Esi Edugyan muses on values of a new world

The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered some of the biggest challenges of our time, including systemic racism, economic inequity and the climate crisis. What comes next and will it shape a new world?

In such situations, some people yearn for a return to a remembered (or perhaps imagined) former normalcy. Others hope that perhaps we can put things back—but better. Still others are convinced that we face both the opportunity and the necessity of creating something entirely new.

If there is to be a new world, must it be founded on fundamentally new and different shared values and assumptions?  If so, what might those be? How might they be different from what has gone before and (some would say) brought us to this place? How do we identify and articulate our convictions and beliefs in ways that are honest, humane, productive and inclusive?

Enter the great change

Writing and the Great Change Upon Us looks exactly at these issues. Starting at 5pm on Thursday, Dec 3, internationally acclaimed writer and UVic Department of Writing  alumna Esi Edugyan explores what this new world might look like, and the role of writers in shaping it, in the first of a new series of public lectures organized by UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (CSRS).

Everyone is welcome to register for this free virtual event led by another eminent Canadian literary figure: poet, essayist and current Writing professor Tim Lilburn.

A novelist, essayist and cultural commentator, Edugyan is the author of the best-selling Half-Blood Blues (2011) and Washington Black (2018). She is a two-time winner of the Giller Prize, a Distinguished Alumni of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts and a former instructor in our Writing department.

Lilburn is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, was the first Canadian to receive the European Medal of Poetry and Art, and has been twice nominated for the Governor General’s Award, which he won for his poetry collection, Kill-site.

Values for a new world

Edugyan’s talk is the first of the lecture series, “Values for a New World,” running December through March. The series delves into urgent questions such as:

  • What role, if any, do religion and spirituality play in helping to inform deep conversations about current and future challenges?
  • How do we articulate convictions and beliefs in ways that are honest, humane, productive and inclusive?
  • How do we proceed if respectful yet frank dialogue is becoming increasingly difficult?

The series, presented annually as a joint initiative of CSRS and the Anglican Diocese of Islands and Inlets of British Columbia, is reinvented this year—like so much else in this new time—by going virtual.

Its group of speakers—including Noam Chomsky (Feb 2), Miroslav Volf (Jan 7), Thomas Homer-Dixon (Feb 23) and Linda Woodhead (March 4)—will each participate in an interactive online talk, and one panel discussion on March 16.

New project explores global food sovereignty

How can vulnerable communities build local and regional governance of food systems in the context of the climate crisis? That’s the question behind a new interdisciplinary film project co-directed by Department of Writing chair Maureen Bradley and Department of History professor Elizabeth Vibert.

Four Stories About Food Sovereignty is a research network and documentary-in-the-making. The four-year, SSHRC-funded project launched in 2019 with a workshop at the T’Sou-ke First Nation featuring participants from Jordan, South Africa, Indigenous Colombia and Indigenous Canada. Four Stories About Food Sovereignty.

Elizabeth Vibert (right) welcomes participants to the T’Sou-ke Nation in 2019 (Photo: Chen Wang)

“Our community participants live with food insecurity every day,” says Bradley. “When they came together last year, we all learned that their struggles were similar despite living on four different continents. All are impacted by myriad forces like the climate crisis, loss of native plants and predatory industrial agricultural practices.”

In the next three years, the project will create an enduring community-engaged research network encompassing interdisciplinary researchers, grassroots food producers and local producer organizations from four continents. Together, they will investigate one pressing question: How are communities to feed themselves?

Global participants, common concerns

Despite the geographic distances between participants, shared concerns quickly became evident: water scarcity, climate crisis, extractive industrial development and the challenges facing women.

“Bringing their experiences to a broad audience through film puts these global stories into a local, relatable context,” says Bradley. “Up until the pandemic, the average Victoria resident never thought about food security. When the Canada/US border closed, a lot of people panicked—but now we’ve gone back to our typical consumption patterns.”

When the UN announced in 2019 that climate shocks, conflict and economic crises have reversed the gains of the past decade in reducing global hunger, it underscored the urgency of this work.

For small-scale food producers across the Global South, conventional approaches to “food security” have contributed to a series of livelihood and food crises, as control over food systems has come to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of profit-focused transnational corporations. In response, peasant and farmer groups have allied within and across national borders to form movements that articulate a vision of sustainable, equitable, and culturally appropriate agro-food systems.

A network of support

Four Stories About Food is about creating a research network for small-scale producers to learn from each other, for researchers to learn from small-scale producers, and for the public to access information about food security issues around the world. This network will consist in the short-term of several components: an international food security workshop, a documentary film, ongoing community-engaged scholarly research and public education activities.

As part of their research, Bradley and the team will produce a documentary, filmed by Writing MFA candidate Guochen Wang filming; professors Astrid Perez Pinan (public administration) and Matt Murphy (business) round out the interdisciplinary UVic team.

One of the intital meetings at UVic

The international team include Claudia Puerta Silva, professor of anthropology at the University of Antioquia, and Bikrum Gill, assistant professor in political science at Virginia Tech. The country teams will be led by the likes of Chief Gordon Planes, Christine George, Miguel Iván Ramírez Boscan, Jakeline Romero Epiayu, Esteban Torres Muriel, Aysha Yousif Matar Azzam, Fatima Obeidat, Josephine Mathebula, Mphephu Mtsenga, Basani Ngobeni and Natalia Giraldo Osorio.

Check out @fourstoriesuvic on Instagram and Twitter to follow the development of this project 

A new & different academic year

A new (and different) school year

Welcome to issue 13 of the Fine Arts Connector and the start of a new academic year—one that we can definitely say will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

With only about 3,500 students on campus and the majority of classes being held online, there’s no question UVic looks and feels different right now. But here in Fine Arts, we are still offering a number of face-to-face courses—primarily in Theatre, Visual Arts and the School of Music—and the changes to our campus spaces mirror the changes in our teaching curriculum.

If you’re curious about what life will be like on campus this fall, check out this short UVic video.

Normally, Fine Arts offers well over 200 public events a year, but while we have a few events confirmed (see below), we’re still figuring out exactly what our fall events will look like. More on that in the weeks ahead, but be sure to keep an eye on our social media feeds in the meantime.

As always, please enjoy—and circulate—this collection of material featuring our faculty, students, alumni, staff and guests as a way of both sharing what our creative community is up to and keeping us all connected. You can also help by keeping us in the loop if you’re working on a live-streaming project, have online material to share or are involved in something you’d like people to know about: just email either or

Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each issue.

 New faculty members

The new academic year also sees three new full-time faculty members joining Fine Arts: Beth Stuart as an assistant professor in Visual Arts, Kathryn Mockler as an assistant professor in Writing and Dr. Anthony Tan as the School of Music’s new assistant professor of composition.

Beth Stuart works in an expanding range of media including writing, painting, ceramic, performance, textiles and sculptural installation, and has taught at OCAD University, the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto Mississauga. Recent material research has convened bizarre Victorian bathing customs, the politics of stretch, time travel, melting rock with her bare hands, pizza and contemporary art as a site of ritual sublimation.

An award-winning teacher who comes to us from Western University, Kathryn Mockler is the author of four poetry books and six short films. A TIFF Talent Lab Alumnus, Praxis Screenwriting Fellow and San Francisco Film Society Screenwriting Fellowship winner, she specializes in film/TV writing, poetry, short fiction and climate/ecological writing, among other areas. Her latest short film, Tornado, appears as part of the Arizona Underground Film Festival this month.

Anthony Tan is an award-winning composer, pianist and electronic musician who draws artistic influence from conceptual metaphors, an attention to the psychophysical experiences of sound and a reflection on music’s cultural context. A fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, he comes to us from the University of Colorado (Colorado Springs). He has presented his music at major festivals in North America and Europe, and has been commissioned by numerous international ensembles.

Welcome to all!

Beth Stuart, Kathryn Mockler, Anthony Tan

Media roundup

Carey Newman on colonial statues

Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman was recently quoted in The Tyee article “Tearing Down Our Monumental Mistakes” about the push to remove problematic historical monuments across Canada, and the need to focus on how to transform the spaces these colonial statues held.

“They’re anti-reconciliation,” said Newman in the article. “They are not history. They are an illustration of a version of history . . . . They don’t serve the same kind of purpose as art.”

“For me, art is about expression of ideas about challenging people to think differently, about bringing beauty or commemoration for things that we never want to forget. Those things don’t exist in statues that are really about remembering a particular person for a particular purpose and, very often, a person who was an architect of something that was inherently oppressive.”

A new position

In August, very busy Theatre PhD alumnus Taiwo Afolabi appeared on the OMNI TV program New Canadians as part of a panel discussion on how his experience as a UVic Crossing Borders Scholar provided opportunities to find connections in the community. And while Afolabi had been the Manager of Artistic and Community Engagement with the Belfry Theatre (a position for which they are now hiring), he recently accepted a position as assistant professor Socially Engaged Creative Practices with the University of Regina’s Faculty of Media, Art and Performance.

As part of his farewell to Victoria, Afolabi speaks with Belfry artistic director Michael Shamata about his time at the Belfry in this short video, and in August he also held this artist conversation for the Creative Mornings series titled “Stress: To Peel or Not to Peel?” We congratulate Taiwo on his new position!

Music student explore reconciliation

As reported in this September 20 Times Colonist article, first-year School of Music student Lucas Hung has created a series of video interviews with four WSANEC members to explore what reconciliation means in Canada. Hung hopes his project—titled Taking Reconcili-Action—will inspire others to seek out their own first-hand learning about Indigenous cultures.

Hung has interviewed SENĆOŦEN language revitalization advocates John Elliott and Pena Elliott, as well as Tsartlip master carver Charles Elliott and Salish artist Chris Paul. The project, funded in part by the Heritage B.C. Heritage Legacy Fund, includes a guide for teachers to lead students through their own Reconcili-Action projects.

“We wanted to show teachers, if you want to do something like this, here’s all the things that you can learn from just having a single conversation,” Hung said.

Student involved in social justice mural

Back in August, a group of 17 artists united to paint a mural in Bastion Square, with the intention of raising awareness around injustices suffered by Black and Indigenous people and people of colour. One of the artists is current Visual Arts undergrad Laveen Gammie.

The finished mural reads “More Justice More Peace”, with each artist changing large white block letters into individual pieces of artistic expressions. “It is perhaps a fitting metaphor for the project,” said Gammie in this Times Colonist article. “The letter starts out as white in the beginning and becomes filled with colour as the day wears on.”

Theatre student Zooms over Shakespeare

As the arts community continues to adapt to the new restrictions, our students continue to find new ways of staying involved. In this recent BC Local News article, current Theatre student Ryan Kniel discusses teaching and producing virtual stage plays using video conferencing platforms.

“Learning how to film on Zoom, how to collaborate as an ensemble in an online environment and how to communicate with scene members that you don’t see in a physical rehearsal are all important skills in this new world of theatre,” says Kneil.

Kniel was among 12 young actors from across Canada selected for funding from the RBC Emerging Artists Project, which included a spot in the Riotous Youth program—a paid internship with Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach festival, whose 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Alumni guitarist

As noted in this recent article in The Province, School of Music alumnus and Vancouver-based guitarist Adrian Verdejo has put his COVID time to work developing new music initiatives.

Now an instructor at both Vancouver Community College and Douglas College, Verdejo has made a name for himself as a new music guitarist over the past decade, but with COVID cancelling planned travel activities, he’s been busy developing videos, podcasts and new online performance opportunities for other musicians. “Fortunately, projects started to come in,” Verdejo says in the article.

Improving diversity

Vancouver’s CityNews recently spoke with Theatre alumni Cecilly Day and Rahat Saini, who shared their perspectives and experiences facing race-based barriers in the program. Acting Dean of Fine Arts Allana Lindgren is quoted about the department’s commitment to improved diversity, inclusion and anti-racism efforts.

“While we have actively sought ways in recent years to expand our awareness and build skills in equity, diversity and inclusion, including ant-racism, we realize that there is more to do,” says Lindgren.

Festival voices

Writing professor Deborah Campbell kicked off the 2020 author season for the Sunshine Coast Literary Reading Series—which has been running for more than 40 years—by offering the first public reading in their pivot to Zoom. The event was mentioned in the Coast Reporter newspaper.

Carey Newman

Taiwo Afolabi

Upcoming events

Orange Shirt Day is September 30

UVic is committed to reconciliation. We’re working to foster respect and mutual understanding with all Indigenous peoples and communities. You can partner in the work of reconciliation by listening, learning and sharing on Orange Shirt Day.

Orange Shirt Day at UVic goes virtual this year, featuring a conversation between UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers and Phyllis Webstad, whose story sparked the drive to recognize Orange Shirt Day. Join the at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to wear an orange shirt (available at the UVic Bookstore) on Sept. 30 as a visual symbol of our awareness of the need for ongoing reconciliation. The UVic shirt was designed by Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman.

You can show your support by uploading a photo of yourself wearing an orange shirt (or email your photo to and be part of UVic’s social media campaign (use the #OrangeShirtDayUVic).

Proceeds from t-shirt sales support the Elders Engagement Fund and the Witness Blanket Project. If you already have an orange shirt, please consider making a $20 donation directly to the Elders Engagement Fund this year.

Read more about the history of Orange Shirt Day here.

The Art of Living in the Time of COVID

Given this year’s topic, it’s appropriate that the 15th annual Lafayette Health Awareness Series will take place as a webinar at 7pm on Thursday, October 1.

Hosted by Chancellor Shelagh Rogers and featuring a performance by the School of Music’s Lafayette String Quartet, guest speakers include BC Chief Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry, UVic Medical Sciences instructor Terence Tam (of the Victoria Symphony) and Steven Taylor (author of The Psychology of Pandemics).

“We’ve long believed that what affects one of us truly affects all of us—and we’ve never had a topic been more true to that idea than this,” says the LSQ’s Pamela Highbaugh-Aloni. “Let’s just keep living and figuring out what we need to do.”

The Art of Living in the Time of COVID is presented in partnership with UVic’ Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health. Donations will help establish a Lafayette Music and Health Legacy Fund.

Shelagh Rogers, Bonnie Henry, Terence Tam, Steven Taylor & the Lafayette String Quartet

Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards

Formerly known as the ProArt Alliance Awards but now dubbed the Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards, watching for a livestream broadcast of the 2020 program from 5-6pm Saturday, October 3.

Fine Arts will be participating this year, with Acting Dean Allana Lindgren making an announcement, as well as Audain Professor Carey Newman once again presenting his award for the Witness Legacy Award for Social Purpose and Responsibility Through Art. Last year’s awards saw Fine Arts alumni Matthew Payne, Lindsay Delaronde and Colton Hash win all three categories; this year, there will be more awards presented in more categories.

The 2020 awards will be expanded to include a number of new categories and broaden the accolades to a wider number of local arts practitioners. Find out more here.


Free UVic masks for all

Even with limited numbers of people on campus, common areas can be congested, making it difficult to consistently maintain a safe physical distance. If you’re working on campus this fall, UVic recommends that you wear a mask in public indoor spaces like hallways, stairways, building entryways and other high-traffic areas, especially where it’s more difficult to keep distance.

With that in mind, UVic-branded reusable face masks are now available for each on-campus student, faculty and staff member. Just show your ONECard at the University Centre ONECard office to receive your mask throughout September and October.

AGGV FASP program

Our colleagues at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria would like to remind all faculty and students about their Fine Arts Student Pass program.

Whether students are visiting solo for artistic inspiration or as part of a class assignment, the FASP program offers unlimited admission to the AGGV for the entire academic year—for just $12. (That’s only $1 more than a single admission ticket!) The FASP Membership is valid from September 1, 2020 (or date of purchase) to August 31, 2021.

Simply forward this link to your students and they can register online, then present their e-ticket at the front desk along with student ID. In addition to unlimited free entrances to the AGGV, Fine Arts students also receive email invitations to gallery events, their e-magazine and a 10% discount in the gallery shop.

While possibly of most interest to Visual Arts and Art History & Visual Studies students, this offer is open to any student currently registered in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Students may also want to get involved with the AGGV’s volunteer program. With more than 300 volunteers working together with staff as assistants, docents and special event hosts in a variety of departments (education, curatorial, collections, advancement), it can be a good opportunity to gain experience for students who love art.

A giant achievement

The work of Department of Theatre design professor Patrick DuWors was featured in the 2020 edition of the Critical Costume Conference and Exhibition, hosted by the Costume Agency Artistic Research Project.

Originally intended to be a live event in August, the international exhibition was moved online due to COVID. With a focus on the agency of costume in performance and how costume can generate or be a centre of gravitation in performance, Critical Costume 2020 is supported by the Norwegian Artistic Research Program, Oslo National Academy of the Arts and Norwegian Arts Council.

DuWors, an alumnus of the Theatre department himself, was featured for his costume designs—alongside Robert Leveroos’ puppet designs—for Ghost River Theatre’s award-winning production of GIANT. As part of the exhibition, DuWors moderated two of the conference’s working group sessions.

GIANT tells the story of wrestler Andre the Giant. As a way of exploring the hyper-masculine, yet incredibly flamboyant, world of professional wrestling, five female actors played all parts—including Andre.

The Critical Costume Exhibition presents artworks that treat costume as their main medium—often as a starting point for a performance, and always as a crucial aspect of a performance. This exhibition aims to emphasize the immediacy and intrinsic nature of costumes to everyday human life and a person’s sense of self: connection to body, movement, identity, expression, sensuality, emotionality. The costume is a bridge between the body and the world.

Built on two main strands of costume performances—communication and exploration—eight further categories then unfold under these two central ideas, including “Identity Agency”, in which DuWors’ work is featured.

“The puppet design explored the dramaturgical role of scale, while the idea of masculinity-as-character was expressed through the costume design,” notes DuWors in the Critical Costume description of the production.

“Skins and shells formed the foundation of our approach. Shapes and textures meant to augment and distort the bodies of the five women inhabiting a very masculine profession were inspired by action figure versions of Andre once sold as toys. In each scene, the performers would attempt to put a different piece of Andre ‘on’ – to wear him as a way to understand him.”

Be sure to explore the remarkable range of work on display at Critical Costume 2020.

Patrick DuWors
Robert Leveroos’ puppet designs for GIANT (Photo, and above: Tim Ngyuen)

Singing for life

When graduating School of Music soprano Chelsea Kutyn decided to film a rehearsal for her graduation recital this spring, she had no idea that it would soon lead to national press coverage as a result of a life-threatening health risk.

When the campus started to shut down in March, Kutyn thought it would be a good safety measure to film herself singing.

“When we heard that countries were going into lockdown, my accompanist and I decided to film something just in case—we thought the building might be closed, but we never expected one of us to get sick,” she says.

Yet shortly thereafter, Kutyn fell ill. “They weren’t testing for COVID yet, but the doctors and nurses all said it was ‘suspected COVID’ due to my symptoms and the timeline of how it progressed.”

And while the School of Music did indeed close, Kutyn suddenly found herself unable to perform her grad recital due to illness—yet her performance video not only saved the day (“Luckily I passed with flying colours!”) but also helped her win the Victoria Medal, awarded annually to the Fine Arts student with the highest GPA in the faculty.

But the story of the young singer who contracted COVID but still graduated top of her class caught the attention of the media, with interviews appearing in the Times Colonist, CHEK TV, CBC News, Global TV, CBC Radio and even Newsweek magazine.

While she’s wary of being branded a cautionary tale, Kutyn does see the value in sharing her story. “I just hope it brings awareness to others who feel it’s not as much of an issue as it really is,” she says.

“If you don’t personally know someone who has been affected, people seem to assume it can’t happen to them. I would never wish that situation on anyone; it was a really terrifying situation.”

Read the full version of this story here.

Chelsea Kutyn

Art on view locally

As the weather turns, it’s a good time to head indoors and see some of the art on view by faculty, students and alumni of the Department of Visual ArtsThe first Visiting Artist on the 2020 academic year, being offered online by the Visual Arts department, features Toronto-based artist Kim Dorland.

Dorland pushes the boundaries of painted representation through an exploration of memory, material, nostalgia, identity and place. Drawing heavily from the Canadian landscape and his huge appetite for the history and language of painting, the loose yet identifiable scenes are interjected with areas of heavy abstract impasto. His refusal to remain faithful to one medium or approach plays into the symbiotic nature of his work.

You can watch & engage with Dorland’s Visiting Artist lecture starting at 7pm Wednesday, September 23 at this Zoom link.

Culturally Modified, a solo installation by MFA candidate and former Audain Professor Rande Cook, runs through to October 10 at Empty Gallery (833 Fisgard, 12-5pm Thursday-Saturday), a local gallery run by MFA alumnus Matt Trahan.

A Kwakwaka’wakw multimedia artist, Cook says this installation represents Umetl, The Raven, who had the ability to transform and carry messages between the spirit world and the life we live today.

“This installation is about Umetl rising up again, restoring the balance that has been broken by governments who are signing agreements over resource extraction with corporations, contaminating the waters, the inequality being forced upon the minority races and sexes, the lack of support and protection for women and children, the LGBTQ community, BLM, ILM, and the many more who are suffering due to capitalistic power and gain.”

Three alumni at Legacy

The work of three Visual Arts alumni are part of a pair of exhibits current open at UVic’s downtown Legacy Gallery (630 Yates).

TUKTUUYAQTUUQ (Caribou Crossing) features work by Maureen Gruben. Tuktuuyaqtuuq is the Inuvialuktun name of Gruben’s home on the Arctic coast (known in English as “Tuktoyaktuk”) and means “looks like a caribou.”

In TUKTUUYAQTUUQ (continuing to November 14), Gruben works with multiple facets of the animal to show how integral they are to Inuvialuit life, providing food, clothes, tools and stories.

Also on view is To Fish As Formerly: A Story of Straits Salish Resurgence (to November 21) a group exhibit curated by UVic alumni XEMŦOLTW̱ Dr. Nicholas Claxton (School of Child and Youth Care) and Katie Hughes, and featuring work by Visual Arts alumni Sarah Jim and Colton Hash alongside the likes of TEMOSEN Charles Elliott, J,SIṈTEN John Elliott, Chris Paul, Dylan Thomas, Temoseng, aka Chasz Elliott.

Art on view distantly

Out of town, professor Paul Walde’s Weeks Feel Like Days, Months Feel Like Years is on view at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska until October 31. A generative sound artwork in which performers are invited to interpret a series of five text-based scores responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Weeks Feel Like Days is available as both an audio/video installation at the museum and an audio gallery on the website.

The scores were composed to be performed by individuals or groups in isolation, and welcomes performers to reflect on their own experiences during the pandemic.

Walde’s Tom Thomson Centennial Swim video installation recently closed at Touchstones Museum of Art and History in Nelson, after a run interrupted by the COVID outbreak, and three works from his Alaska Variations album were recently featured on the UK radio show, Signal to Noise.

Professor Richard Leong is showing as part of the group exhibit RELATIONS: Diaspora and Painting at Montreal’s PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art until November 29. This group show explores the complex and multiple meanings of diaspora, its condition and its experiences as expressed through painting.

“The questions and concepts of diaspora are of deep, personal interest to me as a person of colour born in Canada of mixed Asian heritage,” says curator and managing director Cheryl Sim.

RELATIONS presents a selection of work by artists who address questions of diaspora from diverse perspectives, methodologies and aesthetic languages. The medium of painting, with its deep and complex history, becomes a particularly provocative lens through which to explore the complications and diversities that are analogous to the richness of diasporic experiences. This collective body of work also aims for an intergenerational dialogue and presents artists whose work has pushed the boundaries of what painting is and can be.

Finally, Professor Kelly Richardson‘s future-focused Mariner 9 is running at the Attenborough Art Centre in the UK until December 18.

Created with software used by the film and gaming industries, and using data from NASA’s missions to Mars, Richardson has created a realistic representation of the Mars landscape covered by the debris of centuries of exploration. Despite the apparent abandoned state of the planet, some of the spacecraft continue to work, looking for signs of life.

Works by Kim Dorland
Rande Cook’s Culturally Modified
Work by Gruben, Hash and Jim on view at the Legacy Gallery
Two of Paul Walde’s prompts from Weeks Feel Like Days, Months Feel Like Years
Rick Leong’s “Goldstream” and “Wild Willows” on view in Montreal
Kelly Richardson’s Mariner 9. Photos by Ruth Clark (left) & PaolaBernardelli.

New book for chair

The latest book by Art History & Visual Studies chair Marcus Milwright is now out: Middle Eastern Encounters: Collected Essays on Visual, Material, and Textual Interactions between the Eighth and the Twenty-first Centuries was recently released by Georgia Press.

A wide-ranging volume, Middle Eastern Encounters focuses on interactions between the Islamic world and other regions. Topics explored are as varied as relief-moulded pottery production in Raqqa, the construction of palaces in Samarra, portraiture in Arabic manuscript painting, images of Muslim rulers in early Modern printed books and the broadcast of the medical examination of Saddam Hussein.

Milwright, a professor of Islamic art and archaeology, also focuses on the challenges involved in the study of cultural interactions between Islamic and non-Islamic regions. The volume also includes a previously unpublished study of recently discovered photographs, drawings and writings relating to the Middle East made by soldiers during and after World War I.

You can keep up on Milwright’s varied interests and influences via his frequent (and fascinating) posts on the Fine Arts Gateway to Art website.

Award noms for alumni & instructors

Along with the start of classes, September also sees the start of the annual book awards season—and so far, we’re looking at a bumper crop of nominations for Fine Arts alumni and instructors.

Kicking off the awards season is the $10,000 Writers’ Trust McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, which annually celebrates the top short stories by Canada’s brightest emerging talents.

Among the 13 finalists for the 2020 awards are three Department of Writing alumni—Susan Sanford Blades, Cara Marks and Rachael Lesosky—all of whom will also see their work appear in the annual anthology, The Journey Prize Stories 32. (Winners announced October 21.)

Of the eight new books nominated for the annual $10,000 Victoria Book Prizes, only one wasn’t created by a member of our Fine Arts community. Nominees for the $5,000 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize include Writing alumni Carla Funk (Every Little Scrap and Wonder: A Small-Town Childhood) and Steven Price (Lampedusa), former Writing faculty Lorna Crozier (The House The Spirit Builds) and Christin Geall (Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style), and Audain Professor Carey Newman and former Writing instructor Kirstie Hudson (Picking Up The Pieces: Residential School Memories and the Making of The Witness Blanket). Nominees for the $5,000 City of Victoria Children’s Book Prize include Writing/Theatre alumnus and current Writing instructor Mark Leiren-Young (Orcas Everywhere: The Mystery and History of Killer Whales) and Writing alumna Sara Cassidy (Nevers). (Winners announced October 4.)

Newman and Hudson’s Picking Up the Pieces is also a finalist in the $10,000 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction, part of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards.

Victoria Festival of Authors

Writing alumni are well-represented at the upcoming Victoria Festival of Authors—Vancouver Island’s largest literary festival, which this year is being held online for free from September 30 to October 4.

Featured alumni writers include current City of Victoria Poet Laureate John Barton (Lost Family), Carla Funk (Every Little Scrap and Wonder), Kyeren Regehr (Cult Life), Mallory Tater (Pushcart Prize nominee), Amanda Leduc (The Miracles of Ordinary Men), Serena Lukas Bandhar (Pushcart Prize nominee), Arleen Paré (Earle Street ), Yvonne Blomer (Sugar Ride) and former student K.P. Dennis (former Victoria Youth Poet Laureate), plus Lorna Crozier (Through the Garden), and Carey Newman in conversation with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

You’ll find the full schedule and find registration info here.

Alumni film debut

Finally, acclaimed novelist and Writing alumna Eden Robinson is having a great fall, thanks to a feature film adaptation of her debut novel, Monkey Beach (screening Sept 24 at UVic’s Cinecenta—with will also hopefully include an afterword conversation piece between Robinson and director Loretta Todd). Robinson is also seeing her recent novel, Son of a Trickster, transformed into the new CBC TV series Trickster.

Expanding our campus community

Expanding our campus community 

Welcome to issue 10 of the Fine Arts Connector, your regular listing of news, resources, activities and other shareable content from UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts. It’s a handy way of keeping up with student, faculty and alumni activity while we’ve shifted gears to working, creating and teaching off-campus.

With the start of the fall semester just around the corner, we’ve now launched UVic’s Pre-Arrival Program, a way to support the transition of new incoming undergraduate students. The program, hosted in Brightspace, will help students to learn what to expect, explore strategies for success, and feel ready and confident to begin the term through a series of engaging videos, student profiles and tips, interactive activities and more. Best of all, incoming students don’t have to wait till the start of the semester to start engaging with the campus community. Be sure to share this link with any incoming students.  

As always, please enjoy—and circulate—this collection of material featuring our faculty, students, alumni, staff and guests as a way of both sharing what our creative community is up to and keeping us all connected. You can also help by keeping us in the loop if you’re working on a live-streaming project, have online material to share or are involved in something you’d like people to know about: just email either or

Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each issue.


Top in the faculty, despite illness

Each year, the Victoria Medal is awarded to the top student in all of Fine Arts, and this year’s award-winner is exceptional on two levels. Not only did School of Music student Chelsea Kutyn receive the top GPA in the entire faculty, but—according to this July 25 Times Colonist story—she spent 29 days in isolation this spring, battling a suspected case of COVID-19 . . . at some points too weak to even speak.

“It felt like there was constantly a ton of bricks on my chest,” Kutyn said in an interview. “There was constant pressure, like one of those blood-pressure bands that you put around your arms when you inflate it, that’s kind of what it felt like around my whole chest cavity.”

Kutyn also recounted her story in this July 28 interview with CBC Radio’s All Points West. She will next be pursuing a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Manitoba. 

“Chelsea started off in Business at UVic before she came to Music,” notes acting Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren in this congratulatory video. “She has become a singer of great beauty, strength and grace.” 

Chelsea Kutyn (centre) with her parents, Cindy & Greg

More news 

In other recent media coverage, Theatre professor and $50,000 Molson Prize winner Mary Kerr was interviewed on CBC Radio’s North By Northwest on July 26. She spoke with host Sheryl McKay about her life and career in theatre, which you can hear by skipping to the 2:08 mark in this link

And, coincidentally, that same episode of NXNW also featured an interview with recent Visual Arts graduate Rudra Manani, who spoke about her work and her views as an emerging Indo-Canadian artist. Skip to the 58:39 mark in this link to hear that interview.

School of Music alumna Chloe Kim was also named to the 2020 edition of CBC’s”30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians Under 30” list, which was released on August 5. Kim also received a fair bit of media coverage recently by organizing the  summertime Music for the Pause series at Christ Church Cathedral.  

Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu

It’s story time

If you have kids and don’t feel like reading them yet another story—or maybe just feel like a bit of comfort storytelling yourself—you can relax: the local podcast Dads Read Princess Stories has you covered.

Now in its second season, the podcast was created by local actor Rod Peter Jr. as a COVID-era creative activity and features a range of west coast theatre talent reading their favourite stories out loud . . . complete with a moral at the end. In the first season, director of The Farquhar at UVic and Phoenix alum Ian Case reads the Brothers Grimm classic Snow White, while the second season—an all-Cinderella season—featuresTheatre professor Brian Richmond reading Charles Perrault’s The Little Glass Slipper, as well as communications officer John Threlfall reading Olly Pike’s very modern Jamie: A Transgender Cinderella Story.   

The first season features 13 episodes while the second season is still unfolding; each story runs between 10 and 30 minutes, some feature fascinating backstories and many of the readers—including the likes of Dave Morris, Ryan Gladstone, Morgan Cranny, Cory Thibert and Evan Roberts—will be familiar to local theatre buffs.

Let Brian Richmond’s dulcet tones soothe your weary brain 

The Apartment of Writing

Since its launch on March 22 as a creative response to the theatres closure, Writing instructor Janet Munsil’s The Canadian Play Thing has hosted 52 readings featuring 49 playwrights and 286 actors. Recently, Theatre student Justin Francis Lee was brought on board as the Play Thing’s new project coordinator and is coming up with some exciting ideas for their next season.

One of those project is The Apartment of Writing, a newly formed writer’s room composed of select emerging playwrights—all from Fine Arts. As well as Lee, the new team includes current Writing students Megan Adachi, Megan Hands and Brianna Bock.

The Apartment team met weekly on Zoom to develop a new audio-drama series, exploring collaboration and the sonic medium, with a live reading set for August.  

“My parents would always listen to the nightly radio after they put me to bed as a kid,” says Lee, who earned strong reviews for his lead performance in Langham Court’s 2020 production of I and You.

“I remember the lo-fi buzz of the radio coming from the living room . . . . Despite this, I’ve only recently embraced the wonderful world of audio content. As a writing student, I took a workshop last semester focusing on audio plays and I was captivated by how intimate and accessible the medium was. With the rise of podcasting and more convenient technology, the sonic medium has been through a kind of renaissance.”

Clockwise from top left: Bock, Adachi, Hands, Lee


BC Access Grant

Building on the elimination of interest on BC student loans, the provincial government has introduced a new student funding stream.

The needs-based, up-front BC Access Grant will remove barriers to post-secondary education and training and provide non-repayable financial support for students at B.C. public post-secondary institutions.

Beginning in September 2020, the Access Grant will help more than 40,000 low- and middle-income students access, afford and complete public post-secondary education and training each year. It will be available to low- and middle-income students enrolled in full- and part-time undergraduate degree, diploma and certificate programs, and will offer between $1,000 and $4,000 a year depending on program.

Find out more here.  


Digital Fringe

The recent announcement of the cancellation of the 2020 Victoria Fringe Festival is not only sad news for the Victoria arts scene, but it also means that a number of our Theatre students and alumni will lose out a valuable opportunity to showcase their work both locally and  internationally, as part of the annual Fringe tour. Beyond those on stage, however, the Fringe cancellation also impacts writers, directors, technicians and venue managers,  all of whom gain valuable professional experience via the Fringe festivals each year.

But if we can’t get to a Fringe venue this year, you can still get a taste of it with this Digital Fringe Festival. While a number of shows are on view, we suggest catching celebrated Phoenix alum TJ Dawe in Operatic Panic Attack or, to get a taste of his talent behind the scenes, check out Didn’t Hurt, directed by Dawe and starring Rodney DeCroo.


Inside an art historian’s sketchbook

What inspires people to follow the path they’ve chosen? If you’re Art History & Visual Studies chair Marcus Milwright, you fuse a passion for Islamic art and archaeology with an artistic frame of mind. Milwright recently cracked open some of his old sketchbooks on the AHVS Instagram channel to offer a visual example of how his professional interest developed. His sketches, dating back to 1994, captures and records the events and everyday experiences of people and places he has visited.

Explaining that he first got interested in Islamic art via an “inspirational teacher” at the University of Edinburgh, Milwright feels it’s being able to visit the actual locations that makes a difference.

“I’ve been very lucky to have traveled very extensively in those areas . . . but for many people, it’s the chance to visit places that really stimulates those interests that will last a lifetime,” he says. “One thing I try to do is make drawings while I travel as a way of trying to remember not just the things I’ve seen but the way I felt about them at the time. I feel these things are better captured in drawings than in photographs.”

Given that his research ranges from the archaeology of the Islamic period and the art and architecture of the Islamic Middle East to traditional craft practices, the architecture and civil engineering of southern Greece during the Ottoman sultanate and cross-cultural interaction in the Medieval and early Modern Mediterranean, Milwright’s early sketches of his journey to Jordan and Syria bring those interests to vivid life. 

“It’s about recording events and experiences,” he explains of his drawings of Amman, the capital of Jordan. “It’s mostly a modern city, so I tried to capture some of the everyday scenes of modern architecture.”

Consider his sketches of the historic Souq marketplace in Aleppo, which capture some of the architecture that has been sadly since destroyed during Syria’s civil war.

“It’s not just the individual bits of architecture but also the idea of the city itself I’m trying to capture through research and the drawings as well.”

More than just a visual record, Milwright sees in these sketches and paintings the roots of his current profession.  

“I was doing doctoral research there and the drawings were trying to get across my everyday experiences—a teahouse where people play backgammon with a mosque in the background—but during that trip, I made another journey by taxi to the old city of Damascus, which has captured my attention ever since,” he explains. “It’s somewhere I’ve continued to work throughout my entire career.”

Marcus Milwright

Singing into the silence

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, 3.5 million Canadians were singing in over 28,000 choirs nation-wide—including more than 50 professional, community, church & school choirs in Greater Victoria alone. But with choral singing officially considered a no-no for the near future, choirs across Canada and around the world have been left with the sound of silence.

No one knows this better than School of Music choral professor Adam Con. As the leader of the 150-member UVic Chorus, a respected teacher of choral conducting and a national leader in the advocacy for music education, he’s also partnering with the BC Choral Federation to provide guidance on safe singing and is part of Choral Canada (representing university and colleges), which is creating a series of webinars with medical experts developing ways to move forward with group singing in the face of COVID-19.

“No matter how much the rest of society is coming back together, it’s not going to be the same for many choirs,” says Con. “But can it exist in other ways? Absolutely. Most choir leaders are currently discussing, exploring and innovating new options for their groups.”

For now, performances by all of UVic’s vocal groups are on hold, so until things get back to a sense of normalcy, we offer this January 2020 concert of the UVic Voice Ensemble performing Monteverdi Madrigals for your enjoyment. Featuring program direction and musical preparation by Music’s Benjamin Butterfield and Kinza Tyrrell, with guest artist Marco Vitale directing and on harpsichord.

If you’d like a taste of a performance by Butterfield and Tyrrell themselves, be sure to listen to their recent “Lunchbox Opera” performance with Pacific Opera Victoria.

And be sure to read this Martlet article about how our Music students and recent alumni are participating in POV’s new pop-up opera showcases in public spaces around Victoria

UVic Voice Ensemble

Claudio Monteverdi, “Al lume delle stelle,” from Settimo libro dei madrigali

by Abby Schuliger, Olivia Jackson, Anton Sokalski, Rowan McWilliams

“O come sei gentile,” from Settimo libro dei madrigali

by Natasha Gosling, Laura Giffen

“Vorrei baciarti,” from Settimo libro dei madrigali

by Alana Hayes, Anton Sokalski

“Cruda Amarilli,” from Quinto libro dei madrigali

by Lauren Steinmann, Sophia Friesen, Kieran Foss, Andrew Wolf, Rowan McWilliams

“Su su pastorelli vezzosi,” from Ottavo libro dei madrigali

by Liv Duffin, Katherine Allen, Carson Moore

“Pulchra es,” from Vespro della Beata Vergine

by Liv Duffin, Desiree Hall

“Dolcissimo uscignolo,” from Ottavo libro dei madrigali

by Abby Schuliger, Holly Melville, Cassidy Stahr, Taylor Fawcett, Ian Culling

“Ardo avvampo,” from Ottavo libro dei madrigali

by Gwen Jamieson, Jaime Kozak, Alana Hayes, Emily Morse, Spencer Van Dellen, Kieran Foss, Leif Bradshaw, Ian Culling

“Tu dormi,” from Settimo libro dei madrigali

by Chelsea Kutyn, Cassidy Stahr, Andrew Wolf, Kyron Basu

"Cingari simo venite a giocare"

by Kyla Fradette, Sophia Friesen, Grady Forsberg, Rowan McWilliams

“Vecchie letrose,” from Canzone Villanesche alla Napolitana (Venice, 1545)

by Gwen Jamieson, Kaylene Chan, Spencer Van Dellen, Kyron Basu

First-year flashback

While the start of the 20/21 academic year is set to be anything but normal, flash back to a slice of pre-COVID student life with the charming and award-winning web series Freshman’s Wharf.

Originally created as a class project in 2009, Freshman’s Wharf evolved into a for-credit directed studies Writing course with 10 episodes being created, performed and shot by a mix of UVic students and alumni. Written by Rachel Warden, and mentored by Writing associate professor Maureen Bradley and digital media staffer Daniel Hogg, Freshman’s Wharf offered a light-hearted look at first-year student life at UVic. It went on to win “Best Web Series” at the 2011 Leo Awards, the annual BC filmmaking event.

When an administrative error boots first-year Shame (that’s not a typo) Herbison from residence, he relocates to a boat. If his name wasn’t enough, he must survive the freshman traumas of weird parents, arch-nemeses and eccentric professors, while somehow winning the heart of the would-have-been girl next door.

Written by then-student Rachel Warden, the series was directed by the likes of Writing professor Maureen Bradley, instructor Daniel Hogg and alumni Jeremy Lutter, and stars Eliza Roberston—now one of Canada’s rising literary stars—plus Theatre professor Peter McGuire, alum and Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival artistic director Karen Lee Pickett, Phoenix alum Simon Basch and others.

“In some ways, producing Freshman’s Wharf was painstakingly challenging,” said co-producer Julia Dillon-Davis at the time. “We were a group of students trying to film a web series that required a sailboat, an airplane, a tandem bike and half-naked professors dancing around a bonfire. The success of the series is really just indicative of our collective desire to create art.”

Bradley felt it was the “perfect fusion of research and teaching” and, in many ways, it inspired the Writing 420 filmmaking class that continues to this day and has since produced a number of     short films that have appeared at film festivals across North America. “Our goal is to create innovative new media that’s Vancouver Island-based, and to engage students in our research creation, so it really was perfect.”

Watch the complete series here.

Watch the complete series

Shooting Freshman’s Wharf on campus

Feeling nostalgic

Back in November 2019, the Phoenix Theatre mounted one of the most successful shows in their 50-plus year history: The Drowsy Chaperone.

Winner of five Tony Awards, this original Canadian play is a fun-loving send-up of the Jazz Age musical. It gently pokes fun at a myriad of musical theatre tropes—brought to us through the droll narration of a theatre fan who spends the evening alone, curled up in a chair in a one-bedroom apartment, playing the original cast recording of a fictional 1928 musical, The Drowsy Chaperone.

But before it was an award-winning Broadway musical, The Drowsy Chaperone was first performed at a stag party. Toronto theatre mainstays Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison initially developed the script in 1998 as a wedding gift for their friends Janet Van De Graff and Bob Martin—something still reflected in the names of the soon-to-be-betrothed couple in the musical-within-the-play.

Martin enjoyed the performance so much that he joined the trio as a writer; after becoming a smash hit at the Toronto Fringe, it then garnered further acclaim at Theatre Passe Muraille before shifting to the Winter Garden Theatre. From there, The Drowsy Chaperone began the transition to Broadway, where it opened in 2006 and ran for 674 performances, earning two Tony Awards and four Drama Desk Awards.

The show’s spirit of success seems to have been passed to the Phoenix production where, under guest direction of Jacques Lemay, it was held over to meet audience demand.

Learn more about the role of Broadway nostalgia as parodied in The Drowsy Chaperone in this lively pre-show discussion with Broadway theatre historian and Theatre chair Dr. Anthony Vickery.

All photos by Dean Kalyan.

Dr Anthony Vickery

The Drowsy Chaperone and Broadway Nostalgia

by Dr Anthony Vickery

Creatively rooted in our climate

Recent Visual Arts alum Colton Hash has to be one of the busiest emerging artist to have come out of the department in a number of years.

His creative—and challenging—environmentally themed work has caught the attention of both the on- and off-campus communities. Inspired by the wild and anthropogenic landscapes surrounding him, Hash’s artistic practice fuses his academic backgrounds in computer science, environmental studies and visual arts, all of which he studied at UVic. He integrates his multidisciplinary foundations to create multimedia artworks that foster engagement with contemporary environmental and political issues.

Hash was a finalist for the 2019 Emerging Digital Artist Award (EQ Bank) and was the inaugural artist-in-residence at Ocean Networks Canada. His politically oriented practice has received regional recognition with the Witness Legacy Award for Social Purpose and Responsibility Through Art (ProArt Alliance).

His work is currently on display at UVic’s Legacy Gallery downtown, as part of the current exhibit To Fish As Formerly: A Story of Straits Salish Resurgence.


Enjoy this recent talk about his practice that he presented as part of the Creative Mornings series in February 2020.

Colton Hash

More to come

We’ll be posting more content from our faculty, students and alumni each month—be sure to check back!

Woven, embroidered and stitched

If you’re looking for cultural casualties of the spring pandemic, Fine Arts has plenty of examples: from cancelled concerts in the School of Music to the Visual Arts BFA grad exhibit and the final Phoenix Theatre production of the year, there was no shortage of on-campus disappointments.

Two more would include both Gendered Threads of Globalization: 20th Century Textile Crossings in Asia Pacific, an international symposium organized by Art History & Visual Studies professor Melia Belli Bose, and the accompanying Legacy Maltwood exhibit, Woven, Embroidered and Stitched in Tradition: Women’s Textile Labour in 20th Century Asia, curated by graduating AHVS undergraduate Claire Aitken.

“Claire did a phenomenal job,” says Belli Bose, who supervised the project. “This was a beautifully curated exhibition that struck the perfect balance between showcasing the sumptuous garments and providing the right amount of information.”

Crafting an exhibit

Carefully selected from UVic’s art collection and pieces loaned from private collections, Woven, Embroidered and Stitched featured a dazzling array of luxury textiles from China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Bangladesh. But the exhibit also shed light on women’s roles as makers, consumers and connoisseurs between the late 19th and early 21st centuries.

Alas, however, the exhibit had barely opened at UVic’s Legacy Maltwood at the McPherson Library – Mearns Centre before the pandemic closed the campus. But while obviously disappointed, Aitken still sees it as an invaluable experience.

“It was a very valuable experience for me,” says Aitken. “This was more about public engagement from an educational perspective, which is where I see myself going in the future. I’ve always had an interest in fashion in general . . . but my focus has shifted to textiles and the women’s realm of art, how textiles can basically be moving symbols of culture, status and class.”

Guided by Belli Bose’s supervision as a directed studies course, Aitken also credits the invaluable participation of Legacy Gallery staff Caroline Riedel and Roger Huffman, and the collaboration of local kimono and Japanese culture expert Hitomi Harama, as well as fellow AHVS undergrad Yorika Terada.

“Our collaboration with the Legacy, UVic’s Special Collections and private lenders afforded Claire a rare and valuable experiential opportunity to experience firsthand all the steps that go into an exhibition Claire did everything from carefully selecting garments from the Legacy’s rich collection to writing the labels, making computer mock-ups of the layout, installing the pieces and working with the Legacy staff on the lighting,” says Belli-Bose.

“I had a lot of freedom to work with the Legacy collection and Special Collections to pull out some incredible pieces,” Aitken says, while noting her surprise at the amount of Indonesian and Malaysian textiles she found in the collection. “We were all really excited to showcase them, which was wonderful. It came together in a way that nobody anticipated.”

Showing and telling

Course work aside, Aitken feels curating this exhibition was an enriching experience for her as well. “Learning about the matriarchy behind these works was another great aspect of the exhibit. We talked about the women who made these beautiful works of art and the people who collect them, including [UVic donors] Katharine Maltwood and Jane Chapman. If it wasn’t for the cultural matronage of those two women, we wouldn’t have these pieces in the collection today.”

Aitken—who also has a BFA from UVic’s Visual Arts department, a diploma from UVic’s Cultural Resources Management Program plus curatorial experience from both the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (where she ran their Art Rental & Sales program) and The Avenue Gallery in Oak Bay—is already focused on entering the AHVS Master’s program this fall.

“I have a plan to get a very well-rounded arts education,” she says with a laugh. “Much of the Visual Arts program is creation-based, so I wanted to come back and strengthen my academic writing. That built a passion for museum studies, curatorial experience and more academic-based art work than my creation-based work as a photographer.”

What’s next

While Woven, Embroidered and Stitched is still in place behind the Library’s closed doors, Aitken says they’re currently discussing what will happen with it.

“Some of the hanging pieces will have to come down, because they’re quite fragile,” she says. “One of my assignments actually talked about having an online platform for the exhibition—which would have been excellent going into this COVID situation, as it would have still been accessible. That’s something I’ll consider in the future for any curatorial work: not only in case of a global pandemic, but simply to make the space open to people who physically can’t be there.”

And while Belli Bose’s Global Threads symposium is being rescheduled, she’s also holding out hope that the exhibition can be seen in the fall—if physical distancing restrictions relax enough. Whatever happens, however, she singles out Aitken’s efforts as being responsible for the exhibition’s success.

“Claire is a natural curator and I can absolutely see her joining the field after she completes her MA with us,” she says. “We are lucky to have her!”

Photos by Fine Arts student photographer Leon Fei

Graduation celebration

Graduation celebration

Welcome to issue 11 of the Fine Arts Connector, your regular listing of news, resources, activities and other shareable content from UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts. It’s a handy way of keeping up with student, faculty and alumni activity while we’ve shifted gears to working, creating and teaching off-campus.

This month, we congratulate our latest group of graduating students, who now become part of the more than 8,800 Fine Arts alumni worldwide who have studied at UVic. “As part of an esteemed group of artists and creative thinkers, you are poised to embrace the adventures that lie ahead,” says acting dean Allana Lindgren in a message to the new alumni. “Believe in yourself. You are ready . . . . Use the knowledge and skills you learned during your degree to make a difference for your family, your community, the planet.”

Since there can’t be an in-person convocation ceremony this year, we’ve put together this Grad 2020  website for our students, filled with congratulatory videos from UVic President Jamie Cassels, Chancellor Shelagh Rogers, Acting Dean Allana Lindgren, Acting Associate Dean Adam Con, Songhees Elder Skip Dick plus messages from each of our departments and schools, as well as our certificate and diploma partners.

It’s our own compliment to UVic’s central graduation site, which features additional content like messages from the Governor General of Canada, Julie Payette, BC Premiere John Horgan and others. “You and your fellow students have faced a very challenging spring term, but you’ve endured and you’ve supported one another . . . your success today after those challenges bodes very well for your future,” says President Cassels. “This is an important transition for you, and your university wishes you all the best.”

Once again, congratulations to our 2020 graduates! 

As always, please enjoy—and circulate—this collection of material featuring our faculty, students, alumni, staff and guests as a way of both sharing what our creative community is up to and keeping us all connected. You can also help by keeping us in the loop if you’re working on a live-streaming project, have online material to share or are involved in something you’d like people to know about: just email either or

Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each issue.

Graduating Theatre student Olivia Wheeler (photo: John Threlfall)


We will need fine arts grads 

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted in one of his pandemic briefings, “Since the beginning of the current crisis, artists have been bringing comfort, laughs and happiness into our lives.” He’s right: the arts are important, particularly during a pandemic. In fact, COVID-19 has proven the arts are a social necessity. Creativity is always an assertion of hope​.

So says Acting Dean Allana Lindgren in her opinion piece “We Will Need Fine Arts Graduates” in a Post COVID-19 World, which ran on July 9 in the online University Affairs magazine.

“A fine arts education—be it in music, theatre, dance, creative writing, visual arts or art history and visual studies—is not always an easy sell. The social utility and financial feasibility of the arts are often underrated. This is an erroneous view at best, given the more than 700,000 jobs and nearly $60-billion direct economic impact the cultural industries have in Canada,” writes Lindgren.

“As they write novels, sculpt, create digital art or compose music, our students are also learning transferrable skills that are essential for countering situations defined by uncertainty. Innovation and adaptability are an essential component of any fine arts education. The arts community was one of the first to pivot online after the sweeping cancellations of performances, concerts, readings, exhibits and arts-related events and conferences.”

Read the full piece here.


University Affairs illustration by Pablo Stanley

More Good Company

Fine Arts has been well-represented in the “Good Company” interview series. So far, UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers has interviewed a number of our people, including:  

The latest in the series is her conversation with Writing professor and Cree Metis poet Gregory Scofield, who explores the connection between language, storytelling and beadwork. 

 Just click on the links to watch their interviews with Shelagh.

Theatre’s Adrienne Holierhoek & her communications class visit Stacy Ross at CHEK in 2018

Sing out loud (but at home) 

Choirs have been in the news a lot lately since provincial health officer Bonnie Henry announced in June that choral singing would likely be one of the last activities to resume normal practice. With well over 50 choirs, Victoria is a big choir town—so what does COVID-19 mean for the future of choir singing locally?

Hear Acting Associate Dean and School of Music choral professor Adam Con talk about the present and future of choir singing in this recent interview with CBC Radio’s All Points West

“There are thousands of people in Victoria missing the experience of singing right now,” says Con, who leads the UVic Chorus. “Making plans is probably the most important thing, as we don’t know when we’re going to be able to come together again.”   


Adam Con leads a children’s choir at the Legislature in 2019

Coming up this month

The latest in Pacific Opera’s ongoing Lunchbox Opera Online series features School of Music professors Benjamin Butterfield and pianist Kinza Tyrrell as they perform some of their favourite selections on July 24. The performance by our own acclaimed tenor and his accompanist was filmed live in the Wingate Studio of Pacific Opera Victoria’s Baumann Centre.


When it comes to object affection, there’s more to Theatre’s interim properties instructor Karina Kalvaitis than just props. She’s having her own sculpture show this month: The Residents features a series of felt and mixed media sculptures describe a world of mysterious creatures and half-familiar places. Through explorations of posture, gesture and facial expressions, the resident animals wordlessly express states of mind and emotion. The Residents runs 12-5pm weekends (or by appointment) through to July 26 at arc.hive artist run centre, 2516 Bridge Street. 

Current Writing student and emerging filmmaker Elvie Simons has been shortlisted for CineVic’s CineSpark contest for her short film Bequest. Blending Super-8 footage with a present-day voiceover in a  mother-daughter storyline, Simons stands the chance of winning a production package worth over $17,500 to complete her film for 2021’s Short Circuit Film Festival. Watch her Zoom pitch at 7pm Tuesday, July 28.

“The Residents” by Karina Kalvaitis 


Anti-racism training available 

Back in early June, UVic president Jamie Cassels released a statement about the need for us—as a university and as individuals—to continue to confront racism. “Racism and discrimination have no place at UVic, and we stand in solidarity with students, faculty and staff against racism, intolerance and violence,” he wrote.  

As such, a number of initiatives are underway to combat racism at UVic, including: a new program of anti-racism training through the office of Equity and Human Rights; an institutional project to establish a comprehensive strategy for considering equity, diversity and inclusion in all faculty hiring, promotion and tenure committees; an upcoming symposium on anti-racism; and planned reviews of our discrimination and harassment, human rights and sexualized violence policies. “Although we have many initiatives underway, we acknowledge that there is still much more to be done,” says Cassels.

UVic recently participated in a Victoria Forum webinar on “Systemic Racism & Inequality in the Middle of a Global Pandemic”—if you missed it, you can see a recap of the 80-minute session here.

And, as part of that ongoing discussion, Fine Arts hosted Writing chair Maureen Bradley, Theatre professor Yasmine Kandil and associate dean Adam Con to lead a discussion on systemic racism at our  June 25 faculty meeting. Part of what came out of that discussion is the new White Fragility Discussion & Resource Group, which has been set up to discuss and share resources that will help us dismantle white fragility—which present a serious barrier to combatting racism and systemic discrimination.

If you’re not familiar with the term, “white fragility” was coined by academic Dr. Robin DiAngelo in 2011. Her eponymous book is back at the top of the New York Times bestseller list (just below Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist). As the NYT describes it“white fragility” is the historical and cultural analyses on what causes defensive moves by white people, and how this inhibits cross-racial dialogue. DiAngelo suggests that it often derails the serious work of addressing systemic discrimination. 

Share your ideas with the Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts invites you to help shape the Council’s next five-year strategic plan. 

This is a disruptive period for the whole arts community—one which brings challenges, but also one which is prompting reflection and dialogue, and which offers the opportunity to take meaningful action. The Canada Council wants to hear from diverse stakeholder groups and the public to shape a plan that reflects the arts sector’s current reality and looks ahead to how the Council can help restart, reinvigorate and reimagine the arts for the benefit of all Canadians. 

As Canada’s public arts funder, the Council supports the creation and enjoyment of the arts through investments in Canadian artists and arts organizations. To give you a platform for sharing your ideas for the next strategic plan, the Council has engaged Hill+Knowlton Strategies to conduct a survey and provide other engagement opportunities.

Complete their online survey at and use #ReimagineTheArts on your social media accounts. This survey should only take 15-25 minutes to complete and will provide the Council with valuable input to shape our future priorities, plans and actions to support the arts in Canada.

The deadline to complete the survey is August 21, 2020. 

If you have questions about this initiative, please do not hesitate to contact  

Regional arts COVID-19 survey results

The CRD Arts & Culture Support Service has collected preliminary data on the impact of COVID-19 on funded organizations in the areas of staffing, programming and finances. The survey shows a significant change in the arts sector since March in comparison to 2019 progress report data.

Key survey findings from arts organizations receiving CRD Project and Operating funding:

  • 82% anticipate financial losses in the year ending 2020
  • 28% of organizations report that they will lay off staff
  • 46% of organizations have had to cancel programming in the year ending 2021
  • 78% of organizations have developed alternative formats to replace cancelled events. 

Arts organizations funded by the CRD typically provide 3,564 jobs and generate over $27.5 million in revenues annually of which the Arts Commission provides an investment of 8%. In 2019 CRD funding helped produce 3,357 arts events for the benefit of the community.

”The Arts Commission is seeing incredible efforts by the sector to sustain arts programming for citizens,” says CRD Arts Commission chair Jeremy Loveday. “The investments we make in these organizations are helping connect residents and bring comfort during an uncertain time.”

For more information, these PDF reports are available now: 

A gifted artist and inspiring mentor

While the prestigious $50,000 Molson Prize may not ring any immediate bells, a quick glance through the list of previous winners reveals a who’s-who of Canadian culture: Margaret Atwood, Glenn Gould, Richard Wagamese, Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Bill Reid, Mary Pratt, Jack Shadbolt, MG Vassanji, Margaret Laurence, Denys Arcand, Arthur Erickson . . . with over 100 luminaries representing Canada’s intellectual and cultural heritage, it’s like the ultimate CBC guest list.

One category missing from this list of prestigious artists, writers, composers, architects, choreographers and academics, however, is theatrical designers.

But that has now changed forever, as theatre professor and legendary production designer Mary Kerr becomes the first designer to be named a Molson Prize Laureate in the prize’s 56-year history. 

“Einstein said, ‘creativity is intelligence having fun’—that captures my life practice,” says Kerr. “I’m not that interested in realism; I’m interested in exploration, illusion, what’s going on in someone’s mind . . . that’s what I love about theatre, the ability to bring some kind of transformation and healing to the audience.”

From the iconic likes of Expo 67, Expo 86 and the 1994 Commonwealth Games to nearly every professional stage in the country—including the National Arts Centre production of Copper Thunderbird (above)—Mary Kerr’s visionary theatrical designs have transformed Canadian culture over the past five decades.

“We are so fortunate to have Mary’s talents here at the University of Victoria,” says Vice-President Academic and Provost Valerie Kuehne. “Not only is she an exceptionally gifted artist, she’s also an inspired teacher and mentor. Her work elevates UVic’s position as a national leader in fine arts and brings positive attention to the cultural strengths of Canadian art and production design on the global stage.”

 Read the full story here

Mary Kerr in her office at UVic’s Department of Theatre, surrounded by her various designs, 2016 (UVic Photo Services)

Pausing for the music


School of Music alum and baroque violinist Chloe Kim is organizing a new series, Music for the Pause, in solidarity with, and in support of, Victoria-based classical musicians negatively impacted by COVID-19. The series—which runs through to September 11—will also include performances by fellow Music alumni Tyson Doknjas and Mieka Michaux.

Normally busy with concerts and performances, the 23-year-old Kim created the new series as a way to reinvigorate the classical music community. Music for the Pause offers an 11-week concert series, featuring mostly Victoria-based musicians performing baroque chamber works on period instruments.

“Music for the Pause is a way of keeping myself and my colleagues, who are like family to me, creatively engaged as well as for staying connected to audiences during a very difficult and strange time,” explains Kim in this CBC interview.

“As someone who thrives on the intensity of a full performing schedule and the togetherness and sharing that comes with that, the concept of a summer without music was inconceivable to me. I like the challenge of having to work within certain parameters, whether it be social distancing regulations or personnel limitations, and I choose to see this period of time as an opportunity to be creative, rather than one of waiting or inactivity.” 

Kim’s series was also covered by both the Times Colonist and CHEK News. “It’s become about what attracted us to it in the first place, which was really the pleasure and the joy that we get out of it from just playing together in a room,” she told CHEK TV.

Chloe Kim (Photo: Kelsey Goodwin)

Click on the photo for a teaser of Kim’s performance 

A round-up of writers

Current Department of Writing professor Danielle Geller has a new piece in the prestigious Paris Review. “The Origin of My Laugh” offers a reflection on her life, her late mother and her relationship with laughter . . . which is not always a laughing matter. 

In other Writing news, current undergraduate, UVic varsity athlete and senior staff writer for The Martlet Josh Kozelj has won the U SPORTS Correspondent of the Year award. Kozelj, who has had a number of pieces published in the likes of the Globe and Mail and Tyeewas chosen based on the overall quantity and quality of his work, the diversity of his written portfolio, his punctuality, ability to find and pitch interesting stories, and regular involvement in contributing to U SPORTS Weekend Watch, a weekly Friday column previewing key games and events taking place each week of the season. 

Kozelj’s piece on Calgary Dinos cross country runner Eric Lutz, and his battle to return from a devastating back injury was one of the highlights of his written portfolio during the 2019-20 campaign and a finalist for the Story of the Year.


Finally, while the second-annual reading Pride Week poetry celebration “Wilde About Sappho”, originally scheduled for July 7, was cancelled due to you-know-what, current City of Victoria Poet Laureate John Barton instead invited the five 2SLGBTQIA+ readers to share their work online.

Wilde About Sappho: A Pride Reading of Local Queer Writers offers 30 minutes of readings by Writing alumni John Barton plus Kai Conradi, Serena Lukas Bhandar and current professor Gregory Scofield, as well as other readings by Robin Stevenson and Wendy Donawa.

Josh Kozelj

Two awards for AHVS graduates

Congratulations go out this month to two Art History & Visual Studies graduate students. Holly Cecil has been named the recipient of UVic’s 2019 Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal, while recent alum Atri Hatef has been awarded the 2020 Leonard Boyle dissertation prize from the Canadian Society of Medievalists.

 Awarded annually to a student with an outstanding graduate project or research paper other than thesis, Cecil received the Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal for her work on “The Role of Filmmaking in Communicating Research”.

“It’s a privilege to be recognized with this award for my research, and I want to share appreciation with my supervisor and committee, AHVS professors Lianne McLarty and Victoria Wyatt,” says Cecil. “In my research I investigate the ways that the documentary genre presents global issues to local audiences, specifically around themes of human-animal relationships.”

Recent PhD alum Atri Hatef, who received a prestigious postdoc at MIT’s Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, has now earned the Leonard Boyle prize for her thesis, “A Dialogue between Friends and Foes: Transcultural Interactions in Ilkhanid Capital Cities (1256-1335 AD)” — which is described as “an outstanding thesis that broadens notions of what the discipline of medieval studies can be.”

“This work is truly interdisciplinary, combining fields as diverse as history, art history, archaeology, religious studies and comparative literature,” notes the prize committee.  

“Congratulations to both on their achievements,” says AHVS chair Marcus Milwright.

Holly Cecil (right) with the Legacy Gallery’s Caroline Riedel (left) & AHVS professor Erin Campbell

Atri Hatef curating an exhibit at UVic’s Legacy Maltwood Gallery in 2017

Artistic voices

For most people, a visit to the yoga studio simply adds a bit of metaphysicality to their workout: a chance to breathe, stretch and realign their chakras with a few oms and namastes. But for graduating Visual Arts Honours BFA Rudra Manani, it’s an example of the widespread spiritual whitewashing that not only drives her art practice but also her identity as a first-generation Indo-Canadian.

“There’s a fascination with Hindu practices, but it’s gotten so disconnected that people don’t often realize where it all began,” says Manani, who was born in India but raised in Calgary before coming to UVic to train as an artist. “Think about yoga and how commercialized it’s become: not just Lululemon but all the retreats and studios with statues of deities . . . it’s more associated with hippie culture than Hindu culture, especially on the Island.”

Read more about Manani’s practice and future plans in this feature story on the UVic News site

And if you missed the recent Zoom artist talk with Visual Arts instructor and MFA alum Todd Lambeth around his exhibit at Winchester Galleries, you’re in luck: the talk has now been archived, so you can hear Lambeth discuss both his body of work and his process of art-making, as well as respond to a Q&A session with viewers.  

Watch his artist talk here

Rudra Manani’s “Get Your Om On” (digital photograph, 2020)

Todd Lambeth discusses his art practice

More to come 

We’ll be posting more content from our faculty, students and alumni next month—be sure to check back!