the extraordinary teachers and researchers who lead the way in dynamic learning and make a vital impact at UVic, in the classroom and beyond.

“The REACH Awards mark a new era of recognition for our university,” says UVic president Jamie Cassels. “By honouring research and teaching together, we acknowledge how they’re inextricably linked for the betterment of our students, our university, our partners and collaborators, and society at large.”

Snizek, who received the Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression on May 25 at an evening ceremony at the Royal British Columbia Museum, is an expert in “suppressed music” — classical music silenced under the Nazi regime because of the composers’ ideologies, aesthetic or Jewish heritage. Many of these works are exceptional, but are rarely performed to this day.

“If it’s a good piece of music, it should be played,” says Snizek, who was delighted when one of her music students picked two suppressed pieces for an end-of-year recital. “One of the challenges for this music is that it gets ghettoized again as ‘suppressed music.’ So I’m trying to present it on its own terms, and include it in my teaching here so students can encounter this music for themselves.”

You can listen to some samples of Snizek playing suppressed music here.

Indeed, Snizek has dedicated much of her academic career to bringing this suppressed music back to life. Through audio recordings, publications, performances and lectures around the world, she’s part of a global effort to bring these forgotten treasures back into our musical and historical consciousness, and to remind us what can happen when the rights to free speech and artistic expression are violated.

Snizek’s research was originally inspired by the illegal detentions at Guantanamo Bay in the early 2000s. “The inherent cruelty and injustice of ‘indefinite detention’ has always been particularly unacceptable to me and so was a natural starting point for my research.” Unfortunately, she says she isn’t shocked that issues of personal and artistic suppression are still as relevant today as in the World War II era.

“It doesn’t at all surprise me, but it does concern me,” she admits. “None of this is just dry history, it all has a very real human impact: in generations of family trauma, in artistic production — or lack thereof. In 1940, the war was going quite badly for the Allies, and many felt the world was at the point of coming to an end . . . just listening to the news today can generate empathy for their despair.”

Research aside, she has also been pleased with student response to this body of work. While awareness of history and context differs greatly according to the individual — “I had one student who told me he knew nothing about the Holocaust . . . [as well as] participants in UVic’s I-Witness Holocaust Field School” — Snizek says there has been a great deal of interest in discovering a previously unknown potential repertoire.

Given her international academic and performance background, she also credits the School of Music with nurturing “a healthy, supportive atmosphere” among its students. “The sense of nurturance and the personal attention students receive in our Music department is quite unique. I think we do an exceptionally good job in that area.”

As both a flute performer and music scholar, she says there’s no denying the global impact of a small group of people can make with this kind of work. “There is growing interest in ‘recovering’ these composers, and attitudes have markedly improved even since 2005. People are far more aware now,” she says.

“In the Netherlands, for example, just two musician-researchers managed to recover a large number of excellent musical works and were also successful in disseminating them through recordings, live performances and by making the scores accessible to other musicians. And there are similar centres in Los Angeles and London that have developed strong platforms and networks for promoting these works.”

Snizek has also experienced the emotional impact of her work first-hand. “When I first played through Hans Gál’s Huyton Suite, which had been written during his internment in 1940, it was rather intense,” she admits. “I had closely read his internment diary, met and interviewed his daughter and stayed for a couple of weeks on the Isle of Man where he had been interned . . . so I was coming at this piece of music from a deeply experiential level.”

Learn more about Snizek and her students via her Flute Studio Blog.

Composer uses major award to explore global migration

Internationally recognized composer and School of Music Associate Professor Dániel Péter Biró can now add one of North America’s most prestigious awards to his list of honours — the Guggenheim Fellowship. And he’ll be using the one-year award worth $50,000 US to reflect on one of the most important issues of today: global migration.

2017 Guggenheim Fellow Dániel Péter Biró (UVic Photo Services)

“I am happy and honoured to be awarded this prestigious fellowship,” says Biró. “I am also extremely grateful to have time to work on the proposed composition cycle.”

Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. Scores of Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and eminent scientists are past Guggenheim fellows, including Henry Kissinger, Linus Pauling and Ansel Adams.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced this year’s recipients in its 93rd annual competition for the US and Canada on April 7. Biró is among a diverse group of 173 scholars, artists and scientists selected from a field of almost 3,000 applicants. The seventh UVic scholar to be awarded a Guggenheim, he’s the second from UVic to receive the honour in the creative arts category.

Listen to this interview with Biró on CBC Radio One’s North by Northwest show.

New work explores concepts of space and place

During the Fellowship period, Biró will work on a large-scale musical composition cycle based on Baruch Spinoza‘s philosophical work, Ethica.

“Exploring concepts of ‘space and place,’ the proposed composition will deal with questions of one’s place in the global world and how music informs and influences our perception of our place in this world,” he explains. “Looking at musical creation as an analogy to the movement of the immigrant — who discovers, remembers, forgets and rediscovers places on his voyage — the composition will investigate relationships to historical space, space of immigration and disembodied space.”

The cycle, also titled Ethica, will be scored for voices, ensemble and electronics and use text from Spinoza’s philosophical work.

The project is inspired by Biró’s time as a visiting professor in the computing and information sciences department of Netherland’s Utrecht University in 2011, where he was living not far from Spinoza’s burial site in The Hague. While one of the greatest philosophers of the 17th century, Spinoza was banned from the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam because of his views — which, says Biró, proved too radical for the time.

“In his philosophical treatise Ethics, Spinoza attempted to present a new type of theology, one that was autonomous from organized religion, such as that of his own Portuguese Jewish community,” he explains. “I would like to create a composition that explores historical dichotomies between religious and secular thinking from the perspective of modern-day globalized existence.”

Unforgettable inspirations

Biró with other Fellows at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute in 2014 (photo: Ben Miller)

During the 2016/17 academic year, Biró was an artist-in-residence with UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society; in 2015, he was made a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, and was awarded a 2014 Fellowship at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and has received numerous other international prizes and commissions. All of these experiences simply inspire him to rethink and finish years of compositional research.

“My year at the Radcliffe Institute was unforgettable, as I was in dialogue with 49 other scholars for a year from every possible discipline,” he says. “The community at Harvard showed great interest and support for my work and I was grateful to experience the collegial environment.”

As a new Canadian, Biró was also honoured to become a member of the Royal Society of Canada, and was pleased that the organizers celebrated their 2015 gala featuring 600 star academics from all over Canada with two compositions—including one by himself, and one by McGill composer Philippe Leroux.

“It was a good moment for the field of contemporary music in Canada, with the Royal Society proudly acknowledging music composition as an important field of creative research for Canadian society,” Biró says. “Upon hearing my composition for bass flute and electronics, the scientists of the Royal Society had many questions about my practice of notation and use of space in my work.”

Creating complete musicians

A valued asset to both UVic and the School of Music itself, Biró hopes his Guggenheim Fellowship will enhance the School’s already very strong reputation — a nice addition to their 50th anniversary year coming up in 2017/18.

“The School of Music is proud to congratulate Dr. Biró on being awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship,” says School of Music director Christopher Butterfield. “As well as being an internationally acclaimed composer, Dániel is widely recognized for his scholarship on Jewish, Islamic and Christian chant traditions. Since coming to UVic in 2004, he has composed a body of music work notable for its aesthetic rigour and integration of elements from various chant traditions.”

Biró with School of Music students

Biró see his work in combining historical music research with modern creation, as well as contemporary music performance with music technology, as being perfectly in sync with the School’s goal to produce “complete musicians.”

This past term, for example, Biró taught music composition, contemporary music performance, the theory and analysis of 20th and 21st century music, and a graduate seminar in Jewish, Early Christian and Islamic notation practices—all of which he will be teaching again as part of the European/Canadian summer course Narratives of Memory, Migration, Xenophobia and European Identity: Intercultural Dialogues in Hungary, Germany, France and Canada. They also dovetail with his role since 2011 as the managing director of the local SALT New Music Festival and Symposium.

“My ability to conduct research in these areas gives me expertise that I can pass on to my students, allowing them a more comprehensive music education,” he says. “I am grateful to be able to integrate teaching and research at the University of Victoria and am hopeful that this Fellowship will allow the School of Music future opportunities to enhance and integrate music creation, history, technology and performance research, making it a destination for researchers from around the world.”

On cultivating obsessions

Finally, considering the Guggenheim Fellowships are often characterized as “midcareer” awards, what does he see in his immediate future?

“My last composition cycle — completed at the Radcliffe Institute — took me 13 years to complete,” Biró says. “As I tell my composition students, one has to ‘cultivate obsessions’ as a composer. I am hopeful that this next obsession might allow me to discover new universes of musical expression and compositional possibilities in the years to come.”

UVic’s past Guggenheim fellows are sculptor and Visual Arts professor emeritus Mowry Baden (2014), climatologist Andrew Weaver (2008), astrophysicist Julio Navarro (2003), English professor Anthony Edwards (1988), ocean physicist Chris Garrett (1981) and biologist Job Kuijt (1964).

MFA Lindsay Delaronde named Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence

The city’s visual arts scene became even more inclusive with the March 8 news that Lindsay Delaronde has been named Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence.

Visual Arts alumna Lindsay Delaronde (photo: PRZ)

Delaronde, an Iroquois Mohawk woman born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation outside of Montreal, is also a multi‐disciplinary Visual Arts MFA alumna (2010) and has been a professional practicing artist for the past five years. In 2015, she was one of three artists-in-residence at the Royal BC Museum (along with fellow Visual Arts alumnus Gareth Gaudin); her work was in the spotlight with her 2016-17 exhibit In Defiance at UVic’s Legacy Gallery, and she was also a featured speaker at UVic’s Diversity Research Forum in January 2017.

“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 says. “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.”

Delaronde began making art at a young age, practicing traditional forms of art making such as beadwork and cultural crafts. She began her journey to become a professional artist by travelling to the West Coast and obtaining her BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design.

She creates work directly related to being an Indigenous woman in contemporary mainstream society, and has worked in mediums ranging from printmaking (including silkscreen printing and photos transfers) to painting, drawing and video — all with the motivation to expand the evolution of Indigenous peoples and their histories. Her intention is to construct Indigenous perspectives within Western society to bring forth truth and reconciliation through the act of creation and visual understanding.

For her one-year term as Indigenous Artist in Residence, Delaronde will work with the community and City staff to produce a range of artistic works; she will also have an opportunity to create collaborative artwork with the City’s Artist in Residence, Luke Ramsey, who was appointed in fall 2016. She will work 20 hours per week as an independent contractor (March 2017 to March 2018) for a total fee of $42,000, funded by the City’s Art in Public Places Reserve Fund. Artwork materials, fabrication and installation may be funded by a capital project’s budget, with up to $30,000 from the Art in Public Places Reserve Fund.

Lindsay Delaronde running a corn doll workshop at Legacy Gallery in 2016 (photo: Corina Fischer)

“My goal and my purpose for the residency is really to pave the way for young emerging indigenous artists and youth, and help them understand that anything is possible,” Delaronde said in this Victoria News interview.  “Everyone can stop and take a look at how art has helped them in their lives or how creativity has help someone through something or see something differently or be inspired by art . . . We all have these experiences so one thing that’s important is really helping people to personalize their own relationship to artwork and artwork in the city and what that means.”

One of six artists who applied for the position — which was open to First Nations, Inuit and Métis artists and artist teams working in any artistic discipline who reside in the Capital Region, including the Gulf Islands — submissions were evaluated based on artistic excellence, written interest, and knowledge and understanding of the cultural heritage and legacy of the area. Experience with community engagement and a desire to create artwork for and in the public realm were required.

’Namgis nation chief Rande Cook — a member of the City’s Art in Public Places Committee, and the current Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest for the department of Visual Arts — feels Delaronde is a good fit for what the City of Victoria has declared the Year of Reconciliation. “At a time where love, respect, unity and art come together, let’s all follow in the path as Lindsay paints and creates towards a brighter future,” he says. “Reconciliation is an act we as people must feel from within before we can dance unified to the heart of Mother Earth.”

Delaronde speaking at the 2017 Diversity Research Forum

Delaronde also recently completed her second Master’s degree at UVic, in Indigenous Communities Counselling Psychology. As she recounted in this Focus magazine interview, having experienced domestic violence and trauma in her youth, Delaronde has always turned to art-making for solace; realizing how an art practice helped her in her own healing, she has been finding points of cohesion. “As time went on, I was really interested in narrative therapy, person-centred therapy . . .  We don’t heal in isolation. Our worldview is about coming together and doing ceremonies so we could be visible; we could be seen. We could be part of community. The individual healing is the group healing—one is the other.”

She is already planning a multidisciplinary performative piece, titled A CHoRD, to take place at Victoria’s Legislature on June 25, 2017. Co-created with local choreographer Monique Salez  to enact a new accord reflecting the potential for a rallying point between cultures, politics, ages, and herstories, A CHoRD will “appropriate the colonial legislative system to dismantle existing hypocrisies and injustices while proposing new partnerships with an eye toward the potential for a contemporary and inclusive recreation where women’s voices, bodies and politics are reclaimed.”

Street art performance by Lindsay Delaronde (photo: Michael Tessel)

Want to get involved? Performers and activated audience members are needed, and you can find out more at an informational meet & greet, 3 to 5pm Sunday, March 19, at Raino Dance, 715 Yates (3rd floor).

You can also see footage of Delaronde’s 2015 Unceded Voices interactive street art performance piece here. “I dressed Iroquois regalia approaching local Montrealers and asking if they knew what First Nations territory they were on?” she said at the time. “What do they know of Kahnawake and Mohawk people? Interesting and upsetting responses in relation the lack of knowledge people have. So I did an acknowledgment of territory and educated them on who we are as Onkwehonwe people.”

We’ll  be excited to see the impact — both immediate and long-term — this extraordinary Fine Arts graduate has on Victoria during her year of residency.