UVic celebrates graduates old and new with our annual Alumni Week, running Feb 1- 8 across campus. From film screenings and fascinating talks to concerts, a curling bonspiel, Vikes basketball and the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards night, there will be over a dozen special events to check out. Better still, most are free, although you may have to register in advance.
And Fine Arts is a big part of Alumni Week this year, as we participate in five different events showcasing the talents of a number of our alumni. Here’s what’s coming up:
Did you know that 1 in 3 UVic staff and faculty are UVic alumni? It’s true, and you can meet many of them as we celebrate our campus alumni and kick off Alumni Week at an exclusive event at Cinecenta. Join us at noon on Feb 1 for a screening of the short film, ‘Til Death, by director and campus alumnus Connor Gaston.
About the film: After losing his soul mate in a fatal bicycle accident, 10-year-old Zachary sets out on a journey to bring Samantha back to life in this magical, modern fairy tale.
Gaston, who holds both a BFA and MFA from the Writing department, is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has screened at film festivals around the world, including the Toronto International Film Festival. Gaston’s first feature film, 2015’s The Devout, earned him five Leo Awards (including Best Picture), the BC Emerging Filmmaker Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best First Feature. He is also a current sessional instructor in UVic’s Writing department.
Pizza, popcorn and soda will be provided at the screening for just $5, plus everyone will receive a free gift! (Tickets at the door.) Following the film screening, there will be a Q&A with the director.
This event runs noon to 1pm Friday, Feb 1, at Cinecenta in UVic’s SUB. Film starts at 12:15pm, so come early to get your pizza!
Victoria-based vocal quintet Fifth Street combines the worlds of pop, jazz and R&B in perfect five-part harmony. The sublime voices of Natasha Penfield, Jilaine Orton, Ryan Narciso, Kenji Lee and Taylor Caswell found a groove together while students and as members of UVic’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble. You’ll enjoy their original a cappella arrangements of pop hits by the likes of Imogen Heap and Justin Timberlake as well as fresh takes on timeless classics.
Come join UVic’s annual celebration recognizing and honouring Distinguished Alumni Award winners that have been chosen from the faculties, UVic Libraries and Continuing Studies. This year, Fine Arts is honouring Theatre alumnus Nathan Medd —a cultural non-profit leader whose work is devoted to developing the performing arts in Canada.
Now the 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 — Medd was also the managing director of English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre, where his team successfully championed Canadian creators and initiated a new national stage for Indigenous performance.
Join us at 7:30pm Tuesday, Feb 5, in the Songhees Wellness Centre, 1100 Admirals Rd. Free, but registration is required.
Join 2019 Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Nathan Medd for this lively discussion about the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of creative placemaking. From development and gentrification to funding and accessibility for artists and audiences, get ready to “nerd out” about the business of the arts. Joining Medd on the panel will be long-time colleagues Kevin Kerr, Writing professor and co-founder of Vancouver’s Electric Company, Janet Munsil, former Intrepid Theatre artistic director and Metro Studio co-founder (also a Phoenix alumna and current MFA candidate in Writing), and Ian Case, Theatre alumnus, director of The Farquhar at UVic and former general manager of Intrepid Theatre.
In addition to his current position at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Medd was previously the managing director of English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre. As managing producer of Electric Company, he produced original works for the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and co-founded East Vancouver’s Progress Lab performing arts creation studio in 2009. In Victoria, he worked for Intrepid Theatre, where he co-founded Metro Studio — a flagship venue for Vancouver Island — and held positions with both the Belfry Theatre and the BC Arts Council.
This free talk runs from 12:45-1:45pm Wed, Feb 6, in the Bishop Theatre at UVic’s Phoenix Building.
Join UVic Chancellor and CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers as she has a frank and fascinating live conversation with two-time Giller-prize winning novelist and Writing alumnus Esi Edugyan. The internationally acclaimed author of Washington Black, her latest novel, Edugyan is also the author of the Giller Prize-winning Half-Blood Blues and The Second Life of Samuel Tyne.
Join us at 7pm Thursday, Feb 7, in the Michelle Pujol Room at UVic’s SUB. Copies of Washington Black will also be for sale, courtesy of UVic’s Bookstore. Update: this event is now sold out, although a waiting list is being taken.
UVic is accessible by sustainable travel options including transit and cycling. For those arriving by car, pay parking is in effect. Evening parking is $3.
But wait, there’s more!
While Alumni Week only runs Feb 1-8, our Fine Arts alumni are busy throughout the year with their own creative endeavours. Here’s a quick rundown of some other alumni who are active around town in the next couple of weeks:
The 25th annual Victoria Film Festival features work by both Writing and Visual Arts alumni and students, running throughout the festival. Writing alum Connor Gaston is showing the short film Encore as part of the shorts program “Beautiful Obsessions” on Feb 4. The Safe Space Panorama exhibition runs Feb 2-10 at the Atrium and features work & talks by Visual Arts MFA candidate Levi Glass (talk: 3pm Feb 3), undergrads Laura Gildner (3pm Feb 4),Jordan Hill (3pm Feb 6) and Jake Hrubizna (3pm Feb 8), plus MFA alumni Leah McInnis (3pm Feb 7) & sessional instructor Emily Geen (5pm Feb 5), as well as the 25th anniversary multimedia installation States of Play, curated by recent Visual Arts alumna Gina Luke.
Phoenix alumna & musical theatre teacher Kim Sholinder and the student cast & crew of Victoria High School will perform the Broadway musical Cry-Baby — based on the hit 1990 John Waters film of the same name, which starred a young Johnny Depp! This upbeat, campy musical provides a fun twist on 1950s star-crossed young lovers. Cry-Baby runs Feb 5-9 at Victoria High School, 1260 Grant. Tickets are $10-$12.
The Victoria Arts Council is pleased to be working with Visual Arts MFA alumnus Hjalmer Wenstob on a new solo exhibition. For Ground; Backgroundis a culmination of selected sculptures from over the last four years, as well as new works and installations. For Ground; Background hosts works of question, concern and education, in regards to environment, urban relationships to the land, and treaties. Wenstob is an interdisciplinary artist who specializes in sculpture, installation, and carving; he speaks of three dialects of his work — contemporary, traditional, and community-based.
Through his contemporary dialect, he completed both an undergraduate and master’s degree at UVic, exploring the relationships between cultures and art, and the balance between traditional and contemporary. His work is at times highly political and uses humour and irony to pose difficult questions of respect, reconciliation, and environmental issues. Nuu-Chah-Nulth from the Tla-O-Qui-Aht First Nations on his father’s side, and Norwegian and English on his mother’s side, Wenstob and his family recently opened Cedar House Gallery in Ucluelet, B.C. where he is exploring ways of weaving his contemporary/political work with more traditional materials and styles.
For Ground; Background runs until Feb 16 at the new Victoria Arts Council space at 1800 Store St. Open 11am-5pm Tues-Sat.
Visual Arts instructor & MFA alumnusTodd LambethpresentsNight Moves, a series of paintings that investigates the abstract relationship between space and colour. Influenced by Cubism, hard-edged Modernist painting, comic books and candy wrappers, the colours in these paintings reference the world of advertising and design. These visually stimulating works express the artist’s interest in perceptions of pictorial space and are a direct response to the proliferation of digital imagery and imaging technology.
These paintings explore optical perceptions of space; emphasizing the formal properties of structure and design, Lambeth’s images present the viewer with a sense of visual pleasure. With their bright, welcoming colours and forms the paintings in Night Moves foreground ideas of beauty and express Lambeth’s desire to create optimistic works that distract the viewer from the difficult times in which we live.
Night Moves runs through to March 2 at Deluge Contemporary Art, 636 Yates. There will be an artist talk at 3pm Sat, Feb 16.
The Victoria Theatre Guild offers a lively version of this 2005 Tony-winning show — a clever, charming and sweet-natured musical comedy about six quirky tweens competing in the spelling bee of a lifetime. While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home lives, they spell their way through a series of words, hoping never to hear the soul-crushing ding of the bell that signals a mistake. In the end, the youth learn that winning isn’t everything, and that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser.
Featuring a fantastic performance by Phoenix alumni Hailey Fowler and an outstanding set by Barbara Clerihue.
Spelling Bee runs until Feb 2 at Langham Court Theatre. Tickets are $25-$35 . . . if you can find one!
Like many outstanding students, the term “overachiever” is a good fit for graduating international Visual Arts major Guochen Wang.
Chen Wang (photo: Chorong Kim)
Born & raised in Taiyuan, a mid-sized city in China’s central Shanxi province, Chen went to a local international high school before looking for overseas post-secondary options. Yet his reasons for choosing UVic over an institution in the US, England or Europe may not be surprising, given his home city’s population of 4.2 million. “I visited Victoria when I was 12 and remember really liking it,” he recalls. “I liked the trees and the quiet.”
He was also attracted by the contemporary practice of UVic’s Visual Arts program, as well as its metaphorical appeal. “I was already doing high-fashion commercial photography in China, which I enjoyed, but I wanted to try something new,” he explains. “Visual Arts looks at photography as a tool to go somewhere else.”
An award-winning photographer before leaving China, Chen continued to find success during his undergrad years: not only did he mount two solo exhibits at local galleries, but he also picked up awards at both the Sidney Fine Art Show and the Victoria Arts Council’s LOOK show. “I like taking pictures of people on the street and telling a story through the lens,” he says.
Yet his future interdisciplinary path started to come into focus when he took his first video art course and then enrolled in the Writing department’s popular film production elective, where he worked on the short film Fear or Favour.
“I just fell in love with the medium,” he says. “Visual art is more about the individual—how you approach the work, creating on your own—but film is different. It’s more collaborative, where everyone is working towards the same goal. It feels different when you achieve something together.”
Chen on location (photo: Chorong Kim)
Fusing his artistic passion with tangible career goals, over the past four years Chen has founded the UVic Film Club, joined the CineVic Society of Independent Filmmakers, started his own commercial production company, joined CHEK TV’s production team (where he helped create over 20 commercials), served as the director of photography and camera operator for local company Botega Creative Ltd, worked as a sessional instructor for the Beifang International Education Group and volunteered on a number of independent films shot locally — all while finishing his undergraduate degree.
“I like the freedom to create,” he says. “Everyone in Victoria is very welcoming, and everyone in the independent film community seems to know and like each other, and the crews are very nice.”
His intention is to develop a web series that uses humour to explore cross-cultural understanding. “I believe that comedy — which is itself a kind of international language that helps to connect people — is a good way to express my own feelings, inspire international students and bring together both Canadian and Chinese audiences in an understated way,” he says. “It allows cultural differences to be easily understood and it builds on shared human values by non-threatening means.”
Much like his experience with street photography, Chen finds humour in the reality of everyday observations. “I can give you an example: when I first got here, I made some Canadian friends and they would greet me by saying ‘What’s up?’ — so I would look up. It’s like [the TV series] Fresh Off the Boat, except for me it would be fresh off the plane.”
While working on his MFA, he’s now getting hired for local film shoots, both independent and union (Pupstars: Christmas), as well as writing and directing his own work, like the short film Drownings. “There’s a difference between writing something in visual language as a screenplay than watching the visual language on the screen,” he explains, “but the only way you can see that is to make it.”
Despite Vancouver’s Hollywood North reputation, Chen likes the idea of staying in Victoria. “I can shoot in other cities, but I like it here: I like the environment, and there are so many talented people who work very hard.”
The creative practice of Department of Visual Arts students and alumni are in the spotlight in a series of street-level artistic initiatives around Victoria right now — a number of which are sponsored by the City of Victoria itself. Hop on your bike or plan a walking tour to catch some of this inspiringly creative work in action.
Integrate Arts Festival
Looking to expand your local artistic boundaries? Don’t miss the 12th annual Integrate Arts Festival, running August 24-26 at various venues around the city—all for free! Visit their site to download the venue map, and be sure to check out the timed events happening over the weekend.
Last year, the Integrate Arts Festival (formerly known as “Off the Grid Arts Festival”) saw over 2,000 people attend art spaces across the city. This year it kicks off with and Opening Reception on Aug 24, where you can catch the first glimpse of the work by their featured artists. Download the Integrate Arts Festival map, which will guide you to a variety of exhibitions and events at 24 different participating galleries, publicly accessible studios, and various sites throughout the city. You can also access the map using the Integrate brochure (found at participating locations), and participants are encouraged to walk or bike to each site.
As always, plenty of Fine Arts students and alumni are involved in the fest, including the likes of Visual Arts students Christian McGinty, Lana Nyuli, Shae Anthony and Mona Hedayati; alumni Taryn Walker, Sadie Nielson, Evan Locke, Eriq Wong and the folks at Theatre SKAM; plus instructor Peter Sandmark at the FLUX media gallery.
Also involved behind the scenes on Integrate’s board to make this all happen are a mix of Visual Arts and Art History & Visual Studies alumni Brin O’Hare, Stephanie Eisenbraun, Libby Oliver, Selina Pieczonka, Olivia Prior, Regan Shrumm, Anna Shkuratoff, and current student Amy Smith. And UVic’s own Legacy Gallery is once again a venue for this event.
One of the participating events this weekend is the City of Victoria’s Concrete Canvas project, which features 16 local, national and international artists painting the same number of murals on the walls of 13 sites around Victoria’s Rock Bay neighbourhood—including Visual Arts MFA grad Kerri Flannigan. Watch as a neighbourhood is transformed into an outdoor gallery for street art and creative expression; work will be continuing through August 27.
Concrete Canvas provides a platform for Victoria’s vibrant art scene to contribute to the city’s cultural legacy for years to come. The City of Victoria is collaborating with community members to build social capital, develop a sense of community pride of space, represent diversity, and empower people to make change in their city—and putting their money where their vision is: each participating artist will be paid a fee ranging from $1,250 to $4,000, with an overall budget of $150,000, funded by the City’s Public Art Reserve Fund.
Don’t miss the Concrete Canvas launch party, running 2-11:30pm Saturday, August 25. Hosted by the Victoria Beer Week Society, the free event will include a mural workshop, live music curated by Holy Smokes Music, a food and beverage area for all ages, and walking tours of completed and in-progress murals (3-6pm), an artist panel talk (5pm), and a six different bands (from 6pm), all happening in the Hoyne and Driftwood Breweries parking lot, 450 Hillside Avenue.
“The Commons” by Libby Oliver
And while you’re traveling around the city, keep your eyes open for the Commute: Bus Shelter Art Exhibition, which features work by five different emerging artists — including Visual Arts alumni Libby Oliver and Kerri Flannigan. Oliver’s work “The Commons” can be seen at Yates & Ormond streets, while Flannigan’s “Feeling Measurements – Fathom 09 (Megan)” is on Yates between Camosun & Fernwood Road.
Watch for more work by Visual Arts students and alumni coming up in future rounds of the Commute project, including current student Austin Willis—who was recently selected as the sixth artist to install work in the city’s Commercial Alley Art Gallery, found in the alley between the 500-block of Yates and Bastion Square. His four-panel pieces use bright colours, bold lines, and shapes to create fun, yet intense energy, and will be on display for a year.
“As an emerging artist I have a great interest in public art and creating work that beautifies spaces,” says Willis. Stay tuned for details about an artist’s talk, coming up in September.
As the final notes vibrated through the concert hall, the first violinist stood to address the audience again. “Any other ideas for where we should sit?” he asked.
Hands of audience members shot up, and a young student offered, “How about cello and viola at the front, violins at the back?”
The four musicians nodded, then bustled into a new formation, before playing the same piece for a third time. The audience listened carefully for the change in sound, appreciating, perhaps for the first time, the influence of such decisions.
Made up of Ilya Gotchev, Carlos Quijano, Felix Alanis and Manuel Cruz, Cuarteto Chroma are the first quartet to take part in this one-of-a-kind program in Canada, which is modelled on prestigious programs at universities in the United States. It provides a unique and hands-on learning opportunity for a quartet to earn a collaborative performance degree with guidance from members of a well-established and successful quartet — the LSQ.
LSQ violinist Ann Elliot-Goldschmid explains that this type of training is vital to the success of a quartet. “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. It’s a magical process but it takes an enormous amount of work.”
The Watsons’ passion for music
Chroma’s interactive session at 2018’s IdeaFest
Cuarteto Chroma’s fellowships are funded by a bequest from the late Claire Watson Fisher, through the Victoria Foundation. Claire grew up in a music-loving family in Montreal. Her mother, Cecile, belonged to several musical organizations and her father, William Watson, was one of the founders of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
During World War I, Claire worked for the Canadian Red Cross in England and France, where she received several awards for her service. Her career in Fine Arts began after the war, when she worked for her father’s art gallery, then the Art Gallery of Ontario, and finally, the National Museums Department in Ottawa. After retiring, she and her husband moved to Victoria.
“Her love of music was a passion, and it inspired her to give back to the art form that had given her so much pleasure and joy”, says Louise (Watson) Slemin, Claire’s sister. “I only wish Claire had known the extent of her bequest.”
That extent of the gift is still being discovered by the university as it unlocks the potential of this new program.
“This funding brings a very high-level, prize-winning quartet to UVic, which elevates the learning and research in the whole music department” says Ann. “It’s inspiring for other students to be around this level of professionalism, in practice rooms, or alongside them in the orchestra.”
Cuarteto Chroma in action
Cuarteto Chroma brings benefits to the greater community, through playing at local schools, at benefit concerts, or at public events such as Ideafest. When they travel for concerts, festivals and competitions, they raise awareness of the calibre of UVic Music around the world. After witnessing the quartet’s significant improvement, Ann thinks they could have an even greater impact—at UVic and beyond—during their second year.
The opportunity to coach the four musicians has been a highlight in LSQ’s long residency here at UVic. “It’s a real joy. Like all teachers, our wish is to have our students eventually surpass us. We longed for UVic to develop something like this for many years and Claire Watson’s bequest gave us the opportunity. We’re hopeful we can continue to fund graduate quartets after the gift from this donor has been spent,” says Elliot-Goldschmid.
What are the interconnections between climate change, sea rituals and traditional ecological knowledge and practices, and how those be explored through applied theatre practices? That’s the focus of the research currently being conducted by Theatre PhD candidate and Vanier ScholarDennis Gupa.
Gupa is currently wrapping up a year of research on the ground—and on the seas—in his native Philippines, which is partially supported through a 2017 CAPI Student Research Fellowship.
Dennis Gupa in the Phillippines
“I have been here in the Philippines for my field work since September 2017. My site is located in Samar-Leyte Region and I am working with local elders in the island community of Guiuan, where the deadliest typhoon of 2013—Haiyan Typhoon—entered,” he writes.
“One of the most relevant activities I organized during this field research was the intentional congress festival, Paddling Visions [which saw] scholars and artists from the Philippines and Canada gather in a four-day congress festival of performances and academic dialogue and issues about climate change, human, ecological and gender violations, and indigenous knowledges.”
Held in May 2018, Gupa’s Paddling Visions sought to expand dialogue on climate justice in the Philippines. “This event is one of the activities that executes and explores my methodologies—participatory/community action research and applied theatre as research,” he writes.
Hear more about Gupa’s work in this short video:
“My heart overflows with gratitude for the participation extended by the communities in engaging them in grounding stories on the impact of climate change,” he says, noting the widespread participation in his research from all walks of life—including elders, women, children, fishermen, government officials, teachers, artists, scholars and others.
Following a series of on-campus solo exhibitions in the Audain Gallery this spring, this year’s graduating MFA artists have taken their work downtown for their final public exhibit.
Titled In Toto, the annual Visual Arts MFA graduation exhibition runs May 4 to May 14 at 821 Fort Street, between Quadra and Blanshard, with a special opening reception at 7pm on Friday, May 4.
Update: the MFA show will now return for one day only, 11am-2pm Sunday, May 27, as part of the City of Victoria’s Fort Street Celebrations. The MFA show will be used as the venue for a public drop-in session discussing the use of vacant store fronts as art spaces. Live music & refreshments will also be on hand to celebrate the opening of the bike lanes,
Featuring the work of David Michael Peters, Marina DiMaio, Leah McInnis, Connor Charlesworth and Evelyn Sorochan-Ruland, In Toto offers 10 different pieces, ranging from painting and sculpture to installation and media works.
Interestingly, the same storefront was home to the HeARTspace exhibit in the fall 2017, a pop-up art gallery featuring the work of people who have died from overdoses, as well as tributes to them; that exhibit was organized by UVic interdisciplinary PhD candidate Marion Selfridge.
The free exhibit is open noon to 4pm daily.
In addition to this exhibit, MFA candidate Marina DiMaio has also organized the second in the MFA Connect exhibit series. Running May 13-19 in the Audain Gallery in the Visual Arts building, this second iteration reconsiders the long-standing tradition of Mail Art through an entirely digital correspondence. This conception of MFA Connect integrates the work of six MFA students from Newcastle University in England and six UVic MFA students in a group show that will then travel to the Ex Libris Gallery in northeast England.
“MFA Connect is like a conference for visual arts,” says DiMaio in this article about the inaugural MFA Connect exhibit in November 2017. “Other departments make these kind of ‘connections’ all the time, but when we get together we share a visual language. This is about challenging each other’s research, getting our research out into the world, creating our own opportunities, establishing communities, and continuing the larger conversation of the place of the visual arts in an academic institution.”
In addition to Marina DiMaio, MFA Connect also features work by UVic’s Connor Charlesworth, Leah McInnis, David Michael Peters, and Evelyn Sorochan-Ruland, plus Xristia Trutiak. Participating artists from Newcastle U include Shaney Barton, Elizabeth Green, Peter Hanmer, Paul Jex, Hania Klepacka and Gill Shreeve.
Could this be the beginning of ongoing creative alliances between Newcastle University and UVic? Only time—and inspiration—will tell.