Annual Visual Arts BFA exhibit spotlights work created under COVID conditions

Even during a normal year, it can be a challenge for our Visual Arts students to complete their degree requirements and present a finished body of creative work while also planning the annual BFA grad show—a student-organized public exhibition which normally attracts hundreds to campus.

This year, however, graduating students have had to grapple with both creating work under strict COVID conditions and the uncertainty of whether a physical exhibition would be permitted. The bad news? Less than a month before the exhibit’s opening date, student curators were informed that a public show would not be possible—but the good news is, they’ll be shifting it online for viewing by anyone, anywhere, as the annual BFA graduation exhibition, The End, will run online starting April 27.

 

Graduating Visual Arts student Nick Patterson, exhibition chair for the 2021 BFA exhibition, The End (photo: John Threlfall)

Something new & different

Despite a title like The End, however, don’t assume it’s a doom-and-gloom student reflection on being the pandemic class of 2021. “It’s almost sarcastic calling this The End, but it feels like a specific kind of world has ended,” says exhibition chair Nick Patterson. “We’re passing through the threshold into something new and different.”

Given the uniquely hands-on, often collaborative, nature of their program, Visual Arts was among the few departments permitted to run in-person this past academic year: 46 percent of their classes were offered on-campus from September to April, thanks to rigorous safety protocols.

“People have been working really hard to still make the work they want,” says graduating honours student Zoë Joyall. “There are many [of us] in the graduating class who make installations or performance-based work, which is directly impacted by COVID precautions and regulations. I feel really grateful that we do have the space to come together as a group, as a community . . . people who are doing school entirely on Zoom don’t have the same connections we are lucky enough to have.”

Graduating Visual Arts honours student Zoë Joyall (photo: John Threlfall)

Part of something special 

Patterson agrees. “There are fewer opportunities to work together because of the restrictions, and yet we are still putting forth our best—and that is really inspiring to me,” he says. “There is definitely a feeling that we are part of something special.”

The online exhibition The End will feature work by 30 graduating students, ranging from painting, sculpture, photography and drawing to digital media, installations, multimedia and more. The exhibit is presented in both a remarkably interactive “Google maps” style walk-through of the gallery space, which allows you to not only a 360-degree view of the work but also find out more about each artist, as well as a more conventional catalogue.  

“It has been a privilege and inspiration to see the students rally behind their vision with endless determination and a tremendous sense of community,” says supervising Visual Arts professor Jennifer Stillwell. “Any limitations have only inspired innovation.”

 

Graduating Visual Arts student Jasper Van Alderwegen, head of curation for the 2021 BFA exhibition, The End(photo: John Threlfall)

Exploration of identities

As with any exhibition, subject matter will vary by individual artist. “I think a lot of the work deals with not just COVID, but working through trauma,” says head of curation Jasper Van Alderwegen. “Identity and mental health are huge themes, [as are] the end of isolation or an exploration of identity.”

Rather than discouraged, recent JCURA recipient and head of documentation Jamie Oosterhuis feels “incredibly inspired” by the work being exhibited in The End. “If you want to feel a sense of creativity and optimism during a time when everything feels very bleak—if you want to feel that connection to others in the arts community—that’s why you should view this show,” she says. “The End of a chapter means a new beginning.”

 

Graduating Visual Arts student and JCURA recipient Jamie Oosterhuis, head of documentation for the 2021 BFA exhibition, The End (photo: John Threlfall)

Next generation work 

That’s a sentiment with which Stillwell agrees.

“Even though the exhibition marks ‘the end’ of their degree program, spotlighting that moment in time will allow them to start the next scene—I am more than confident this next generation of visual artists will do so.”

You can view the full exhibit here via a remarkably interactive website which simulates the experience of walking through the gallery, but the photos below also offer a quick view of some of the work on display. 

 

—with files by Grace Dillon

Phoenix Theatre livestreams Problem Child

Phoenix Theatre is excited to be presenting their only public mainstage production of the 20/21 academic year: George F. Walker’s Problem Child, running at 8pm March 24-27 via their new broadcast-quality livestream. Tickets $15 per household via the Phoenix box office 

Learning livestream technology

During this time when we are not able to have audiences in our theatres, filming and livestreaming the work of our students is one of the only ways we can share our work with you. Thanks to the incredible support from UVic, a generous donor and Phoenix Theatre’s long-time sponsor iA Financial Group, the Theatre department has been able to obtain professional-quality livestream equipment.

Since the arrival of the equipment late last fall, production staff have been busy instructing students in the art of filming, live camera direction, video editing, and other skills, offering our students advantages that will take them into the future of theatre. While livestreaming is a necessity today, there’s no doubt that this technology will continue to be a key part of theatre outreach, even when we are able to return to our seats in the theatre.

Relearning theatre

For instructor and assistant technical director Simon Farrow, this process offered an opportunity to relearn how we create theatre. “True livestreaming for theatre—where the performance is filmed live while you are watching—is challenging,” he says. “We wanted to set the viewer’s expectation of the video production to be as polished as every other element of our Phoenix productions.” (Above, theatre student Jadyn McGregor works the livestream board.)

“A good livestream theatre experience requires all the other elements of the production to contribute as well,” Farrow continues. “The set design needs to offer access for good filming angles. Costumes need to translate over the screen. The lighting needs to be adjusted for camera exposure, the sound design needs to integrate well into the livestream mix and, of course, the actors need to adjust their blocking, already distanced for COVID guidelines, for the camera. All of the students working in these areas are reframing their work to the camera lens, rather than the auditorium.” (Below, Theatre student Brandon Sugden directs the livestream student team,)

About Problem Child

Stuck in a room. Stuck in the system. A desperate mother and her hapless partner are confined to a hotel room while they try to put their delinquent pasts behind them in order to regain custody of their baby. Problem Child is a gritty social comedy by one of Canada’s most prolific and popular playwrights, George F. Walker—best known for his fast-paced social comedies satirizing the woes of contemporary culture under the pressures of capitalism.

As the only public mainstage production this year, this play was chosen by director and Theatre professor Fran Gebhard to offer the fourth-year performance class challenging contemporary roles for their final required credits, all while maintaining physical distancing guidelines. As such, there will be two alternating, four-person casts featuring our fourth-year performance class for their final required credits; all performances will also maintain physical distancing guidelines. See the Problem Child website for cast schedule.

 

Putting it all together

Combining the new technology with the rehearsal process offered a spectacular and a positive learning experience for everyone in the Theatre department—all of which is being applied to Problem Child.

Fran Gebhard

“I’ve been a fan of George Walker’s work for years,” says Gebhard. With a cast of only four, it allowed our graduating students to be featured in two alternating casts, giving everyone complex roles and allowing for distancing on stage. “We rehearsed in facemasks and practised our social distancing to the letter. Our staging and blocking had to adjust to these protocols accordingly,” says Gebhard. “A daunting challenge? Yes! Different? Certainly. But we’ve loved every minute.”

“We’re natural-born theatre-makers,” Gebhard concludes, “and neither hell nor high water, nor even a global pandemic, can stop us from carrying out our work with joy.”

Read more in this Times Colonist article about how Fran Gebhard brought her years of experience in film and television to guide this livestream production.

 

George F. Walker’s Problem Child 
LIVESTREAM PERFORMANCES
March 24, 25, 26 & 27, 2021

TICKETS: $15 per link/household
An easy-to-use, one-click link and password will be sent to you the day of your performance. All tickets come with a no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee (within 24 hours of performance date for a full refund).

Charge by phone at 250-721-8000 at the Phoenix Box Office (no in-person or online sales at this time.)

Orion Series presents Visiting Artist Curtis Santiago

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:

Curtis Santiago

Multidisciplinary artist, musician

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

 

Free & open to the public via Zoom

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

A multidisciplinary approach 

Curtis Talwst Santiago (b. 1979, Edmonton, Alberta) studied as an apprentice of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. Santiago has exhibited internationally at venues such as The Drawing Center, New York, NY; The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY; The New Museum, New York, NY; The Eli and Edythe Broad Museum at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; the Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA; the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan, Canada; The Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada; Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, The Rooms, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada and the SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; among others.

Listen to this November 2020 interview on CBC Radio’s Q, or get a taste of his work in this short trailer from the CBC TV series In The Making.  

 

The artist was included in the inaugural 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art in Toronto, Canada, the SITE Santa Fe SITELines.2018 Biennial, Casa Tomada, in Santa Fe, NM, and was featured in the 2018 Biennale de Dakar in Dakar, Senegal. He is currently an active board member on the Board of Directors for the Drawing Center in New York and has been invited to be an artist in residence this September 2021 at Black Rock Senegal.

His work is in the permanent collection of the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY. Santiago considers himself decentralized and is currently living and working in Munich, Germany.

About the Orion Fund

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

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

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

Orion Series presents Drew Hayden Taylor

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:

Drew Hayden Taylor

Playwright, novelist, filmmaker, journalist

“Canoeing Down the River of Contemporary Storytelling”

12:30 – 1:30 pm (PST) Thursday, April 1, 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 

The changing face of Indigenous literature 

Drew Hayden Taylor is an award-winning playwright, novelist, filmmaker and journalist. Born on the Curve Lake First Nation, he has done everything from performing stand-up comedy at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. to serving as Artistic Director for Canada’s premiere Indigenous theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts.

Having written 20 plays with over 100 productions, Drew is currently working on the second season of his APTN documentary series, GOING NATIVE, as well as finishing up two plays, a novel, and a book of essays on Indigenous futurisms.

In his lecture, Drew will talk about the changing face of Indigenous literature, its origins, its trajectory, and his unexpected journey through it.

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

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

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

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

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

Register here for the free Zoom webinar.

 

About Mercedes

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

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

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

Learning from other cultures

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

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

New IBPoC initiatives

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

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

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

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