Physically distanced, culturally connected

Physically distanced, culturally connected

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.

In accordance with BC’s careful, step-by-step approach to increasing social and economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, the university is moving into the next phase of resuming on-campus activities.

Our approach continues to be careful and gradual, while maintaining our focus on the health and workplace safety of our campus community. Units will continue to modify their operational plans to ensure they have the people, whether working on or off campus, and services in place to support our commitment to high-quality academic programming and services. 

This managed, gradual return to campus is one way we can do our part to minimize the potential risk of an increased spread of the virus in our community. The fewer people we have on campus, the easier it is for those who are on site to maintain effective protective measures.

You can stay up to date with the resumption of campus activities through UVic’s dedicated COVID-19 site.

Similarly, Victoria’s arts scene is cautiously beginning to reemerge. As noted in the news roundup below, we’re starting to see innovative ways of delivering live theatre, art and music to audiences once more—with a number of our alumni, students and faculty at the forefront locally.

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 fineartsevents@uvic.ca or johnt@uvic.ca.

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

Photo: Leon Fei

News

Pandemic funding

Double Fine Arts alum (BFA Theatre/MFA Writing) and current Department of Writing playwriting instructor Janet Munsil has been announced as one of the recipients of the CBC Creative Relief Fund projects in the “Playwright Pilot Stream” for her new play, Attaboy!—which had a live reading at the Belfry Theatre back in 2019. Selected from nearly 9000 submitted projects, Munsil’s play is one of 119 original Canadian projects to receive funding for development and production, including 51 projects from BIPOC creators.

The fund was launched in April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provided $2 million in urgently needed development and production funding to a diverse range of original projects, including scripted comedies and dramas, unscripted entertainment, kids and young adult programming, podcasts, play adaptations and short documentaries.

Janet Munsil 

Creativity exhibit

Current Art History & Visual Studies graduate student Ashley Riddett appeared in this June 23 Times Colonist story about her work on the physically-distanced exhibit, Challenge Crisis with Creativity: Our Community Coping with COVID Through Art, running June 23-27 at Oak Bay’s Gage Gallery.

The exhibit was curated by Riddett and fellow grad students Maria Buhne, Anahita Ranjbar and Amena Sharmin, as well as Gage’s Gabriela Hirt and Tanya Bub. Also appearing in the exhibit is work by Visual Arts alum Francine Klysen, who notes in the TC article that her husband is in long-term care at Oak Bay Kiwanis Pavilion for Alzheimer’s; she hasn’t been able to see her husband for 13 weeks, but she has sold eight paintings inspired by the Gage Gallery project, profits from which are being donated back to Kiwanis Pavilion. “I’ve never sold a single painting before,” Klysen told the TC. “But it was my husband who said I should do this. Now, I’m painting every day.” 

Ashley Riddett (Photo: John Threlfall)

Theatre to go

It’s been a busy week since alumni company Theatre SKAM launched their new, free traveling Home Delivery service—offering live theatre directly to their audience’s doors—with a number of local shows being booked and a good deal of media coverage.

Current University of Victoria Phoenix Theatre student actors Sarah Hunsberger and Hannah Allin were interviewed for this June 17 piece on CTV Vancouver Island, while alumni actor Lynnéa Chan was featured in this June 18 CHEK News story and SKAM’s artistic producer Matthew Payne appeared on CBC Radio’s On The Island on June 22.

An alumni company with a long history of employing Theatre students and graduates, SKAM’s current team includes eight students & recent theatre alumni, including Hannah Mariko Bell, Vanessa Wood, Lynnea Chan, Astra Lund-Phillips, Olivia Wheeler, Sarah Hunsbergeer, Hannah Allin and Logan Swain.

Interested in booking your own free show? Click here to find out more.

 

SKAM’s Sarah Hunsberger, Kendra Bidwell, Hannah Allin & Lynnéa Chan (Photo: Samantha Duerksen)

History, through art

Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman appeared on both CBC Radio’s All Points West and North By Northwest recently, both covering current political events in the context of Indigenous Peoples Day. In this June 21 NXNW interview (skip to the 2:10 mark), he discusses contemporary issues—including politics, the pandemic and anti-racism—through an art lens, and how that connects with his teaching practice. He also spoke about his recent documentary, Picking Up The Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket, which is currently streaming for free

“With all of the big conversations going on in the world right now . . . and the discussions here in Canada about systemic racism, this is a good resource to remind people what the foundations of this country are,” he told host Sheryl McKay about the  documentary. 

Carey Newman

A decade of fine art

As local art galleries begin to open up again, Art History & Visual Studies alum Michael Warren made the news recently by combining the re-opening of his downtown Madrona Gallery with its 10th anniversary. “The exhibit will touch on major moments at the gallery through the decade,” said Warren in this June 15 Times Colonist interview. “We will showcase significant Inuit carvings, drawings and prints as well as historic Canadian and post-war pieces.”

“In a lot of ways it feels like just yesterday we were opening the gallery and learning how to swim,” Warren told the Victoria News in this June 14 interview. “But we’ve done a lot. The business has grown, going from a local focus with a local footprint to sourcing work nationally and internationally.”

Michael Warren (Darren Stone, Times Colonist)

In the swim

The premiere exhibition of the Tom Thomson Centennial Swim by Visual Arts professor Paul Walde is back open to the public again at Nelson’s Touchstones Gallery: the exhibition closed shortly after it originally opened in March, but has now been extended to September 20. 

On July 8 2017, Walde swam the length of Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park on the 100th anniversary of Canadian painter Tom Thomson’s death. The swim—a site- and temporally-specific event—was used as an opportunity for exploring and understanding this landscape and history through performative experience. The swim was accompanied by a series of interconnected events: a brass band with a mandolin soloist performing a new long form music composition by Walde, three synchronized swimming routines a various points along the route, and a flotilla of canoes carrying the band.

The work primarily exists in two forms: the event itself and the resulting audio/video work based on the footage of the event. Touchstones is the first gallery to premiere the video and score as an installation.

 

Paul Walde (Photo: Andrew Wright)

Resources

SSHRC Insight summer school

While most think of summer school as a bit of an inconvenience, it can be an ideal time for professional development. Consider UVic’s upcoming SSHRC Insight Summer School, which is designed to support faculty members, librarians and postdoctoral fellows from across campus as they prepare applications for SSHRC Insight or Insight Development Grants.

Participants are invited to access any or all of the summer school offerings, including interactive sessions, customized online resources, a discussion forum and opportunities for peer review. Facilitated by UVic’s faculty grants officers, the series will provide a supportive and collegial atmosphere to learn more about the application process and make significant headway on a draft application.

The training will be hosted via CourseSpaces, with optional Zoom live sessions taking place from 2-3:30pm Wednesdays (PDT) on July 8, 15, 22 & 29.

Popular podcasts

If you haven’t caught the podcast revolution yet, now’s definitely the time. While the online airwaves are filled with options, here are two well worth checking out.

The first is UVic’s Scales of Change: A field guide to the Dragons of Climate Inaction, an eight-part weekly series launched on May 13. Produced by Future Ecologies, with support from UVic, the foundation of the series is The Dragons of Inaction, the magnum opus of UVic environmental psychologist Robert Gifford. With the help of Gifford himself, co-hosts Adam Huggins (Environmental Studies alum) and Mendel Skulski take a deep dive into the psychological barriers (the “dragons”) that prevent us from addressing the urgency of the climate crisis. Each episode, Skulski and Huggins talk with guests including filmmakers, activists, scientists, Indigenous land defenders, journalists, scholars and artists to deepen the conversation around making meaningful change—all woven together by a powerful immersive soundscape. You can listen online or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or your favourite podcast app.

 

But if you’re looking for something more literally fantastic, check out the science-fiction podcast ARCA-45672 by Visual Arts MFA alum Claire Scherzinger. Inspired by some of her paintings that she wanted to bring to life, Scherzinger wrote and sound-designed this eight-part sci-fi drama that was directed and produced by Theatre alum Kirsten Sharun, and acted and recorded by UVic students and alumni (with an assist from faculty members Kirk McNally and Cliff Haman). When first released in 2019, ARCA received good coverage from CBC and was a top performer on the iTunes charts in Canada for the Apple Podcast.

ARCA-45672 in a nutshell: in 2172, the world is dying. Only a fraction of the Earth’s former biosphere remains, the world is running out of food and part of the human population has gone sterile, resulting in massive inbreeding and genetic distortions. Teams of scientists and military personnel tasked with finding a way to save humanity from extinction are confronted with a possible opportunity: an exoplanet near the Proxima Centauri system is discovered.

Over the course of 73 years, this discovery of the exoplanet sparks a series of probe and AI missions—all leading to the realization that a new branch of humanity has arisen on Arca-45672. Now, as the Earth’s biosphere collapses, governments and military organizations scramble as they see potential salvation for their dying species in this exoplanet. But should humanity be content to merely survive?

Listen to it here.

 

 

“The Death of the Great Giant Tor Ragnar” (Claire Scherzinger, 2018)

Four of a kind

For over 30 years, the Lafayette String Quartet has been making an indelible mark on the School of Music, first as Artists-in-Residence and now as faculty members who teach violin, viola, cello and coach chamber music with some of Canada’s finest young string players.

The Lafayette String QuartetAnn Elliott Goldschmid (violin), Sharon Stanis (violin), Joanna Hood (viola) and Pamela Highbaugh-Aloni (cello)— is the only all-female ensemble in the world to comprise the four original members: a distinct rarity, regardless of gender or profession.

Not only are the LSQ active on campus with teaching, performing and organizing their annual Lafayette Health Awareness Series, but they’re also committed to Victoria’s greater music scene. You’ll frequently find them working with the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra, connecting with the string programs in public schools, performing with Pacific Baroque, hosting Quartet Fest West . . . oh, and maintaining an active touring schedule with concerts around North American and Europe. 

Among their various quartet projects are the Complete Beethoven Cycle, the Second Viennese School, Bartók’s Legacy and the Complete Cycle of Shostakovich String Quartets.

In addition to their work with undergraduate and graduate students, the LSQ also offer a Master’s in Music Performance (MMus): Emphasis in String Quartet, a program specifically designed for a pre-existing string quartet interested in embarking on a career in chamber music. “You hone your skills to be the best you can possibly be on your instrument, then bring those skills into the ensemble, matching the timing, harmony, vibrato, bow speeds and articulation of the others,” explains Elliot-Goldschmid. “It’s a magical process but it takes an enormous amount of work.”

They also perform in the School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series, of course, which brings us to this issue’s musical break: a recording of the LSQ’s February 2020 concert, featuring Haydn’s “Quartet in C Major, Op. 54, No. 2″, Ruth Crawford Seeger’s “String Quartet 1931″ and Beethoven’s “Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1”.

Enjoy!

 

The Lafayette String Quartet

Quartet in C Major, Op. 54, No. 2 by Franz Joseph Haydn

by Lafayette String Quartet

Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 Ludwig van Beethoven

by Lafayette String Quartet

String Quartet 1931 Ruth Crawford Seeger

by Lafayette String Quartet

A desire for connection

As part of the ongoing Field Trip: Art Across Canada digital arts initiative, recent Visual Arts alum Laura Gildner was invited to offer insight into her art practice and the ways she is adapting her work to the new conditions playing out in the landscape of physical distancing.

“Since the lockdown began, I have been grappling with the potential consequences a long-term lack of human interaction might have on my well-being as well as on my work,” Gildner explains in the short video (below) that debuted in May 2020.

“My practice, for the most part, involves casting or collaborating with large groups of people to create participatory experiences in response to my research. This desire for connection will be the jumping off point for my field trip—part artist talk and part performance, I’ll be looking at how art that is rooted in human contact might be reimagined in the age of physical distancing.”

Earlier this spring, Gildner was named the winner of the 2020 Lind Prize in Photography, Film and Video Art (for which she was twice nominated), and her work Informer was a selected exhibition for this year’s Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver. Most recently, she has exhibited at the Polygon Gallery in  North Vancouver.

Field Trip: Art Across Canada delivers arts experiences with some of Canada’s most celebrated artists in a national partnership with leading arts organizations. Recently, it featured a conversation with Visual Arts professors Cedric Bomford and Rick Leong, as well as alumni Hollis Roberts and Mike McLean.

Laura Gildner

Eden Robinson inspires students

When it comes to celebrated alumni, UVic’s Writing department has an embarrassment of riches—think Esi Edugyan, WP Kinsella, Aislinn Hunter, Billeh Nickerson and Richard Van Campamong many, many others. Celebrated Haisla novelist Eden Robinson is another who is consistently burning up the bestseller charts since her debut novel Monkey Beach back in 2001.

With a fistful of awards and nominations—including winning the Writers Trust Engel/Findley Award, a Writers Trust Fellowship, the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize in the BC Book Prizes, a Copper Cylinder Adult Award and being shortlisted for a Scotiabank Giller Prize, as well as being selected for CBC’s Canada Reads series—her new Trickster series is now being developed into a television series by Sienna Films, producers of Cardinal and New Waterford Girl.

As a recipient of one of the Faculty of Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Awards, Robinson has been no stranger to campus since graduating in 1992; most recently, the Kitamaat-based writer offered an inspiring (and often hilarious) talk to a class of first-year Writing students in October 2018, while back in town for the Victoria Writer’s Festival.

“The writers coming up now give me a lot of hope because they’re very comfortable speaking their minds—politically, socially and personally—and a lot of the things they’re talking about are longstanding issues,” she said at the time.

Back in the fall of 2018, she had just released Trickster Drift, the second book in her planned trilogy (including 2017’s Son of a Trickster and the forthcoming Return of the Trickster). You can read more about Robinson and her accomplishments (including finding out which fabled Writing prof once gave her a “0” out of 10 on an assignment) in this 2018 interview from UVic’s Torch alumni magazine.

But for now, you can watch her in action as she talks about being an Indigenous author, life after university, writing a bestseller, Trickster Drift and much more in this Orion Lecture in Fine Arts from October 2018.

Eden Robinson

It was a packed Writing class for Eden Robinson’s talk 

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.”

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.

“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.”

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.”

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

Claire Aitken

Rapping about curry

When last we spoke to Theatre alum Jasleen Powar back in 2016, she was just about to graduate and was already making a name for herself as Vancouver-based rapper Horsepowar. Four years later, Powar is now based in New York City and breaking new waves as the spicy host of the online food show Curry Shop.

But more than just another food show, Curry Shop offers one woman’s journey to better understand her own culture through the lens of food. And, with over 128,000 views, it seems to have caught on.

Part of the First We Feast food TV network on YouTube, Horsepowar’s Curry Shop dropped in 2018 and offers an insider’s look at one of the world’s most ubiquitous—if misunderstood—comfort foods. With six episodes already wrapped and a second season in the works, Curry Shop examines how South Asia’s most famous culinary export changes shape from Japan to Jamaica to Thailand to the Philippines.

Horsepowar is joined on each episode by celebrity guests like Aasif Mandvi, Sean Paul, Chi Ching Ching and Rina Sawayama, who explore the connections between hip-hop, spice and global cuisine while sampling some of NYC’s finest bowls of curry.

It’s a nice match for Powar. Her  unflinching rhymes and powerhouse Sikh-Canadian “Desi girl” persona (a term for girls born outside of South Asia but still upholding traditional values) had already earned the attention of the likes of CBC, Nylon, Vice, Rolling Stone India, GQ India and Canadian newspapers from Vancouver to Montreal . . . all before she even graduated. (You can read more in this 2016 graduation interview with Powar on the Fine Arts blog.)

Grab a cool drink and prepare for things to get hot as you watch Horsepowar in action in the Curry Shop.

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Nathan Medd

More to come 

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

The newest phase

The newest phase

Welcome to issue nine of The Fine Arts Connector, your biweekly listing of news, resources, activities and other shareable content from the Faculty of Fine Arts, specifically compiled for distribution during the current health crisis.

If you missed some of the recent UVic updates, President Cassels has now outlined the fall academic programming and the supports that will be available to faculty, staff and students, as well as the planned safe, phased-in approach to resuming university services and operations. Other updates also cover spring Convocation, the 20/21 timetable and the transition from the emergency response management structure to a more normal operating scenario.

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 connected in this difficult moment in history. 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 fineartsevents@uvic.ca or johnt@uvic.ca.

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

News

Legacy re-opening

Now that art galleries and museums are able to open as part of BC’s Restart Plan, our colleagues at Legacy Gallery have announced they will be re-opening their doors on June 17 with two new exhibits.

To Fish As Formerly: A Story of Straits Salish Resurgence is curated by AHVS alum Katie Hughes and XEMŦOLTW Dr. Nicholas Claxton (UVic’s School of Child & Youth Care) and tells the story of the SXOLE (the reef net fishery) through contemporary art, traditional knowledge and historical documentation. This exhibit features the work of seven artists: TEMOSEN Charles Elliott, John Elliott, Chris Paul, Dylan Thomas, Temoseng (aka Chasz Elliott) and Visual Arts alumni Sarah Jim and Colton Hash.

Also opening is TUKTUUYAQTUUQ (Caribou Crossing), by Visual Arts alum Maureen Gruben.  “Tuktuuyaqtuuq” is the Inuvialuktun name of Gruben’s home on the Arctic coast (known in English as “Tuktoyaktuk”), which means, “Looks Like a Caribou”.  In this exhibit, Gruben works with multiple facets of the animal to trace the caribou’s vast immaterial presence in her culture.

Both exhibits continue to November at Legacy Downtown, 630 Yates. Their new hours are 10am-4pm Wednesday, Friday & Saturday, plus noon-7pm Thursdays, with a maximum of 10 visitors to the gallery at a time. Please see the visitor safety statement on the Legacy website for more information.

 

A detail from Maureen Gruben’s TUKTUUYAQTUUQ

“The weight of change should not rest on the shoulders of Black people”

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in the US, Maclean’s magazine recently asked Black Canadian writers to pen open letters to America addressing the recent upheaval and the task of confronting racism in Canada. One of the authors selected for this series is celebrated author, Writing alum and Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Esi Edugyan.

“The weight of change shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of Black people—and indeed, it doesn’t. For true systemic shifts to occur, everyone has to recognize that the whole underlying structure is so irreparably broken that no one can afford to live like this anymore,” she writes.

“Idealism is not only for the young. Nor should it be left only to those who bear the greatest brunt of systemic inequities. Everyone must do the work. The pattern of outrage and forgetting cannot be sustained. This changes nothing in the long run. The work is never finished, in the way that the work of a modern marriage is never finished—it requires constant recommitment and vigilance, and a dismantling of archaic roles to avoid total collapse.”

Read her full essay here.

Edugyan was also one of three prominent Black Canadians—alongside poet El Jones and racial justice lawyer Anthony Morgan—featured on the June 10 episode of CBC Radio’s The Current.

“It seems like people are really waking up to the fact that this isn’t just a Black issue or an Indigenous issue, but that this is something that affects everyone and that we all should be outraged about,” Edugyan said in the interview.

You can listen to the full 30-minute discussion here.

 

Esi Edugyan

Resources

How can we save our theatres?

Faced with a protracted period of time before theatres can be opened again—and then possibly only in a physically distanced manner, both on- and off-stage—every arts group is currently grappling with the reality of staying dark for an extended period of time . . . and the dire impact that will have on both arts groups and local economies.

Britain’s powerhouse cultural sector needs investment, not charity, writes celebrated director of stage and screen Sir Sam Mendes in the June 4 issue of The Financial Times. But while he may be writing specifically about the situation in Britain, his ideas carry weight across the water as well.

“The entire performing arts sector has mobilised to make a game-changing proposal: the Cultural Investment Participation Scheme,” he writes. “It combines the joint potential of commercial and subsidised ecologies to offer the government the genuine prospect of substantial financial return. In short, our offer is to treat the government as an ‘Angel’, using the same formula to return investment and share in the profit of successful shows, once those shows have earned back their initial costs.”

Could these ideas be applied here? Discuss!

Sam Mendes

Stream this book

Feeling the need for a bit of escapism right now? Check out Theatre alum Krista Wallace‘s podcast [Totally Fantastic Title], where she is currently offering a chapter-by-chapter reading of her fantasy novel Gatekeeper’s Key.  

A writer, singer, actor and now podcaster, the Vancouver-based Wallace writes both short fic­tion in a vari­ety of genres (“To Serve and Protect”, 49th Parallels) as well as long-form fic­tion. She also sings jazz in a big band called FAT Jazz, a duo called the Itty Bitty Big Band and narrates audio books for other authors.

Krista Wallace

Looking for some good company?

Don’t worry if you missed the recent conversation between UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers and Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman: you can still watch their online talk about reconciliation and creating art that makes people consider themselves differently in the archive for Good Company, the new series of casual conversations between Rogers and members of UVic’s creative community.

Also archived on that same page is Rogers’ chat with with Department of Writing Professor Emerita Lorna Crozier about poetry and the arts in the era of COVID-19.

The end is . . . near?

Sometimes longstanding courses have an uncanny way of colliding with reality. Case in point? The current Art History & Visual Studies film studies elective “The End: Apocalyptic Themes in Film” (AHVS 392).

While longstanding AHVS instructor Mitch Parry has been teaching it each summer since 2010, this is the first time he’s taught it in such dire circumstances—or online instead of in a classroom. But even though the COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t represent “the end” per se, it has impacted society more than any other event in recent memory.

Yet despite all we’ve been collectively going through, Parry’s course still filled quickly and has a waitlist nearly as large as the maximum enrollment. Why the popularity of the apocalypse?

‘There’s kind of a satisfaction in watching the world end without having to experience it,” says Parry. “But as film is a photographic and narrative medium, audiences just love seeing something apocalyptic . . . that doesn’t actually involve anyone dying.”

As a subject, the apocalypse actually goes back to the early days of cinema (“There’s a Danish movie called The End of the World from 1916, which has beautiful lighting and good performances,” he says), which affords him a plethora of end-of-the-world scenarios from which to choose. This year, he’s limited it to nine films ranging from horror (Zombieland), comedy (Last Night) and science fiction (I Am Legend) to bleak futurism (The Road) and personal drama (These Final Hours).

All explore different ways in which the world can end: meteor (Deep Impact), excessive consumption (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs), nuclear war (Dr Strangelove), economic collapse (Take Shelter), or simply experience an apocalypse without knowing what’s happening or why, as in the Canadian film Last Night.

“The fun part of Last Night is that the world ends at midnight Toronto time,” he chuckles, “which seems to imply that Toronto really is the centre of the universe.”

Yet despite a decade of popularity, Parry admits he was quite reluctant to teach the course at all this summer.

“I usually start the class by asking how many people think the world is going to end in their lifetime,” he says. “Back in 2010, pretty much everybody put up their hand, but it has dropped quite significantly in the intervening years—but now, it seems like a really rude question to ask. It feels like the elephant in the room.”

Describing the popularity of the apocalypse like “the myth of Cassandra: the prophet who isn’t listened to”, Parry admits he’ll be making some changes in his approach to the course this year. “It’s much easier to talk about the end of the world as an abstract thing than when it’s hinted at by current events. I think you have to tread lightly at times like this.”

Finally, as a veteran film professor, if the world was ending and he could only watch one more apocalyptic film, what would it be?

Melancholia,” he says, citing Lars Von Trier’s 135-minute, 2011 Danish epic. “It offers no hope, which means no equivocation. The world ends at the beginning of the film, then we see how the end of the world affects these two sisters. Plus, it’s the single best representation of how I’ve experienced depression—the slow-motion opening, the dragging, monotonous endlessness of it.”

Now that sounds like an apocalypse.

2009’s Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
Will Smith in 2007’s I Am Legend
Slim Pickens in 1964’s Dr. Strangelove
There’s no escaping 2011’s Melancholia

Blowing her own horn

Almost as busy off-campus as she is while teaching in the School of Music, trumpet professor and virtuoso Merrie Klazek always seems to hit the right note.

Just days before we all went into isolation back in mid-March, Klazek took a quick trip to Elkhart, Indiana, where the Vincent Bach trumpet factory. As a Bach Artist, she was participating in their “Artist Select” program, which supports their artists coming to personally try a lot of instruments at the factory—and to choose several to be sold in the local music store of their city, with a tag explaining that theyhave been hand selected by this artist, so that students in particular know what they are buying.

While she was there, Back produced a series of six fascinating videos, in which Klazek shares her journey as both a teacher/educator and performer, her exploration of different instruments, her musical influences and how she ended up knowing—after her first brass class—that the trumpet was her “voice”. Now having been playing professionally for over 30 years, Klazek’s journey as a professional musician and now Bach Artist is nicely encapsulated in this insightful video series.

You can also check out her first album, Songs to the Moon, which was recently added to Spotify (and YouTube as well), or watch her perform alongside her husband, fiddler Pierre Schryer, in the April 2020 COncert-VIDeo, a fun COVID project featuring a series of performances by Schryer and local musicians. (Klazek performs the Berber tune “A Ya Zain” 11:00 to 13:50). 

Finally, please enjoy this performance by Klazek and seven trumpet colleagues across Canada as they perform Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium”, arranged by Matt Byrne.

The Canadian Pro Trumpet Ensemble includes Merrie Klazek (top centre)
Part 1: “The Artist Select Experience”
Part 4: “A Dedication to Bach Trumpets From Early On”
Part 2: “Staying Active in Musical Pursuits”
Part 5: “The Importance of a Professional Level Horn”
Part 3: “Choosing the Trumpet”
Part 6: “Finding Your Influences”

Two 4 One for free

Just in time for Pride month, you can now stream the award-winning feature film Two 4 One—described as the first transgender rom-com—for free through to June 15. Just use this link.

Written, directed and edited by Department of Writing chair Maureen Bradley in 2014 and produced by Writing’s digital media specialist Daniel Hogg, the locally shot Two 4 One is a bittersweet comedic drama that sees a transgender hero fall into an unimaginable predicament.

When transgendered Adam helps his baby-crazy ex-girlfriend Miriam artificially inseminate, they wind up in bed together—and they both get pregnant. Now Adam must reconcile his identity and gender with his biological reality, grapple with his feelings for Miriam and try to figure out what it means to be a man.

Watch the trailer here.

Described as a “sweet gender-bender of a light comedy . . . sensitive, subtle and truly sure-handed” (Globe and Mail) and “genuinely funny and sensitive [with] clever and hilarious twists” (Calgary Sun), it stars Gavin Crawford (This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Baroness Von Sketch Show), Naomi Snieckus (Mr. D, Carter), Andrea Menard (Moccasin Flats, Blackstone), Matt Baram (Seed, Carter), and Gabrielle Rose (The Sweet Hereafter, The Man in the High Castle).

The winner of eight international film awards—including Best Canadian Film (Victoria Film Festival), Audience Award: Best Feature Film (The Seattle Transgender Film Festival) and a Special Jury Prize (Chicago International LGBTQ+ Film Festival)—Bradley’s debut feature film was ahead of its time in its portrayal of a transgender character.

“I’ve had tons of films at film festivals but I want to reach a broader audience,” she said at the time. “Living life as a transgendered man is not something most people know anything about.”

Reaching that wider audience is why she chose to write Two 4 One as a romantic comedy. “I’m a lapsed activist, and storytelling is a way of reaching people that’s easier than activism,” she explained. “When people laugh, they’re open and might take in new ideas, and understand ‘the other’ . . . . Humour is very subversive.”

Two 4 One is normally available for rental on the NFB website ($5.99) and iTunes ($4.99), among other platforms, but this free screening is a special event only available to The Connector’s readership until June 15. Enjoy!

Reengaging with art

When last we heard from current Art History & Visual Studies graduate student Ashley Riddett in April, she was working with Oak Bay’s Gage Gallery Arts Collective to create an online art-sharing platform and blog series called Challenge Crisis with Creativity, which has continued to post art in response to weekly themes.

Now, Riddett and a team of AHVS grad students are working with Gage Gallery to mount both a physical and virtual exhibit featuring the art contributed by the community during the COVID-19 outbreak. Challenge Crisis with Creativity: Our Community Coping with COVID Through Art will run June 23-27 at the Gage Gallery, 2031 Oak Bay Avenue.

The exhibit will feature 50 pieces in a variety of disciplines selected from the 100-plus artists who contributed nearly 300 pieces to the online series, with a separate room featuring projections of the remaining work.

“The physical exhibit is not only a celebration of the leniency on social distancing, but also a celebration of how successful the project has been so far,” says Riddett. “And I’m a huge fan of inclusion and community-building, so the projector room will be a great way to include everyone.”

The pieces in the exhibit have been selected by both Riddett and fellow AHVS grad students Maria Buhne, Anahita Ranjbar and Amena Sharmin, as well as the Gage Gallery’s Gabriela Hirt and Tanya Bub. “We picked the ones we felt were really strong and resonated with the weekly themes,” she explains.

The exhibit itself will be physically distanced, given Gage Gallery’s long narrow space, with only two viewers at a time allowed into the space. “It will be challenging, but I think it’ll be worth it,” Riddett says. “And I’m sure people will appreciate feeling confident and safe within the space. We’re all coming out more but there is still that anxiety.”

For those not able—or ready—to visit the actual gallery, Riddett is drawing on her course experience to create a 3D digital exhibition for people who are unable to visit the Oak Bay gallery. “I did a lot of virtual exhibition walkthroughs as part of my AHVS undergraduate and graduate courses, so I have a lot of experience in it,” she says.

Riddett feels the Challenge Crisis with Creativity project—with its focus on artist and crafter recognition and community engagement—dovetails nicely with her own graduate research focusing on collecting oral histories of textile crafters in Nova Scotia (specifically rug hookers).

“The art we create today is going to be the art we admire and study tomorrow,” she says. “Art history is more relevant than people give it credit for . . . while this is an unfortunate time, it’s a great time to understand why visuals are so important. It’s important to look for new avenues to help and support people in the art world, and to get people reengaging again.”

Tanya Bub’s “United We Stand (6 Feet Apart)” will be featured in the upcoming exhibit

To be or not to be . . . solo

Long before there was the One-Man Star Wars, Theatre Inconnu artistic director and Department of Theatre alum and instructor Clayton Jevne created his One-Man Hamlet. Described by various reviewers over the years as “Amazing”, “Ingenious” and “Mind boggling”, Jevne performed this remarkable show for over 20 years and it truly is a wonder to behold. But this “thrift-store classic” certainly didn’t start out that way.

“In 1991, after three seasons of trying to make a go of establishing ourselves as a going concern in Victoria, Theatre Inconnu decided to close shop after a final—and, at the time, considered ‘audacious’—farewell production,” recalls Jevne. “Down to one member, the ‘company’ decided to create a one-actor production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, furnished with props and costume bits from local thrift shops. If the company was to go under, then let it go under in a truly bizarre fashion.”

But rather than scuttle the ship, Jevne’s One-Man Hamlet actually had the complete opposite effect. “The production sold out and became the spark that ignited the company’s love affair with the Bard,” he says.

Theatre Inconnu was able to leverage the success of the show and launch the first annual mini-Shakespeare summer festival in 1991, which soon morphed into a major annual event and continues to this day as the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival—led by artistic director and Writing MFA alum Karen Lee Pickett—on the grounds of Camosun College. (In fact, 2020 would have been the Shakespeare Fest’s 30th anniversary, had COVID-19 not put it temporarily on hold.)

Between 1991 and 2008, Jevne’s One-Man Hamlet then went on to tour through four countries (UK, Mexico, US, Canada) and over 600 performances. Not bad for what was supposed to be the last kick at the cat!

In addition to having been the artistic director of Theatre Inconnu since 1978—where he has served as actor, director or designer on close to 100 productions—Jevne has logged close to 1,000 performances of solo shows across North America and Europe. Located right across the street from the Belfry on Fernwood Road, Theatre Inconnu is rightly described as “Victoria’s longest-running independent theatre” and has achieved legendary status locally, thanks to Jevne’s indefatigable leadership.

While his widely acclaimed One-Man Hamlet is available in book form by Ekstasis Editions, we’re presenting it here as a recording of the 20th anniversary performance back in 2011.

Even if you don’t know Rosencrantz from Guildenstern, you’re bound to enjoy it.

Clayton Jevne performing his “thrift store classic” One-Man Hamlet

More to come weekly

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

Restart me up

Restart me up

Welcome to issue seven of the Fine Arts Connector, your biweekly listing of news, resources, activities and other shareable content from the Faculty of Fine Arts, specifically compiled for distribution during the current health crisis.

As Premier John Horgan announced on May 6, we’re now looking at a phased-in “restart plan” over the next few weeks in BC, which will ease some of the current restrictions on our lives. But while some sectors will be opening later this month, the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people is expected to remain in place throughout the summer, which will present some creative challenges for the arts sector. 

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at BC’s Restart Plan here.  

President Jamie Cassels also released his latest campus update on May 11, which notes UVic will be offering programming predominantly online for the fall term. “Where health and safety permits, we are also exploring opportunities for in-person instruction to support essential experiential learning, graduate education and work-integrated learning; the fall timetable will be available later this month.” Watch for more details pending, and how that will affect us in Fine Arts.

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 connected in this difficult moment in history.

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 fineartsevents@uvic.ca or johnt@uvic.ca.

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

News

 

A sense of belonging & community

The first Monday of May is always a celebration of Music Education in Canada. Last year saw a few hundred people singing and playing at the BC Legislature, but this year everything went online instead with a series of live coast-to-coast performances.

As the principal researcher on a 2020 national study on the state of music education in Canada, School of Music professor and Acting Associate Dean Adam Con appeared throughout the entire 12-hour stream promoting the importance of music education.

“Have you noticed the news on TV and in social media constantly sharing how music plays an important role in how we express our feelings and how music creates a sense of belonging and community?” says Con in this YouTube message that ran throughout the entire broadcast. “The skills that allow us to share these musical moments are directly linked to the strength of our Canadian music education programs.” 

School of Music professor and Acting Associate Dean Adam Con in his Music Monday message 

Create Victoria 

The City of Victoria is proposing a restart of their Create Victoria initiative—including the hiring of a new staff position, a new Cultural Infrastructure Grant fund and a $5,000 grant to the ProArt Alliance of Greater Victoria for the creation of a City of Victoria sponsored award at the annual ProArt Regional Arts Awards in the fall. 

Acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic crisis has had a profoundly negative impact on the arts and cultural sector in Victoria, city councillor and poet Jeremy Loveday is bringing this forward to City Council meeting on May 14, with an eye to how the arts & culture sector can help fuel regional recovery and supporting the mental health and well-being of area residents . . . following provincial guidelines, of course.

“Investment in arts and culture and support to the struggling sector should be a key recovery priority for the City,” says Loveday. “This will help to drive the recovery of our local economy. It will also provide much-needed opportunities for residents to experience the benefits of engaging with arts and culture opportunities—albeit in new and creative ways—after being cooped up at home during the pandemic. In addition to economic stimulus, investing in arts and culture as part of the City’s recovery strategy is also good for the mental health and well-being of our residents.”

Livestreaming this week

Fine Arts alumni continue to be active in National Arts Centre’s ongoing #CanadaPerforms series: appearing this week are Theatre alumni Laura Anne Harris, Kathleen Greenfield and Ingrid Hansen. 

Destiny USA: Seen briefly at the Belfry’s SPARK Festival in March before its run was shut down, Laura Anne Harris‘s solo production captures the true daily drama of her job as a relay operator for the deaf and hard of hearing—but when Laura moves from Toronto to Syracuse, New York, she certainly wasn’t expecting to be living in Trump’s America. Can she discover the hidden humanity of the American people? Find out at 5:30pm PST on Wednesday, May 13.   

SNAFU in Epidermis Circus: This is a collection of new and experimental works by the legendary SNAFU artists, who create live theatre, puppet theatre and dance theatre here in Victoria, while also touring across Canada to theatres and festivals. Led by artists Kathleen Greenfield and Ingrid Hansen, get ready for anything when Epidermis Circus debuts at 7pm PST Thursday, May 14. Note: all tips and donations will go to Victoria’s Our Place Society, who help people who are homeless.

Laura Anne Harris in Destiny USA

Shelagh Rogers keeps good company

As if her long-running CBC Radio show The Next Chapter and her duties as UVic Chancellor weren’t enough, Shelagh Rogers is now launching a new online show: Good Company with Shelagh Rogers debuts at noon Thursday, May 14, on UVic’s Facebook page

The first episode features Department of Writing professor emeritus and iconic Canadian poet Lorna Crozier, who will talk about poetry and art in the age of COVID. 

 

DIY cycling adventure

While it’s not part of the #CanadaPerforms series, Theatre alum Keshia Palm has received financial support from the National Theatre School of Canada’s Art Apart program, an emergency fund for emerging artists who are affected by physical distancing, to create Make Me An Alleycat a step-by-step guide to making your own adventure.

Now Toronto-based, Palm has created this interactive digital community arts project where individuals are invited to share stories and locations with their community during this time of social distancing as a way to be together while apart. It’s a collection of little journeys, and a window into secret worlds, where you go for a bike ride with your friends!

Using the Make Me an Alleycat email template, you create a one-of-a-kind bike route generated by 10 of your friends. They pick the location, you go for the ride. Each stop has a story behind it, and on this alleycat, you get to listen in. Find out more here

Keshia Palm’s Make Me An Alleycat 

 

Theatre in the dark

Theatre alum Mackenzie Gordon is mounting Three Stories Up—a murder mystery staged entirely in a pitch black room—for two weekends only, May 14-16 and May 21-23. Gordon originally wrote the play in 2014, and it’s been mounted twice since, including a production with Chicago’s aptly-named Theatre in the Dark. With just two actors playing dozens of characters, plus strong foley work and an original score, Gordon felt it would be ideal for a live digital delivery.

“We thought it was perfect, in these times, to stage again as a live audio performance,” he says. “We’ve IT’d the hell out of Zoom and gotten professional microphones to make sure the production is so much more than just filmed theatre.”

Mackenzie Gordon (left)

Inspiring change

Each year, Leadership Victoria celebrates community leadership and recognizes people who have made a lasting contribution to the communities that make up Greater Victoria.

Among this year’s recipients of the Victoria Community Leadership Awards is Department of Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman, who was named one of 2020’s “Inspiring Changemakers” and honoured with the Extending Reconciliation Award.

Newman, whose traditional name is Hayalthkin’geme, is a multidisciplinary Indigenous artist, master carver, filmmaker, author and public speaker. “As a leader he demonstrates his ability to bring together community members from different backgrounds through specific activities,” notes the award citation. “Carey believes in collective responsibility, learning from the past and creating art based on accumulated knowledge, experiences and traditions . . . He also works with young and at-risk populations, where carving is central for Indigenous people and for whom this kind of activity is considered a responsibility. Throughout his work, Carey believes the process has to model the goal.”

Watch his interview with Leadership Victoria’s Mark Crocker here.   

 

Carey Newman speaking with Leadership Victoria

Rising stars

In other news, two Fine Arts alumni have been selected for the prestigious Writers’ Trust of Canada Rising Stars program: recent Writing MFA graduate Troy Sebastian/Nupqu ʔa·kǂ am̓ and Theatre grad Carleigh Baker.  

Sebastian, a Ktunaxa writer who has also just been nominated for a pair of National Magazine Awards, and was selected by acclaimed novelist Lynn Coady. “Everything about the work of Troy Sebastian feels original,” says Coady. “His unpredictable structure, his extraordinary characters, his way with a completely unanticipated metaphor. You get the sense of a writer burrowing deep inside his own experience, history, and culture, fitting together the discarded fragments and treasures he finds along the way, until he emerges with something familiar yet utterly fresh—utterly dazzling.”

Baker, a nêhiyaw âpihtawikosisân/Icelandic writer, was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Emerging Indigenous Voices Award for fiction and won the City of Vancouver Book Award in 2017 for her debut short story collection Bad Endings. She was selected by noted writer Thomas King. “Carleigh Baker is one of those writers who can look at humanity and tell you where the bodies are buried,” King says. “And she’s happy to dig a few up, dust them off, and send them on their way to find a story . . . . [she is] a rare talent who can make you smile and cringe and think in the same sentence.”

The Writers’ Trust Rising Stars program is a multi-faceted career development program that recognizes talented authors in the early stages of their careers with $5,000 and highlights their work with an endorsement from a proven, influential author. The Rising Stars will attend a two-week, self-directed writing residency at the Banff Centre in Alberta.

Troy Sebastian, Carleigh Baker

Resources

 

Call for local poster art

What does the city’s leading concert poster creator and distributor do when there are no events to promote? If you’re Metropol—the good folks who have been postering daily on the downtown cylinders for nearly two decades—you decide to change those poles into instant art galleries.

“While COVID-19 has shuttered cultural, athletic and social gatherings in communities worldwide, it does not hold back creative spirit and outreach,” Metropol announced. “We are calling on local artists and image-makers to submit colourful works that we can print and post around town once a week—free of charge.”

Yep, all you have to do is email posters@imetropol.com to submit your digital files (artwork sized to 11″x17″, high-quality-print PDF 300dpi or Vector), plus your name and/or Instagram handle, and you’ll see your work on poster poles around the city.

“Art is a calming and inspiring force,” says Metropol. “Let’s keep our community vivid, bright and alive.”

Movies, books & cats—oh my! 

While UVic’s legendary movie theatre Cinecenta is closed, they’ve decided to take a step into the streaming universe by partnering with indie film distributor Kinosmith to offer a pair of documentaries to enjoy from the comfort of your home. 

DW Young’s The Booksellers was an audience favourite at festivals this year, and sure to excite bibliophiles and history buffs alike. This 99-minute feature documentary takes viewers inside the small but fascinating world of antiquarian booksellers, whose owners are part scholar, part detective and part businessperson . . . and whose clients offer an assortment of obsessives, intellects, eccentrics and dreamers. Watch The Booksellers here.

Cinecenta is also offering the very popular Kedi, a brilliantly shot, charming and family-friendly documentary that will delight anyone who enjoys all things feline. Shot throughout the streets of Istanbul, Kedi takes the inherent appeal of its subject and goes beyond the call of duty, isolating the profound relationship between people and cats by exploring it across several adorable cases in a city dense with examples. Watch Kedi here.

Your ticket for these films ($9.99 for The Booksellers, $6.99 for Kedi) will help support Cinecenta during these strange times.

Walk on 

If you’re yearning to get out of the house and a short turn around the block just isn’t working anymore, why not go on some virtual walking tours around the globe instead?

The Open Culture website is offering a free collection of point-of-view walks through a variety of locations (the streets of Tuscany), weather (rain or shine), times of day (an afternoon in Venice, a night in Tokyo’s Shinjuku) and density (crowds in Bangkok and NYC, empty forest paths).

Some of the walks are as short as 20 minutes, while others are over an hour—more than enough time to fill your need for travel distancing.

Pocket-sized concerts

This week, we offer you a pair of shot-at-home performance videos featuring School of Music graduate student Lea Fetterman accompanying herself in a violin trio. In the first video, she’s performing Edward Elgar’s “Salut d’Amour, Op. 12”.

Given that she is now working without a pianist, Fetterman decided to act as her own accompanist in this video—which marks the first time she has ever created something like this.  

“I arranged the piano accompaniment into two violin parts and a bass line,” she explains. “I left the third violin part out because it muddled the melody too much. Due to all the rubato in this piece, I could not use a click track, so I first recorded the solo violin part, and then played the other parts along with that video.”

These videos were created using her MacBook Air and iPad, plus a Zoom Q4n microphone, the Symphony Pro 5 app and her Skullcandy Crusher wireless headphones.

“I hope this piece brings you some joy during these difficult and uncertain times.”

 

 

Then, buoyed by her success with the first video, Fetterman then created three violin duets from Bartók’s “44 Duos for Two Violins” — fusing “Tót Nóta (Slovakian Song [1])” with “Magyar Nóta (Hungarian Song [1])” and “Oláh Nóta (Wallachian Song)”.

“I hope you enjoy this pocket-sized concert. Be well!”

Look and see 

Unless you live in or near a high-rise, one of the casualties of living in a lockdown situation is the ability to easily watch other people—a popular human pastime, whether one admits to it or not.

Department of Visual Arts MFA alum and sessional instructor Laura Dutton explores themes of looking and watching in her works. To better explain her practice, she has created this new video for The Connector, which offers her thoughts on two of her recent works: the multi-channel video installation Night Comes On (2016) and the photography exhibit Nearness To or Distance From (2018).  

Described as a “meditation on the process of looking, and being looked at”, Night Comes On “allows the viewer to become a voyeur, peering into private space while navigating around imposing structures of flickering, hypnotic light”.

In contrast, Nearness To or Distance From offers a series of abstracted, candid portraits of tourists visiting the Grand Canyon—photographed from about a kilometre away and then further zoomed in during post-production. “It’s as if these people could have been stolen from the background of a Seurat painting, where they had been forgotten,” says Dutton.

Dutton’s work has been exhibited across Canada at the likes of the Esker Foundation Project Space (Calgary), Legacy Gallery and Deluge Contemporary (Victoria), PAVED Arts (Saskatoon), VU Photo (Quebec City), and as part of the Capture Photography Festival (Vancouver).

 

Laura Dutton’s “Night Comes On” (2016)

Laura Dutton’s “Nearness To or Distance From” (2018)

An offbeat comedy about human isolation

This week, we bring you the Department of Writing student-made short film Godhead. Written and directed as an MFA project by now-sessional instructor Connor Gaston, Godhead tells the story of Gary, who, rendered mute by his autism, spends his days racing remote-control boats with his little brother—which creates stress for the boy’s father, a single parent who just wants his eldest son to get a job. However, Gary’s condition conceals a powerful gift that goes beyond words.

“To me, Godhead is an offbeat comedy about human isolation, particularly passing judgment on each other, especially people who are different. Intelligence can take many forms, which is something people too often forget,” says Gaston. “Gary, our mute autistic protagonist, embodies this notion and reminds us that a person can be more than what meets the eye. The film also mixes the micro with the macro, contrasting a dysfunctional family unit with the unknowable cosmos.”

An official selection in 2014’s Toronto International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, Calgary International Film Festival, Whistler Film Festival and Rimouski Festival de Film, plus 2015’s Victoria Film Festival, Godhead was nominated for a Leo Award (Student Production) and won the Student Short Work award at the Whistler Film Festival.

In addition to his teaching duties, Gaston has since gone on to complete his first feature film, The Devoutwhich premiered at the Busan International Film Festival—one of Asia’s premiere film festivals. The Devout also earned Gaston the BC Emerging Filmmaker Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2015 and won Best Motion Picture and Best Screenwriting at the 2016 Leo Awards.

Stay home, get quizzy

Had your fill of jigsaw puzzles? Tired of doing crosswords? If you’re ready for a serious visual challenge, why not tackle the new Stay-at-Home Art History Quiz?

Brought to you by Art History & Visual Studies department chair Marcus Milwright, and based on the same concept he’s been doing for his semi-annual Christmas quizzes, the Stay-at-Home quiz offers 10 composite visual images sourced from throughout art history.

“Our family was always keen on quizzes, from crosswords to tests of general knowledge,” says Milwright. “There used to be a quiz in a newspaper that asked readers to identify a painting from a little section. This provided the inspiration for the original AHVS Christmas Quiz, although I wanted to add some new elements.”

Your job, should you choose to accept the challenge, is to not only identify the art or artist (depending on question) but also solve the cryptic puzzle buried within. Complete instructions can be found on the quiz page

Answers will be posted on the new Gateway to Art site on July 1. Good Luck!

Reclaming First Nations culture & history

What does it mean to dedicate your life to honouring the dead? Harold Joe has spent his adult life following a tradition that has been handed down in his family for generations: the discovery, preservation and rededication of human remains and artifacts, and with them, a reclamation of First Nations culture and history.

As chronicled in the alumni-created documentary Dust n’ Bones, Joe is a revered archaeological consultant, filmmaker and former gravedigger, who has been challenging cultural and spiritual appropriation by museums, universities and private collectors for over 40 years. 

Dust ‘N Bones is a 2018 documentary that brings to light the legal, political, historical and spiritual challenges faced by First Nations leaders and archaeologists as they fight to give disinterred ancestors their proper reverence.

Framed around the pending transfer of artifacts from the Royal British Columbia Museum to traditional Cowichan territory, Dust n’ Bones takes us through the discovery, preservation and rededication of human remains and artifacts—and, with them, a reclamation of First Nations culture and history.  

Created by Less Bland Productions, Dust n’ Bones is produced, co-directed and co-written by Department of Theatre alum and sessional instructor Leslie Bland, also features the musical talents of fellow alum Alexander Brendan Ferguson (composer and arranger). 

Originally commissioned by Telus, APTN and US broadcaster FNX, Dust n’ Bones has since been acquired by NITV Australia, Télé Québec, Knowledge Network, Zoomer Media and CHEK TV. It’s now being used as a tool to help facilitate reconciliation locally between settler society and local First Nations. 

You can read more about Harold Joe in this 2018 Martlet interview.

Leslie Bland

More to come weekly

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

Theatre researcher named top SSHRC Storyteller

Department of Theatre PhD candidate Lara Aysal has been named one of the top 25 “Storytellers” in an annual competition announced on May 5 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. SSHRC’s 2020 Storytellers competition celebrates the best in research communication by post-secondary students.

Applied Theatre PhD candidate Lara Aysal

Aysal is one of two UVic researchers named as a finalist, alongside Erynne Gilpin of UVic’s Indigenous Governance program. Each receives $3,000 and the opportunity to compete in the Storytellers Showcase in 2021.

The Storytellers challenge strives to show Canadians—in up to three minutes or 300 words—how social sciences and humanities research is affecting our lives, our world and our future for the better. The 2020 Top 25 Storytellers represent 19 postsecondary institutions across Canada. Their research stories include topics that are a priority for Canadians and have wide-reaching implications: climate change, the situation for refugees, the stigma of mental illness and Indigenous communities.

“This year’s 25 Storytellers competition finalists show exceptional creativity in communicating the relevance of social sciences and humanities research to the daily lives of Canadians,” says SSHRC President Ted Hewitt. “I commend each of them for their outstanding talent and ability to convey concisely and with great impact, why such research matters. Congratulations to the finalists!”

Community collaboration supports Hul’q’umi’num’ language and culture

Applied Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta and her students are collaborating with the Hul’q’umi’num’ Language and Culture Society to use tools from theatre to reclaim an endangered Coast Salish language. For the last four summers, the group has met to improvise theatre games to improve fluency and to develop plays performed for the Hul’q’umi’num’ community.

“Working together on plays reinforces traditional values, such as building consensus, overcoming fear, and sharing knowledge with others,” says interdisciplinary PhD student, actor and voice coach, Thomas Jones, Kweyulutstun (theatre and linguistics). “Performing the stories brings out messages and meanings that are not understood when reading from a page.”

Last summer’s performance, “hw’i’ttsus lhqel’ts’Jealous Moon”, was directed by Applied Theatre PhD candidate Lara Aysal. A video documenting the project, Indigenous Performance and Language Revitalization, produced by One Island Media, was entered into the SSHRC Storytellers competition (below).

“Stories have been the guiding principle to take language learning out of the conventional classroom environment and into a theatrical space where it can be practiced in an everyday life setting,” says Aysal, who has worked on applied theatre projects around the world.

 

Voices of Indigenous women form narrative of self-determination

Erynne Gilpin is a mixed Cree-Metis, Filipina and Celtic educator, researcher. She is also a PhD graduate of UVic’s Indigenous Governance program. Her winning submission was based on her doctoral thesis—Land as Body: Indigenous Womxn’s Leadership, Land-based Wellness and Embodied Governance.

Erynne Gilpin (Photo: Kl. Peruzzo, przvida.com)

Guiding conversations with 17 Indigenous women, 21-to-60 years of age from 10 different nations, Gilpin explored definitions of leadership in their everyday lives, their wellness, community well-being and their relationships with land and water.

Gilpin explains, “my research defines wellness within a Cree-Metis framework. These concepts inform what I define as an embodied governance framework of self-determination.” Determined to interrupt the Indigenous story as one of constant crisis, Gilpin proposes new thinking, “which begins with the body as a site of regeneration, resurgence and renewal.”

Gilpin is an Indigenous Learning Specialist with UVic’s learning and teaching unit, and is an instructor with the Indigenous Studies program.

The 2020 Storytellers finalists are invited to participate in the Storytellers Showcase at the 2021 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which will take place in May 2021 at the University of Alberta. Given the exceptional circumstances caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the nature of the Storytellers competition, where the finalists must learn to effectively communicate their research in front of a live audience, SSHRC decided to postpone the Storytellers Showcase that was to have taken place at the 2020 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Western University in London, Ontario, which was cancelled.

The Final Five winners chosen at that event will be featured at SSHRC’s Impact Awards ceremony, to be held in fall 2021. See SSHRC’s Storytellers website for more details.

This story originally appeared on the UVic News page

Doing our part

Doing our part

Welcome to issue six of The Fine Arts Connector, your weekly listing of news, resources, activities and other shareable content from the Faculty of Fine Arts, specifically compiled for distribution during the current health crisis.

Another inspiring message about the arts appeared as an op-ed in the April 26 edition of the Times Colonist. In addition to pointing out the vital importance of the arts during this crisis, Pacific Opera Victoria CEO Ian Rye also noted the role our community will play in the difficult months ahead. “We will need the arts more than ever when we emerge from this crisis and rediscover the power of live song and story and the importance of coming together as a community,” he writes. “When that time comes and we can once again share those extraordinary moments of live music, drama and meaning, the arts will be there. We will celebrate together.”

While many of us have been struggling to maintain a relatively normal end-of-semester life with course completion, marking and other administrative duties, a number of our faculty colleagues have also been adding to the community effort during the current health crisis:

  • Visual Arts alum Libby Oliver has organized a phone campaign for seniors in care-home lockdowns as part of her current position as Listener-in-Residence at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, assisted by AHVS alum and AGGV assistant curator Regan Shrumm
  • Theatre instructor Bryn Finer contributed Theatre’s 3D printer to UVic’s overall face shield initiative
  • Art History & Visual Studies PhD candidate Ambreen Hussaini created a series of short video updates with her family, and also contributed a message to UVic’s Kind Mail campaign
  • Theatre’s head of wardrobe Karla Stout and Visual Arts instructor Laura Dutton have been sewing and donating face masks 
  • Fine Arts communications officer John Threlfall has been delivering groceries weekly as part of the Fernwood NRG’s increased community Good Food Box program
  • Current theatre student Nathan Harvey has been using his home 3D printer to print necessary parts for plastic face shields for front-line workers
  • Writing professor and poet Tim Lilburn has been asked to contribute to a new anthology, tentatively titled COVID-19 Diary: World’s Anthology of Poetry, organized by poet Dr Christopher Okemwa, who teaches literature at Kisii University in Kenya.

But whether it’s live-streaming your work, checking in on elderly neighbours, banging pots at 7pm or simply practicing proper social distancing, we’re all doing our part in these strange times.  

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 connected in this difficult moment in history. 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 fineartsevents@uvic.ca or johnt@uvic.ca.

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

Visual Arts alum Libby Oliver has been organizing calls to seniors in care homes

John Threlfall: communications officer by day, delivery driver by choice 

News

Livestreaming this week

Fine Arts alumni continue to be active in National Arts Centre’s ongoing #CanadaPerforms series: in addition to the likes of previous performers Charles Ross and Meg Braem (Theatre), Clare Yuan and Stephanie Chua (Music), Marjorie Celona and current MFA candidate Kim Senklip Harvey (Writing), this week sees two more alumni stepping into the national spotlight:

  • Writing/Theatre alum and current sessional instructor Mark Leiren Young is hosting a triple book launch at noon PST on Friday, May 1, for his set of new books for young readers: Orcas of the Salish Sea, Big Whales, Small World and Orcas Everywhere, all from Orca Books—and eager young readers can even post questions to his Facebook page in advance and Mark will answer them during his reading
  • Writing MFA alum Sally Stubbs is presenting a livestream performance of her play Our Ghosts Collective, starting at 5pm EST on Saturday, May 2 (interestingly, the same play also received a live online reading on April 11 as part of The Canadian Play Thing series, hosted by fellow Writing MFA Janet Munsil).

But this week’s livestreaming doesn’t end there. In addition to the ongoing UnoFest Online performances of Visual Arts alum and current Fine Arts Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator Lindsay Delaronde (Gemini to May 3) and Music alum Isaiah Bell (The Book of My Shames, to May 3), there are a number of other performances happening in the week ahead:

  • Our colleagues at Pacific Opera Victoria are offering their latest Listening Party Podcast at 4pm Friday, May 1, with School of Music repetiteur and sessional instructor Kinza Tyrrell as a guest, alongside host Rebecca Hass plus Rachel Fenlon and Doug MacNaughton—expect to hear Kinza chat about her “Karaoke with Kinza” project, where vocalists send song requests for her to perform, then she returns the track for them to sing along to; Her latest episode features Music alum Joé Lampron-Dandonneau in a gorgeous performance of Schubert’s “Nacht und Träume”
  • Recent Theatre & Writing alum Nicholas Guerreiro is having a livestream reading of his new play The Milkshake Duck at 7:30pm Friday, May 1, as part of the Canadian Play Thing
  • Rising Music alumni folk trio West My Friend (Eden Oliver, Jeff Poynter, Alix Rempel) were thrilled to release their latest album In Constellation album last fall, but they recently had to cancel their planned European tour because of, well, you know; now, they’ll be hosting a livestream concert on their Facebook page at 11am PST Saturday, May 2—the concert is timed for an evening show in Europe, but you can enjoy brunch here in BC
  • Theatre alum Charles Ross is livestreaming a performance of his widely acclaimed One Man Star Wars Trilogy, starting at 5pm PST Monday May 4 (as in May the Fourth be with you); more than just a great show, this is also a fundraiser for the UVic Student Relief Fund—tune in to his Facebook page to watch.
  • Finally, Music alum and Victoria-raised tenor Josh Lovell will be featured as part of the weekly “Acoustic Afternoon” series from Pacific Opera Victoria. Josh will be singing from his home in Vienna in a stream that will be available starting at 1pm Friday, May 8.  

Be sure to tune in for some (or all) of these if you can!

Writing alum Sally Stubbs presents Our Ghosts 

School of Music alumni trio West My Friend

Theatre alum Charles Ross uses the force to fundraise for UVic’s Student Relief Fund

Now incubating at the Belfry

Our colleagues at the Belfry Theatre just announced participants for their 2020 Incubator Program. While the full list also includes local theatre artists Rick Waines, David Elendune and Jo Leslie, the majority of the participants are all Fine Arts alumni (mostly from Theatre): 

  • Anna Marie Anderson & Ellery Lamm of Collectivus Theatre, further developing their award-winning play Summer Bucket List
  • Molly Beatrice, Emily Hay, Hailee Jake Friesen & Alexander Moorman, developing The Fear Project
  • Andrew Barrett & Patricia Reilly of Impulse Theatre, developing The Soft Spaces
  • Nicholas Guerreiro, Annie Konstantinova & Julie McGuire of Bragi Theatre, developing Tricky Gylfi
  • Hannah Mariko Bell, developing Momotarō 
  • Sarah Pitman, developing Remarkable Engines
  • plus former students Monica Ogden & kp dennis (formerly Ann-Bernice Thomas) of Rage Sweater Theatre, developing 100 YT Guys in an Hour.

Incubator participants receive the use of the Belfry’s studios, mentorship from artistic director and Theatre sessional Michael Shamata and recent Theatre PhD alum Taiwo Afolabi—now the Belfry’s artistic and community liaison—as well as administrative mentoring from executive director Ivan Habel and other members of the Belfry staff. They’ll also get use of the Belfry Tower as a writing studio, and participation in the Belfry’s newly formed Playwright’s Unit, facilitated by Governor General’s Award-winning playwright and Writing professor Kevin Kerr.

Watch for the Belfry to feature these works-in-development at their first “mini SPARK festival”, which will throw a spotlight on the creative projects being developed by the participants of the New Incubator Project and the Playwright’s Unit. 

Got an idea for Incubator 2021? Deadline for submissions is November 30, 2020. Priority will be given to applicants from diverse communities, applicants wanting to challenge their traditional artistic practice, and projects that provide participants with opportunities to explore new creative territory. Click here for full details.

A scene from Collectivus Theatre’s Summer Bucket List, which won awards for Best Drama and Best Original New Work at the 2019 Victoria Fringe Festival

New publications

Writing MFA alum Melanie Siebert has just launched her new book, Heads Up: Changing Minds on Mental Health, with Orca Books. Aimed at youth 12 & up, Heads Up features real-life stories of people who have found hope and meaning in the midst of life’s struggles. Described as a “go-to guide for teenagers who want to know about mental health, mental illness, trauma and recovery”, Heads Up highlights innovative approaches such as trauma-informed activities like yoga and hip-hop, police mental health teams and peer support for youth.

Our colleagues at the Victoria Arts Council have launched a new online magazine titled UNTIL. Co-created by VAC director Kegan McFadden and Visual Arts alum Leah McInnis, the theme of issue one is “Interconnectedness” and features contributions by Visual Arts alumni Randie Feil, John G Boehme, Cassia Powell, Mike McLean, Rachel Kiers and current sessional instructor Todd Lambeth, as well as Theatre alum Matthew Payne. Issue two looks at the idea of “tender” with contributions by AHVS student Monic Liu, Visual Arts alumni Katie Brown and Cassidy Luteijn, plus sessional instructor Emily Geen and professor Daniel Laskarin. Is there a piece you could contribute to a future issue? “Resilience” is the theme of issue 3, and contributions are being accepted until May 6.  

Recent Writing MFA and sessional instructor Troy Sebastian / nupqu _a·k_am_ has just been announced as a double-nominee in the National Magazine Awards: his stories “The Art of the Snag” and “Raptors Revolution”—both for The Walrus—have been nominated in the “short feature” and “essays” categories respectively. Winners will be announced in early June.  

Resources

Digital Scholarship Commons

Thinking ahead to the fall semester? Keep in mind that the Digital Scholarship Commons in UVic Libraries offers a variety of tools, resources and training. Even now, their digital scholarship librarians and staff are available for online consultations and teaching. 

The Digital Scholarship Commons is there to assist faculty, students and staff in learning digital tools and methodologies which will help you pursue your passions and tell your research stories in engaging ways. Their services help the UVic community become well-versed in digital information fluency through training, workshops, digital curriculum development advice, tools, software and more. Their schedule for May workshops has just been posted. 

Looking for somewhere to start? Check out their online podcasting 101 workshop.

Virtual Fitness

Concerned about flattening the ever-increasing curve around our collective waists? UVic’s Vikes Active Living program is offering a new virtual fitness membership. You can do a workout from anywhere, anytime, with your six different CARSA instructors and a variety of classes. All you need is 30 minutes, a bit of space and a computer, phone or tablet.

For just $20, you’ll receive 21 workouts starting May 1, available at 7am daily. Classes include Booty Bootcamp, Restorative Flow Yoga, Muscle Hustle, Core 30 and Functional Fitness, with more being added. Just pick a playlist, start your workout . . . and prepare to get sweaty.

Project quarantine

As well as being an invaluable resource for artists, curators, art writers and gallery staff right now, the editorial team at Canadian Art magazine are looking to share the work of Canadian artists who may have had exhibits cancelled by COVID-19 in the “Agenda” section of their website.

As such, Canadian Art is encouraging artists and gallerists to submit social-distancing-friendly events, online gatherings, projects and launches. Each exhibition or event posting can include one image, a list of artists, curators, start/end dates and a 150-character text about the project you are promoting. 

 

Paying artists during crisis

Speaking of exhibits, as the national voice of Canada’s professional visual artists, Canadian Artists Representation Le Front Des Artistes Canadiens (CARFAC)  has released this list of recommended practices for paying artists during the COVID-19 crisis. If you’re an artist who was at any stage of negotiation with presenters when the crisis hit—signed contracts, verbal agreement or something more informal—you should expect presenters to honour these agreements.

CARFAC also encourages presenters to support artists to the best of their abilities and to consider the financial pressures many self-employed artists are currently facing—including compensating artists for additional labour if exhibit formats change from physical to online, screening, etc. Their guidelines are designed to help the visual and media arts community establish procedures for paying artists when exhibitions, screenings, and other opportunities are disrupted due to cancellations or postponements.

Vocal Jazz in the spotlight

This week’s musical break features the UVic Vocal Jazz Ensemble in their 2019 Autumn Showcase. Recorded in the School of Music’s Phillip T Young Recital Hall on November 24, it was sadly the final concert of the academic year by the group, as their Spring Showcase was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Under the direction of Music professor Wendell Clanton, the Vocal Jazz Ensemble has established a reputation for artistic excellence, stylistic flexibility and performances of original and inspiring arrangements. (You can check out the Vocal Jazz blog for more details.) “May any temptation to disappointment at the cancellation of the Spring Showcase be accompanied and transformed by the recognition of your artistry and enthusiasm, your skill and achievement which is undiminished by adversity,” writes Clanton to the ensemble. “Please take a moment for yourselves to reflect on the joy you have brought to others through your music.”

Members of the 2019/2020 Vocal Jazz Ensemble include Aaron Ruddell, Allie Bertholm, Andrew Wolf, Anton Sokalski, Ben Mendes, Brendan Ciccone, Brittnie Spriel, Cassidy Stahr, Clay Dowdell, Chris Clarke, Connie Goetz, Davey Bastin-Decaste, Dilly Cooner, Fionalee Lustado, Ila Zbarsky, Ken Kosowick, Katherine Allen, Lindsey Bellman, Megan Handley, Noah Mellemstrand, Odyn Mulder, Patrick Schjelderup, Sophie Groves andVictoria Jackson. Special guests at the Autumn Showcase included James Waddell, Rachel Burtman (bass), Noah Mellemstrand (violin) and Allie Bertholm (trumpet).

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble, from their 2019 Autumn Showcase program

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble opening for The Real Group and the Fifth Street vocal quintet in October 2019 at The Farquhar (photo & wide shot: Leon Fei)

Exhibit closed, video live

Like so many artists right now, all of the current exhibitions by Department of Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson are currently closed—and, for Richardson, that translates to the loss of three international exhibits, both solo (Attenborough Art Gallery at the University of Leicester) and group (Trondheim International Biennale for Art and Technology, Hestercome Gallery).  

But fortunately, the Hestercombe Gallery in Taunton, England, have produced this video that speaks to the work and context of their now-closed exhibition Most Admirably Improved By Art, which was due to run until June 28, 2020. Richardson’s “Orion Tide” was featured alongside work by Charlotte Hodes, Rebecca Partridge and Fiona Hingston, as well as original works by 18th century English artist Coplestone Warre Bampfylde (Hestercombe’s former owner). The exhibit was intented to build links between Bampfylde’s Georgian endeavours and the concerns of artists today.

As Art Toronto noted, “Drawing from the aesthetics of cinema and dystopian stories, Orion Tide presents a Roswell-esque desert with spurts of light and smoke repeatedly taking off into the dark night sky, resting somewhere in the territory between science fiction and biblical wraths.”

While Richardson’s HD video installation may seem an unusual juxtaposition alongside paintings, sculpture and ceramic installation, Most Admirably Improved by Art brought together four contemporary artists who, like Bampfylde, began their careers drawing and painting, and now through a range of media respond to the landscapes and the environment of today, inspired through the history of art.

You can watch the eight-minute video here.

Kelly Richardson’s “Orion Tide”

Most Admirably Improved by Art, Hestercombe Gallery, 01.03.20 – 28.06.20

Writing student readings

Among the many, many end-of-year events cancelled in Fine Arts this spring was the annual launch party for issue 18 of This Side of West, UVic’s undergraduate writing journal. But since the live readings couldn’t happen, four of the contributing Department of Writing majors—Brianna Bock, Chloe CooksonBryant Linton and Tosh Sherkat—took the plunge and offer at-home digital readings of their work instead. Click on the playlist to watch them all.

No word yet on whether the new issue made it to the printers in time, but it’s usually for sale at the UVic Bookstore.

Gateway to art—and art history

If you’ve ever wondered what it is that art historians actually do, the Department of Art History & Visual Studieshas kicked off a new website aimed at exploring exactly that: Gateway to Art offers a layperson’s look at the objects and ideas that inspire UVic’s art historians. But while the idea had been germinating with AHVS chair Marcus Milwright for a while now, ironically it took the COVID-19 crisis to bring it to fruition.   

“I’ve always been interested in finding ways for people to engage with art history, but this came about because I was stuck at home and was trying to think what I could do with a laptop and the objects I’m interested in,” says Milwright.

The new website also features a section titled Talking About Art, a series of short audio explorations of objects reflecting the various areas of research and teaching in AHVS. Ranging from the everyday (bricks, coins, maps, bowls) to the more esoteric (medieval architecture, an ancient act of iconoclasm), each 7-10 minute talk explores the central idea of what art is trying to tell us.

“We can draw out narratives from objects—what they were made from, who made them, the context of why such things were done,” explains Milwright, who is both an archaeologist and art historian. “Simple objects can be really fascinating when you pull out the details; it’s not just about the practical things they do.”

He points to an inscribed ceramic jug from Raqqa as an example. “Someone chose to write an entire section of the Koran around the surface of it in ink, and then it becomes something entirely different—it transforms.”  

Still in its early days, Milwright is working on a set of contributor guidelines for his teaching faculty and is considering future contributions from the likes of frequent AHVS colleagues in UVic’s Legacy Gallery, Special Collections and possibly the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

“The whole point is showing why the arts are important, whether studying it or creating it.”

Watch for further developments to Gateway to Art in the months ahead. But for now, be sure to take a crack at Milwright’s Stay-at-Home art history visual quiz on the site: it’s sure to keep you puzzling while you attempt to solve it.

Unglazed ceramic jug excavated in Raqqa, Syria. Late eighth or early ninth century. Raqqa Archaeological Museum

An Inscribed Ceramic Jug from Raqqa

by Marcus Milwright | Talking about art

Creative placemaking 

From the nation’s capital to one of the world’s leading creative spaces, the career of Department of Theatre alum Nathan Medd (BFA ’01) has gone far and fast since his graduation. Named the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient for the Faculty of Fine Arts, Medd has been making a name for himself as one of Canada’s brightest young arts leaders.

Devoted to developing the performing arts in Canada, Medd is currently Managing Director of Performing Arts for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity—the nation’s largest arts training institution and incubator of new works—a position he took up in August 2018. Prior to that, he was the Managing Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre, where his team successfully championed Canadian creators and initiated a new national stage for Indigenous performance. 

But prior to those key positions, he was Managing Producer of Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre, where he produced original works for Vancouver’s 2010 Cultural Olympiad and co-founded Progress Lab 1422, the performing arts creation studio in East Vancouver, in 2009. And before that, he was the Operations and Development Manager for Victoria’s Intrepid Theatre, where he co-founded Metro Studio — still a flagship venue for Vancouver Island — and also held positions with both the BC Arts Council (programs officer and policy analyst) and the Belfry Theatre (front of house manager), where he started right out of university.

In this video about the importance of creative placemaking (recorded in the Bishop Theatre in February 2019 as part of UVic’s Alumni Week activities), Medd is joined by fellow Theatre alumni and Metro Studio co-founders Ian Case and Janet Munsil, plus Writing professor Kevin Kerr, co-founder of Vancouver’s Electric Company.

“My work these past 10 years has been about building infrastructure and altering practices that were built in the 1960s but no longer serve everyone who wants to work in or attend the arts,” Medd explains. “It’s not just a question of physical space, but programmatic space too . . . we’re making space for communities I wasn’t thinking of 10 years ago. With NAC, it was the idea of becoming the living room of the capital: you start with the idea that we’re all artists and we all need a space to be creative.”

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Nathan Medd

More to come weekly

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

No fear, only courage

No fear, only courage

Welcome to issue five of The Fine Arts Connector, your weekly listing of news, resources, activities and other shareable content from the Faculty of Fine Arts, specifically compiled for distribution during the current health crisis.

Department of Theatre professor Brian Richmond recently offered an inspiring message about the endurance of the arts in his role as artistic director of the local Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, and the importance of facing fear and uncertainty with hope and courage. It’s worth taking a minute to watch the short video, and to reflect on our faculty’s role as leaders in the Greater Victoria arts community. What more could we all be doing to make a difference, here and now?  

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 connected in this difficult moment in history. 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 fineartsevents@uvic.ca or johnt@uvic.ca.

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

Theatre professor Brian Richmond

News

Alumni activity

Department of Writing BA/MFA alum Jason Jobin has been shortlisted for the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for his story, “Provenance”. As the Times Colonist reported on April 21, the Yukon-raised Jobin joins 20 writers from more than a dozen countries on the short list, but is only one of five stories competing in the regional category of Canada and Europe—and is one of only two Canadians on the short list (alongside Toronto’s Marcia Walker). Regional winners will receive £2,500 (announced June 2), while the finalist will receive £5,000 (announced July 7). The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is the world’s most global literature prize, awarded to a writer each year for the best piece of unpublished short fiction. 

Theatre alumni certainly have been busy during the COVID-19 crisis. Laura Jane Wallace has created the Today, I’m Bored! channel on YouTube, where she offers creative DIY projects for families like making a string of colourful three-dimensional hearts in a window or painting a fun rock monster. And Theatre SKAM artistic and managing producer Matthew Payne has been working with his son Munro on a series of updates called Mo’s Daily Briefing’s (up to Day 21 as of this writing). Mo was also recently featured on UVic’s The Great Indoors project, alongside a shout-out to this very blog.

Writing alum Jason Jobin

School of Music alum Isaiah Bell is presenting his solo performance piece The Book of My Shames as part of Intrepid Theatre’s UNO Fest Online from April 28-May 3. Described as a “comic, wrenchingly personal tour-de-force” that fuses opera, stand-up comedy and the cabaret-confessional, singer-composer Bell explores a history fraught with shame and longing to reveal our universal potential for transformation in this funny and tender solo show. As a rising tenor star, Bell has performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the National Arts Centre, and is directed here by Sean Guist, founding Curator of Intrepid’s OUTstages queer theatre festival. The Book of My Shames had a sold-out premiere at Tapestry Opera as part of Toronto Pride in 2019.

Isaiah Bell in The Book of My Shames

The latest episode of the local arts podcast Check the Program features Theatre alum Britt Small discussing the latest episode of the long-running cabaret Atomic Vaudeville, which shifted online in response to the health crisis, and recent Writing MFA alum and playwriting instructor (and Theatre alum) Janet Munsil talking about her new online initiative, The Canadian Play Thing. Now in its second year and on its 35th episode, Check the Program is a podcast project spearheaded by John Threlfall and includes current Writing student Brianna Bock among its six-person team of contributors.

Financial aid for students

As part of their ongoing aid packages, on April 22 the federal government announced $9 billion in financial aid will become available for post-secondary students during the COVID-19 crisis. Students will be eligible for $1,250 a month from May through August, or $1,750 if the student is taking care of someone or has a disability. The benefit is available also to students who have jobs, but are making less than $1,000 a month.

UVic has also created the COVID-19 Emergency Bursary to provide support for students—domestic or international, undergraduate or graduate—who are experiencing emergency financial need as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This initial allocation of $200,000 will help students facing challenges such as job loss, access to housing, food, tuition, or technology to facilitate online/remote learning, mental health services, child care, transportation, and more. 

Recently, the UVic Alumni Association has generously pledged $50,000 in matching funds to this emergency fund: donations to the fund will be matched dollar for dollar, doubling the support for students in need. One of the best ways we can help students right now is through the COVID-19 Emergency Bursary. If you are able, please consider joining us in supporting students through this crisis by making a gift today.

Resources

New Canada Council digital initiative

The Canada Council for the Arts has partnered with CBC/Radio-Canada on a new digital initiative, Digital Originals, which will support Canadian artists and arts organizations to reach Canadian audiences online during the COVID-19 crisis by enabling them to adapt their work for digital dissemination.

This new opportunity offers $5,000 micro-innovation grants for selected projects that CBC/Radio-Canada will then curate and feature in a digital showcase. Digital Originals will support artists and arts organizations in finding new ways to connect with audiences online during this difficult time.

The Canada Council recognizes the significant impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian arts sector, with countless performances, exhibitions, screenings, tours and festivals being cancelled or delayed due to necessary public health restrictions. With that in mind, Digital Originals is open to artists, artistic organizations and groups across the country (with a validated Canada Council profile), in all fields of practice—including new and early career artists—to adapt existing work or create new work for sharing online. No prior digital experience will be required. Note that organizations currently receiving core funding will not be eligible.

The grant application portal will open mid-May and applications will be accepted until June 15, 2020. Visit the Digital Originals web page or follow #DigitalOriginals2020 for the latest news.

A gala of go-to galleries 

Getting bored with staying indoors? Missing those regular trips to art galleries and museums? You’re in luck: the new Field Trip: Art Across Canada initiative opens Canadian galleries—including the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, among other notable institutions like the National Gallery, Power Plant, Museum of Contemporary Art and over a dozen others—for online visits and activities.

But if you’re looking to virtually visit further afield, you can check out digital tours of some exhibits at The Louvre or this collection of 14 museums in Paris that have recently made digital copies of 100,000 artworks freely available to the public—including work by the likes of Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Cézanne, and thousands of others. Or visit this collection of 12 virtual tours that includes destinations like the British Museum, the Guggenheim, the Musée d’Orsay, the Rijksmuseum, Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology or Seoul’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, to name but a few.

Lindsay Delaronde at UNO Fest Online

It’s a busy week for current Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator for the Faculty of Fine Arts and Visual Arts MFA alum Lindsay Delaronde, as she prepares for her solo performance showcase as part of Intrepid Theatre’s April 28-May 3 UNO Fest Online.

Originally hired by Intrepid as the Indigenous Curator for UNO Fest, Delaronde had to pivot sharply when the current health crisis changed both the nature and delivery of the festival. She quickly shifted from curator to performer, with the result being a new performance piece, Gemini. Using the land environment and Indigenous expressions of culture through drum, song and ritual, she has created this unique piece now delivered via a video filmed in her backyard.

Delaronde, who also holds a Masters degree in Indigenous Communities Counselling through UVic, was the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence (2017-2019). Her artistic practice focuses on Indigenous theatre, land-based/site-specific performance art, collaborative practice, cultural resurgence and social/political activism through the arts. You can get a taste of her work in this 2019 performance piece titled I See You (videography by Lyle Almond).

“My journey as an artist over the past two years has focused on collaborative practice and collaborative performances that reflect on reconciliation as a participatory action that involves bearing witness and observation that puts discussions of perspectives and values into action,” she says. “I have sought to take a critical stand regarding how art contributes to reconciliation [and] have explored reconciliation through working with non-Indigenous and Indigenous groups of people to co-create artworks that symbolized unity, integration and respect.”

In this telephone conversation with Fine Arts communications officer John Threlfall, Lindsay Delaronde talks about her art practice, Indigenous resurgence, learning from others and being creative in a time of crisis. 

Lindsay Delaronde, Gemini - UNO Fest

by John Threlfall | Phone Interviews

This week’s musical break

This week’s musical break is brought to you courtesy of the Sobremesa Saxophone Quartet, whose members are a mix of School of Music students and alumni. Formed in September 2017, Sobremesa—a Spanish term referring to “the intimate conversation that often occurs after dinner”—is currently comprised of current students Todd Morgan (tenor saxophone) and Karsten Brewka (baritone), plus alumni Matt Ficther (alto) and Connor Stairs (soprano).

Here, they perform the “American” String Quartet Op. 96 No. 12 by Antonin Dvorak, as arranged by Connor Stairs), recorded in February 2020 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Westminster, BC. This was part of their “Mountain Roads” tour, which saw the Sobremesa perform at six different concerts around the Lower Mainland.

“It was a great experience in learning how to establish your own opportunities,” says Morgan. “We did most of the advertising, poster and program creation, budgeting and logistics for each event. We even made money on it all!”

The Sobremesa Saxophone Quartet’s YouTube channel also features three other recent performances: “Three Short Tales of the Sea” by Rika Ishige, “Quatour pour Saxophones” by Pierre-Max Dubois and “Milonga del Angel” by Astor Piazzolla—all of which are well worth a listen.

Sobresema Saxophone Quartet

Artists in dangerous times

As part of the AGGV’s Field Trip initiative, Visual Arts professors Cedric Bomford and Rick Leong, current facility and production manager Hollis Roberts and alum Michael Andrew McLean, along with Camosun College’s legendary art professor Ralph Stanbridge, are featured in the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s “In Conversation” series. Released on April 22, it’s part of the AGGV’s participation in the national Field Trip initiative. 

Their wide-ranging conversation looks at what it’s like to be artists, professors and technicians in the times of COVID-19. As active members of Victoria’s art community through their respective and varied practices, these artists have already seen how current world events are shifting the way they, their colleagues and students are working.

The politics of art 

Quite possibly one of the most iconic pieces of 20th century art, Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting “Guernica” was his reaction to the Nazi’s bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during Spanish Civil War. But since we can’t get to Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte to see this massive 3.5 metre by 7.8 metre piece right now, we can instead listen to Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff’s thoughts on “Guernica: A Political Odyssey”, which was originally aired on CBC Radio’s Ideas series in March 2007.

In conversation with host Paul Kennedy, Antliff discusses the politics of Picasso’s arguably most famous work of art, from its inception in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War to the covering of a replica of the painting at the UN in 2003.

“Guernica” (1937), by Pablo Picasso

Guernica - A Political Odyssey

by Allan Antliff / Paul Kennedy | CBC Ideas

And, given Antliff’s position as the Director of UVic’s Anarchist Archives, his 2002 Ideas episode on “Art, Anarchy, and Activism” explores the interface of the arts with anarchist activism on the cusp of the 21st century.

A Canada Research Chair (2003-2008), Antliff has taught courses on activism and art, anarchist aesthetics, Russian Constructivism, New York Dada and a host of other subjects dealing with modernism and contemporary art.

As Director of the Anarchist Archive, he is involved in archival acquisitions and the development of the collection’s digitization centre and virtual archive. He is also art editor for the interdisciplinary journals Anarchist Studies and co-editor of Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies.

Both these recording, along with a good deal of other content, can be found on the new AHVS Gateway to Art site. 

AHVS professor Allan Antliff

Art, Anarchy & Activism

by Allan Antliff / Paul Kennedy | CBC Ideas

What time is it?

While there’s no shortage of online distractions these days, notice should be paid to the weekly StoryTimes livestream by local Collectivus Theatre, co-founded by current Writing MFA candidate Ellery Lamm and Theatre alum Anna Marie Anderson. Perhaps best known as the company that presented the award-winning productions of Lamm’s Summer Bucket List (in 2019) and The Fitting Room (2018), Collectivus were fast out of the gate with their livestream offerings almost as soon as the shelter-in-place notices went out.

StoryTimes—which just completed its seventh episode as of this writing—offers a range of music, poetry, comedy, character scenes and more. It’s well worth tuning in at 5pm Wednesdays weekly.

Participants in a recent episode of Storytimes

Looking to witness

If you’re looking to mix books with audio and video, consider this Witness Blanket double-play:

  • listen to Writing sessional instructor Kirstie Hudson and Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman discuss their recent book Picking Up The Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket in this April 17 episode of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter with host (and UVic Chancellor) Shelagh Rogers
  • then watch this free streaming of the documentary of the same name, directed by Carey Newman and Cody Graham, presented by the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (where the actual Witness Blanket is on permanent installation).

Celona at the VFW

Finally, you can catch celebrated author and Writing alum Marjorie Celona when she discusses her latest novel, How a Woman Becomes a Lake, with Vancouver Writers Fest Artistic Director Leslie Hurtig in a special livestream conversation at 1pm Saturday, April 25. This presentation with the National Arts Centre offers a glimpse inside one of the most hotly-anticipated titles of the season.

How a Woman Becomes a Lake is an unorthodox crime novel with overlapping viewpoints of characters, trapped by mistakes from their past and cycles of abuse. In an enthralling discussion with Vancouver Writers Fest Artistic Director Leslie Hurtig, Celona will explore her work, the depths of our human experience and the secrets we lock away—and what they reveal about us in our moments of greatest vulnerability, especially in times of crisis.

You can also listen to Celona in this March 2020 episode of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter talk about how cold, cold weather influenced the development of How a Woman Becomes a Lake

Visiting playwright Marcus Youssef 

Back in January, Fine Arts was fortunate to host acclaimed Canadian playwright, director and writer Marcus Youssef as part of our ongoing Orion Lecture Series. In addition to his engaging and entertaining public talk, “The Drama of Working Across Difference”, Youssef spent a week on campus working with students in our departments of Writing and Theatre.

The recipient of more than a dozen national and international awards—including the $100,000 Siminovich Prize and a Governor General’s Award nomination—Youssef is the artistic director of Neworld Theatre in Vancouver, artistic advisor to the National Arts Centre, editorial advisor to Canadian Theatre Review, senior playwright in residence at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and a Canadian Fellow to the International Society of Performing Arts. His award-winning plays include Winners and LosersLeftovers, Ali & Ali and the aXes of Evil, and his work has been performed at theatres and festivals across North America and around the world.

Enjoy this recording of his January talk, introduced by Writing professor Kevin Kerr.

More to come weekly

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