Writing MFA Kim Harvey wins GG Award for Drama

On June 1, Syilx & Tsilhqot’in playwright & director Kim Senklip Harvey became the first Indigenous woman to win the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama for her play Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story (Talon Books)—less than a week after receiving her MFA in Writing from UVic.

“I am delighted and energized to learn that Kim has received the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama,” says Acting Dean of Fine Arts, Allana Lindgren. “Kamloopa ​resonates—particularly at this moment—with courage and hope. I deeply admire Kim’s artistic voice and look forward to following her promising career.”

Amplification of power

“It’s always been about the amplification, it’s always been about the fact that I just want people to read a play with characters of women who are full and funny and sexy and particularly brave and courageous in figuring out what it means to be Indigenous in this era,” says Harvey in her acceptance speech.

“I wrote Kamloopa to ignite the power that was within Indigenous people . . . to ignite journeys with Indigenous women that allow us to be exactly who we are in all of fullness and all of our fallibility and all of our fucking brilliance.”

Brilliant & irreverent

“Brilliance” is also a word the Governor General’s jury panel— Catherine Banks, Andrew Moodie and Kenneth T. Williams—used to describe Harvey’s work in their citation.

“The brilliance, the irreverence, the fire of Kamloopa sweeps us into the world of three Indigenous women on a mind-bending quest. The audience is seduced by the love, humour and depth of these matriarchs as they embrace and celebrate who they are in the world and with each other. A play that will encourage you to re-evaluate your relationship with Canada.”

Kamloopa had its world premiere in 2018 with a three-city tour under Harvey’s own direction. Kamloopa was subsequently nominated for eight Jessie Richardson awards, winning the 2019 Jessie for “Significant Artistic Achievement for Decolonizing Theatre Practices and Spaces”. Kamloopa was also the first Indigenous play in the history of the Jessies to win Best Production and was the 2019 recipient of the Sydney J Risk Prize for most outstanding emerging playwright. Kamloopa was published by Talonbooks in the fall of 2019.

Indigenous theorist

An Indigenous theorist, cultural evolutionist and an award-winning writer and director whose work focuses on igniting Indigenous power by creating comedic and joy-centered narratives that nourish her people’s spirits, Harvey also hosts a podcast that explores these same topics: The Indigenous Cultural Evolutionist.

She has worked across Turtle Island as a performer (highlights include the national tour of Where the Blood Mixes and the world premiere of Children of God at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa) and has participated in the Banff Residency  “Writing in a Racialized Canada”, which brought together Canada’s most exciting emerging BIPOC writers. She was then appointed as one of two artists to take part in the National Theatre School’s inaugural Artistic Leadership Program, which aims to steward in the next generation of artists to lead the major artistic institutions in this country, and participated in the Rumble Directors Lab as well as the Banff Playwrights Lab.

Harvey continues to work on innovating new methodologies for engaging and creating Indigenous stories that honours the multi-dimensionality of having our ancestors tell stories with us. She is the innovator for the Fire Creation Methodology and Salish Plateau Earthing.

Media coverage

Harvey’s GG win has been attracting a fair bit of attention, with her speaking to CBC Radio’s As It Happens in this June 1 interview. As she says to host Carol Off, her award-winning play Kamloopa shows “the power and perseverance and tenacity” of Indigenous Peoples.

“Our plight and pain is often what the narratives are structured around, but that’s not my life,” she says.

Her win was also covered in these articles by CBC Books, Vancouver Sun, Quill & Quire, Georgia Straight and others.

“I think something quite mystical is happening right now, with [fellow Governor General’s Literary Award winner] Michelle Good being from Kamloops and Kamloopa winning,” Harvey told the Vancouver Sun. “I believe this is the time to bring attention to Indigenous peoples’ lives and our stories. And to celebrate the resistance and the continued living of Indigenous peoples.”

Next steps

Harvey is currently working on the development of two television series: her Salish love story, On the Plateau, and the adaptation of her play, Kamloopa. She is also completing her first prose and poetry book, Interiors: A Collection of NDN Dirtbag Love Stories, and is in pre-production to film a musical feature of her next artistic ceremony, Break Horizons: A Rocking Indigenous Justice Ceremony.

She will also be starting her PhD at UVic Law in the fall of 2021.

“Everyone in the Faculty of Fine Arts is incredibly proud of Kim,” says Acting Dean Allana Lindgren. “Watch out! I am confident that this young woman is going to shake up theatre and society with her wise words.”

 

Congratulations to spring 2021 grads!

Congratulations, Class of 2021—you made it!

You are now one of over 9000 Fine Arts alumni worldwide who studied at UVic—and have the distinction of graduating during the most difficult year in our history.

“As part of an esteemed group of artists and creative thinkers, you are poised to embrace the adventures that lie ahead,” says Dr. Allana Lindgren, Acting Dean of Fine Arts in her message to new alumni. “Believe in yourself. You are ready.”

Virtual grad experience

While we are still unable to gather in person for convocation, UVic and Fine Arts remain proud of the resilience you have shown in these ever-changing times. To mark the occasion, UVic has created a virtual graduation experience, where the university community can join in the celebration of your great achievement.

This video includes messages from your fellow graduates, including Art History & Visual Studies student Saad Salman. “We have learned so much and really gone through so much upheaval and stress with the global pandemic,” he says, “but it means we’re really ready to take on the world and whatever it throws at us.”

And remember, even though you may be experiencing this virtual version of graduation now, you’re invited to return to any UVic convocation in the next three years so that you can cross the stage in style.

Fine Arts grad site

Fine Arts has also created our own convocation page, filled with video messages from the Acting Dean, faculty members from each department, the announcement of the annual Victoria Medal winner for the highest GPA in Fine Arts . . . and a few fun extras.

“As you pursue new opportunities, remember that you will always be a valued member of the Faculty of Fine Arts,” says Dr. Lindren. “Please know that we are all very proud to call you a UVic Fine Arts grad!”

Congratulations once again!

 

New $1000 student award launched

New community impact award

Are you a current or graduating UVic Fine Arts undergraduate who’s been involved with some community-engaged creative activity in Greater Victoria between Jan 1/20 & May 31/21? If so, you could qualify for $1,000 via our new Community Impact Award!

The first annual Fine Arts Student Community Impact Award will be awarded in Fall 2021 to undergraduate students who have demonstrated an outstanding effort in a community-engaged creative activity in Greater Victoria. Student recipients are eligible to receive funding of $1,000 or more.

“This award is particularly exciting because, for over 50 years, the Faculty of Fine Arts has been an incubator for young artists, arts administrators, volunteers and audience members,” says Acting Dean of Fine Arts, Dr. Allana Lindgren. “We felt it was time we recognize the work and contributions that our students make in the local community—and to thank the local arts community for helping to foster and mentor our students over the years.”

Eligibility criteria

Entering, graduating, transferring, or continuing undergraduate students of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts are eligible for the award at this time. Activity must have occurred between January 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021.

For the purpose of this award, “community-engaged creative activity” may include (but is not limited to) any exhibit, performance, workshop, literary, curatorial, educational, digital, production and/or administrative role within the regional boundaries of Greater Victoria (Sidney to Sooke).

Submission deadline

A completed submission package—including the submission form and all supporting materials—must be received by 5:00pm Monday, May 31, 2021. 

Submissions and relevant support material must be uploaded here.

Requirements

The following elements will be required in order to submit your award application.

  1. A description of the community-engaged creative activity (maximum 500 words), including a title page with applicants contact information.
  2. A letter from an individual or organization demonstrating how the student was involved in the community-engaged creative activity (maximum 300 words).
  3. Two letters of endorsement of the project (maximum two pages and from different people than #1. The letters must be written by people who are not related to the nominee).
  4. A resume, CV or portfolio encapsulating the student’s work.

Selection criteria

Nominations will be evaluated on the quality of experience, recognition and dedication to creative practice including contributions to, engagement with, and impact on the local arts community.

  • Nominations can be made by any individual or organization in Greater Victoria.
  • Students can nominate themselves for the award.
  • Neither the nominator nor the letters of endorsement can be from a relative of the nominee.
  • Students are only able to receive the award once, but can submit multiple nominations.
  • All nominations will be screened for basic eligibility. If a nomination is incomplete or deemed ineligible, it will not be advanced to the jury.

Selection process

The Fine Arts Student Community Impact Award recipients will be chosen by a jury representing the five disciplines of Fine Arts convened annually by the Dean of the UVic Faculty of Fine Arts, based on the criteria for the award.

The fine print

Approval of the recipient will be made by the Senate Committee on Awards upon the recommendation of the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. The Award will be presented annually as part of the annual Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards (or another suitable event) as determined by the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and the Dean’s External Advisory Committee.

Questions?

Contact us at fineartsawards@uvic.ca.

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.