In Memoriam: Dr. Anthony Welch

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

Accomplished dean

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

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

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

Remarkable scholar

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

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

Committed to teaching

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

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

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

Tony Welch with AHVS graduate student Fahime Ghorbani in 2015

Reading Break student wellness message

With the Winter 2021 Reading Break now upon us, the faculty and staff of Fine Arts offer this short message as a way to remind our students to pause, breathe and consider their own sense of wellness in a very stressful year. As School of Music professor Adam Con tells us all, “happy body, happy mind—happy mind, happy spirit”.

Students, please take some time to rest and recover this Reading Break.

New Legacy exhibit explores life stories through art

Technology and history may change across cultures and generations, but the human journey remains the same: we’re born, we age, we have relationships, we die. Yet along the way, we are all shaped by the objects which help us navigate life’s stages, passages and rituals—a favourite toy, say, or a wedding dress. This shared experience is at the heart of the new Legacy Gallery exhibit Life Stories, curated by art history & visual studies (AHVS) professor Erin Campbell.

“I like to use the present to interrogate the past,” says Campbell. “This was an extraordinary experiment for me to prove my historical contention that objects and artworks really do shape our life passages. I’ve published a lot of articles about that, and this exhibit gave me the chance to bring that thesis to the wider public.”

 

AHVS professor & Life Stories curator Erin Campbell at her Legacy Gallery exhibition (photo: John Threlfall)

A learning experience

A fixture in the AHVS department for nearly 20 years, Campbell’s research and teaching typically focuses on early modern European art and material culture, including cross-cultural connections and the domestic interior—yet she admits mounting a full gallery exhibit was a learning experience for her.

“Some would say it’s a bit of a risk, because this isn’t about deeply delving into a historical period and bringing forward objects with new research—it’s more about developing a theme and capturing the imagination,” she explains.

 

An ambitious undertaking

Featuring nearly 100 paintings, drawings, photographs, textiles, ceramics and furnishings from UVic’s extension art collection—plus a virtual exhibition, a range of public events (including a special alumni tour on January 27) and one commissioned art piece (“Related Repose” by recent visual arts MFA Elly Heise)—Life Stories is an ambitious undertaking, supported by Campbell’s latest SSHRC grant.

“Because art has the capacity to both fix and layer time—project the past into the present and the future, or the future into the past—we wanted to explore similarities across cultures, across time and across geographies, but we also wanted to avoid sentimentality,” she says.

Indeed, while art and objects may inspire memories and reflection, such imagery can also be a source of cultural stereotypes and result in marginalization, emotional pain and feelings of loss. “It’s important to me that we’re not presenting a monolithic, prescriptive approach to life stages that ‘everyone’ goes through.”

Planning for Life Stories actually began back in 2017, but Campbell and the Legacy team were dealt a surprise plot twist when the exhibit collided with COVID-19. “We had to modify not only when it would open but also the level of visitor engagement with the gallery,” says Campbell.

 

Canadian documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal (left) with a scene from her latest film, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, which is screening for free as part of her Feb 3 event

A range of online events

The exhibit includes a number of online events—including a public conversation between acclaimed Canadian documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal (Anthropocene: The Human Epoch) and local director/producer Barbara Todd Hager (February 3), as well as a series of interpretive performances (February 13, 20, 27) and an artist talk (March 17) with Connie Morey, and a  poetry workshop (March 6) with Carla Funk, both UVic alumni.

There’s also a fascinating set of interdisciplinary thematic films featuring a range of campus voices—including Maureen Bradley (writing), Neena Chappell (Centre on Aging), Aaron Devor (transgender studies), Ulrich Mueller (psychology), Leah Tidey (theatre), Lorilee Wastasecoot (Legacy) and Victoria Wyatt (AHVS)—and a series of soundscapes responding to the exhibit, created by students in Anthropology professor Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier’s “Anthropology of Sound” class.

“Related Reposed”, a piece created by recent Visual Arts MFA Elly Heise using this antique bed from the UVic Art Collection as inspiration

A team effort

While she coordinated the AHVS 50th anniversary exhibit at the McPherson Library’s Legacy Maltwood Gallery in 2017, this is Campbell’s first time curating an exhibit at downtown’s Legacy Gallery and she laughs at the misperception that all art historians are also, by default, curators. “I am not a professional curator,” she says with a gentle laugh. “It’s a totally different skill-set . . . you need to acquire those skills, you can’t just do it.”

Campbell gives ample credit to the work of her Life Stories co-curators, Holly Cecil and current PhD candidate Jaiya Anka—both AHVS MA alumni. “We worked as a team, the three of us—it came out of my research and I funded it out of my grant, but we brainstormed every aspect of this exhibit together,” she notes. “And the support from the Legacy team has been just fantastic. I give full credit to their staff: to have their help and guidance was invaluable—they’re a really great UVic resource.”

Life Stories continues until April 3 at downtown’s Legacy Gallery.

$1.875M gift supports environmental and climate journalism

The threat of climate change is the most perilous of our time—especially at the beginning of this new decade, which has been frequently identified as the most crucial for preventing catastrophic consequences. Now, one concerned individual is personally addressing that threat with an inspiring gift of $1.875 million to the University of Victoria in support of the Wayne Crookes Professorship in Environmental and Climate Journalism.

The donation from Vancouver business leader and political activist Wayne Crookes includes both the $1.5 million professorship and a separate $375,000 fund to focus on environmental and climate journalism research and outreach. The new professor—to be appointed later this year within UVic’s Department of Writing—will help mentor the next generation of climate correspondents and writers.

“Wayne Crookes’ support of environmental and climate journalism echoes UVic’s deep conviction to help address the challenges posed by climate change,” says UVic President Kevin Hall. “Extreme weather, melting ice sheets, incessant flooding and other alarming events serve to remind us that we are not only together in this crisis, but also of the urgent need to effectively counter misinformation through the rigour of credible journalism. Actions like Wayne’s will carry us into a better future.”

 

Wayne Crookes (photo: Martin Roland)

A former federal Green Party campaign manager and political campaigner, Crookes is the owner and founder of West Coast Title Search Ltd. and the founder of Integrity British Columbia. He sees this donation as a way of increasing the quantity, quality, depth and prominence of science-based environmental journalism and media coverage to address the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Action needed now

“This is a very important priority for me,” says Crookes. “We need to communicate more effectively with journalists—especially editors—about the risks of climate change and the threats to biodiversity that humanity as a whole is facing. I believe climate change is an existential threat that the world is not doing enough to meet.”

Crookes’ gift will increase media literacy and coverage by connecting students, journalists, citizens and policymakers through a public database of environmental scientists and climatologists, as well as strengthen UVic’s journalism and publishing program. It will support research and outreach to enable the professorship to catalyze a variety of community-based research projects, advocacy initiatives and educational activities for maximum impact.

“People recognizing the problem is the most important step in it being dealt with and being solved,” Crookes adds. “To do that, public opinion needs to change, and that can most efficiently be changed by increasing—and having a higher quality of—media coverage.”

A commitment to sustainability

“We share Mr. Crookes’ profound commitment to sustainability and believe that training journalists and artists who can communicate in ways that inform, persuade and inspire the public and political leaders is an urgent priority,” says Allana Lindgren, acting dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “Environmental journalism is a growing emphasis in UVic’s Department of Writing, and many of our graduates pursue careers investigating and advocating for solutions to global environmental issues.”

As one of Canada’s leading research universities, UVic produces internationally acclaimed research on climate modelling, climate-change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable energy systems and the human dimensions of climate change.

Applications for the new five-year professorship are now open. Information can be found on the Writing department’s website.

Orion Series presents filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal

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:

Jennifer Baichwal

Canadian Filmmaker

Public webinar: “Representing the Anthropocene: Challenges & Adventures”

4:00 – 5:30 pm (PST)
Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Zoom webinar invitation to register: https://uvic.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8yiNulRCQVGCfi8uQVm-ig

 Free & open to the public

*Note about pre-screening:*  A password-protected film link to view Baichwal’s documentary, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, will be distributed to registered guests prior to the event.

Presented by UVic’s Department of Art History & Visual Studies
For more information on this lecture please email: ahvsasst@uvic.ca

Discover the life story of the planet 

Join Canadian filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal in conversation with local writer, filmmaker and TV producer Barbara Todd Hager for this lively Orion Series discussion, which is part of the public programming for the exhibition Life Stories, curated by AHVS professor Dr. Erin Campbell. Life Stories continues at UVic’s Legacy Gallery until April 3.

The Life Stories exhibit showcases artworks from the UVic art collection to show how our own life stories are shaped by the objects we not only gather around ourselves but which also help us navigate life stages, passages and rituals.

Jennifer Baichwal will highlight the “life story” of our planet, and how its life stages shape the life stories of human and non-human species. A link to her award-winning, feature-length documentary Anthropocene: The Human Epoch will be available to registered webinar guests for a limited time before and after the discussion. She will also visit Art History & Visual Studies classes and speak with our students as part of her Orion visit.   

Barbara Todd Hager will bring to this conversation her perspective as a writer, producer and creator of the award-winning environmental documentary series Down2Earth, amongst other projects. Erin Campbell will moderate the talk. 

 

A life in film  

Jennifer Baichwal has been directing and producing documentaries for 25 years. Among other films, installations and lens-based projects, she has made 10 feature documentaries which have played all over the world and won multiple awards nationally and internationally. Her current project is a feature documentary on global insect collapse.

Her most recent undertaking is The Anthropocene Project, an acclaimed collaboration with director Nicholas de Pencier and artist-photographer Edward Burtynsky. It includes a major touring exhibition—which debuted simultaneously at the Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada and is currently travelling around the world—as well as the award-winning feature documentary film Anthropocene: The Human Epoch. 

Anthropocene premiered at TIFF 2018, played Sundance and the Berlinale, was released theatrically in Canada and the US in 2019, and is now in international release. The film won the Toronto Film Critics Association prize for Best Canadian Film, and a Canadian Screen Award for Best Documentary Feature. The Anthropocene Project also includes an art book published by Steidl and an educational program in partnership with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

Previous work

Baichwal is also known for the documentary Manufactured Landscapes, which won TIFF’s Best Canadian Film, Al Gore’s Reel Current Award and the Toronto Film Critics Association prize for Best Canadian Film in 2006, among other awards; after a prolonged and successful run in Canada, it played theatrically in over 15 territories worldwide and was named as one of the “150 Essential Works In Canadian Cinema History” by TIFF in 2016. 

Her other acclaimed films include Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles, which won an International Emmy in 1999; The Holier It Gets, a documentary filmed in Canada and India, which won Best Cultural and Best Independent Canadian Documentary at Hot Docs 2000, as well as Gemini Awards for best writing, directing and editing in a documentary series; Act of God, about the metaphysical effects of being struck by lightning, which opened the Hot Docs Film Festival in 2009; and Payback, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Massey Lectures produced by Ravida Din and the National Film Board, which premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and was released in Canada and the US that spring.

The feature documentary Watermark—made with Edward Burtynsky and Nicholas de Pencier—premiered at TIFF 2013, was released in Canada by Mongrel Media and won both the Toronto Film Critics Association prize for Best Canadian Film and a Canadian Screen Award for Best Documentary; it has since been released in 11 countries.

Baichwal and de Pencier were also co-directors of Long Time Running, a feature documentary on the Tragically Hip’s final 2016 summer tour. The film, produced by Banger Films, premiered as a gala at TIFF 2017, and was subsequently released by Elevation Pictures and broadcast by Bell and Netflix. 

Baichwal sits on the board of Swim Drink Fish Canada, and is a member of the Ryerson University School of Image Arts Advisory Council. She has been a Director of the Board of the Toronto International Film Festival since 2016, and is a passionate ambassador of their Share Her Journey campaign, a multi-year commitment to increasing participation, skills and opportunities for women behind—and in front of—the camera.

 

Barbara Todd Hager

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.”