Learning With Others: Karla Point

When it came time to hire a new Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator (IRC) for the Faculty of Fine Arts, we didn’t have to look very far: just down the Ring Road to the Faculty of Law, in fact. 

Karla Point—whose traditional Nuu chah nulth name is Hii nulth tsa kaa—is now the second person to hold this position, following Lindsay Katsitsakatste Delaronde (currently pursuing her PhD with our Theatre department). A life-long learner with strong ties to UVic thanks to both her BA (Humanities, 2003) and LL.B (Law, 2006), Karla was previously the cultural support liaison with UVic Law. 

“When I read the description for this job, I thought, ‘This is me—this is where I belong’,” she says. “The idea of sharing knowledge, learning with others and working with artistic people really appeals to me.”

Engaging her creative license

In addition to her position with the Faculty of Law, Karla has been a reconciliation agreement coordinator with the Sts’ailes Nation, a First Nations program coordinator with Parks Canada, and a treaty negotiator and elected councillor for the Hesquiaht First Nation

“I know I can do something for this job, but this job can also do something for me,” she says. “It’s such a huge contrast to the law—law is so set, but here you’re encouraged to have creative license. There’s so much we can share and collaborate on to ultimately come up with a model that’s a blend of Western and Indigenous knowledge.”

Exploring resurgence initiatives

As the IRC, Karla will support and guide Fine Arts on ways to decolonize existing curriculum and methodologies, incorporate Indigenous perspectives and pedagogies into our curriculum, and develop and implement a variety of resurgence initiatives—including outreach to local communities and student recruitment.

“When I thought about all the different jobs I’ve had and the different people I’ve worked with, I felt like I had what it took to indigenize a curriculum,” she says. “To do a good job, it has to be really collaborative . . . if everyone starts at the beginning together, then we know what the journey is—and it will be successful and well-received.”

Education as a healing journey

Karla will work with university staff, faculty and students while consulting with Elders, Knowledge Keepers and community partners, ensuring her work as the IRC aligns with Indigenous community aspirations for post-secondary education—a topic close to her own heart.

“I’ve had a really hard time with education . . . school and institutionalized education was always a real struggle,” she admits. “But when I went to college, I really appreciated the world of knowledge.”

After attending the Christie Indian Residential School on Meares Island for 15 months in the 1960s, Karla’s parents withdrew her and her brothers; she then attended 25 public schools in 10 different towns, but never graduated from grade 12. “My parents were residential school survivors who were always looking for the geographic cure,” she explains. “They never found it.”

Her own journey to post-secondary began as an adult at Camosun College, eventually culminating in both a diploma and her UVic degrees. “While I was on my educational journey, I was also on my healing journey.”

Welcoming “Auntie Karla”

The mother of three children and grandmother to nine, Karla looks forward to building relationships with the Fine Arts community. “Even though I’m here to develop resurgence initiatives and help Indigenous students, I don’t discriminate: I’ll help any student who comes through the door,” she says. “When I was a cultural support liaison with Law, I was ‘Auntie Karla’ for the Law students—so I’d love to be Auntie Karla for all the Fine Arts students.”

After spending the summer familiarizing herself with the new position and the Faculty in general, Karla will be ready for the return of students in September.

“I’m really excited about this position and feel very welcomed,” she says. “I think I’m going to enjoy it here.”

Banting Fellow & Vanier Scholar named in Fine Arts

Fine Arts researchers and creative practitioners Taylor Brook and Troy Sebastian are among UVic’s recipients of the prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholars,

“Congratulations to Taylor and Troy,” says Acting Dean Allana Lindgren. “Having a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow and a Vanier Scholar in the Faculty of Fine Arts is an honour.”

Together with Canada’s federal granting agencies, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada announced the results of the 2020-2021 Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships competitions on July 15.

“Both Taylor and Troy are highly talented and accomplished young artists/scholars, so it is very satisfying to see the excellence of their creative work and research recognized at the national level,” says Lindgren. “I am confident that their expertise, creativity, and aspirations will enrich our community.”

Taylor Brook

School of Music composer Taylor Brook is one of four UVic recipients of the Banting fellowships. The federal program is designed to build world-class research capacity by recruiting top-tier postdoctoral researchers at an internationally competitive level of funding.

The two-year Banting fellowships are worth $70,000 per year. They are open to both Canadian and international researchers who have recently completed a PhD, PhD-equivalent or health professional degree and other eligibility criteria. UVic’s other three recipients are Kristina Barclay (Biology and Anthropology), Simon Blouin (Physics and Astronomy), and Gillian Kolla (Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research).

A Canadian composer who writes for the concert stage, video, theatre, dance and robotic instruments, Brook’s compositions have been performed by ensembles and soloists worldwide. A 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, he has won numerous SOCAN Young Composers awards, including the 2016 grand prize, and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from Columbia University.

 

Brook’s music is often concerned with finely tuned microtonal sonorities, combining his interest in exploring the perceptual qualities of sound with a unique sense of beauty and form. Current projects include a new concerto grosso for the San Francisco-based Del Sol String Quartet with the Partch Ensemble and a concert-length piece for the NYC-based TAK Ensemble.

As part of his SSHRC project, he will be writing a new composition for the Aventa Ensemble, to be performed in 2023.

“I am thrilled to begin my research at the University of Victoria as a Banting Fellow. My research will develop a novel framework for cross-cultural musical analysis that overcomes limitations engendered by Western musical notation. I hope to build a greater understanding of tuning and temperament as an expressive force in music as well as contribute to a broader effort in musicology, composition and music theory to decolonize the curriculum in higher education.​”
—Taylor Brook

SSHRC Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship

Troy Sebastian | nupqu ʔak·ǂam̓

Department of Writing alumnus and instructor Troy Sebastian is one of three UVic researchers named as Vanier Scholars in the annual competition by the Government of Canada.

The scholarships are earmarked for social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering and health. Vanier scholars, who receive $50,000 funding each year for three years, demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies. UVic’s other two recipients are Dorothea Harris (Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies) and Lucie Kotesovska (English).

A Ktunaxa writer from ʔaq̓am, Sebastian’s research and creative practice focuses on memoir, Indigenous masculinities, Canadian military history, Ktunaxa nation building and Ktunaxa language revitalization. His proposed PhD program is a special arrangement between the Department of Writing and the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

 

“My Vanier scholarship will focus on celebrating who we and our history in our ancestral homelands by researching the life and service of a Ktunaxa veteran who was killed in action during World War II,” says Sebastian.

A graduate of UVic’s Writing MFA program and an instructor with the department, Sebastian was selected for the 2020 Writer’s Trust Rising Star program, is a recipient Hnatyshyn Foundation’s Reveal – Indigenous Arts Award and is also a graduate of the Banff Centre’s Indigenous Writers program.

His writing has been longlisted for the 2019 Writers’ Trust Journey Prize, both the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize and 2018 CBC Short Story Prize, and he has been published in Best Canadian Stories 2019, The Walrus, Ktuqcqakyam, The New Quarterly, Quill and QuirePrairie Fire and The Malahat Review.

“My research and artistic practice centres on Ktunaxa language, storytelling, morality and ethics, and is dedicated to the empowerment of the Ktunaxa Nation’s vision statement: ‘Strong, healthy citizens and communities, speaking our languages and celebrating who we are and our history in our ancestral homelands, working together, managing our lands and resources, within a self-sufficient, self-governing Nation.’”
—Troy Sebastian | nupqu ʔak·ǂam̓

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar

Kelly Richardson working with UN Biodiversity

If you could imagine a future for our planet’s biodiversity, what would it be? Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson has been invited by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to do just that as part of a global collaborative artwork to celebrate the world’s biodiversity and urge for its protection.

Imagine compassion for nature

“The opportunity to imagine our potential futures on this platform is substantial in terms of audience reach,” says Richardson. “The idea is to awaken compassion for nature and imagine our different potential futures using images of my work—from the unthinkable to a radically different future should priorities take a dramatic turn.”

Richardson is one of six international artists and scientists invited to participate in the global Instagram movement @withnature2020 on June 25.

Fusing art and science

Her dramatic images will be paired with messages intended to encourage reflection on our relationship with biodiversity: “Imagine if we valued the species which went extinct on Earth today, as though it was found on Mars. Imagine the radically different futures that will bring.”

“We have a limited window of time to act to change our collective futures,” says Richardson. “If people can visualise potential outcomes from insufficient address of our planet’s significant issues around biodiversity loss and climate change, it may result in an appreciation for what remains and a dramatic shift in priorities to protect it.”

A plausible future

An internationally acclaimed artist, Richardson creates video installations of rich and complex landscapes that have been manipulated using CGI, animation and sound. Her practice offers imaginative views and constructions of the future plausible enough to prompt careful consideration of the present.

Underpinning her research is a critical and often collaborative engagement with scientists, philosophers and writers whose work engages with issues related to climate change.

Follow the UN Biodiversity feed on Instagram

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.