Visiting Artist: Jaimie Isaac

“The Eighth and Final Fire” (2021), public art installation by Jaimie Isaac (Winnipeg)

Our final Visiting Artist of the academic year is the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s new chief curator, Jaimie Isaac, an interdisciplinary artist and mixed-heritage member of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Treaty 1 Territory who is dedicated to decolonizing art and cultural institutions.

Join us from 7:30-9:20pm Wed, April 6 in room A162 of UVic’s Visual Arts building, or online.

Isaac is dedicated to making space for womxn, BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+ voices and decolonizing art and cultural institutions. She served as the Indigenous and Contemporary Arts at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for more than 6 years and has been in leadership positions in arts and cultural organizations as well as many independent projects. Isaac holds a degree in Art History From University of Winnipeg and a Masters of Arts from the University of British Columbia, with the thesis focus on Decolonizing Curatorial Practice.

Exhibitions curated at the Winnipeg Art Gallery include the likes of “Nahdohbii: To Draw Water” (an international curatorial collaboration triennial and symposium), “Born In Power”, “Behind Closed Doors”, “Insurgence Resurgence” (co-curated), “Vernon Ah Kee: cantchant”, “Boarder X”(national tour), “We Are On Treaty Land” and “Quiyuktchigaewin; Making Good”. During her tenure, Isaac managed touring shows and initiated many dynamic and sustained partnerships and programming.

Artistically, Isaac co-founded The Ephemerals Collective, which was long-listed for the 2017 and 2019 Sobey Art Award. Collectively and independently, she has exhibited and presented work internationally. Jaimie collaborated with an artistic team on a public sculpture at the Forks called “Nimama at South Point Path: Niizhoziibean” and collaborated on a public art project, “Cyclical Motion: Indigenous Art & Placemaking” and a solo public art work, “8th and Final Fire at the Forks” (Winnipeg, 2021).

With published work, Jaimie has contributed articles and features for Art + Wonder, C Magazine, Bordercrossings and essays for exhibition catalogues; Nahdohbii; To Draw Water, Insurgence Resurgence, Boarder X, Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years, and unsacred. Isaac has contributed in collections of writing within The Land We Are Now: Writers and Artists Unsettle the Politics of Reconciliation, West Coast Line 74 and Public 54: Indigenous Art: New Media and the Digital Journal and contributed in forthcoming publications.

In community, Jaimie was co-faculty for the Wood Land School at Plug In Summer Institute in 2016.  She is the Advisory Committee for the Manitoba Museum and is on the board of directors for Bordercrossings Magazine and Trustee for the Sobey Art Foundation. Jaimie is an honouree for Leaders of Tomorrow from the Manitoba Museum 50th Tribute Awards 2020, CBC Future 40 Finalist and the Canadian Museums Association recipient for an outstanding achievement award in exhibitions category with the Boarder X exhibition, 2021

Distinguished Alumni

Fine Arts was thrilled to see three past graduates named among the 20 recipients of the UVic’s 2022 Distinguished Alumni Awards announced on March 10. 

Presented by UVic and the University of Victoria Alumni Association, the awards recognize graduates who, through their leadership or accomplishments, contribute significantly to communities locally, nationally or globally. New this year, there are three award categories: the Presidents’ Alumni Awards, the Indigenous Community Alumni Awards and the Emerging Alumni Awards—and Fine Arts had winners in each category. Congratulations to all!

Kim Senklip Harvey directing a staged reading of Kamloopa at UVic’s Chief Dan George Theatre in Nov 2021 (photo: Tori Jones)

Kim Senklip Harvey

Syilx and Tsilhqot’in director, writer and actor Kim Senklip Harvey (MFA Writing, ’21) was named one of the winners in the Emerging Alumni Awards category, adding to her 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama for her groundbreaking play, Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story. 

Kim is no stranger to awards, with Kamloopa having won the 2019 Jessie Richardson Award for Significant Artistic Achievement, Best Production and the Sydney J. Risk Prize for Outstanding Original Play. Kim is currently developing three television series, working on her first book of prose and earning her PhD in Law at UVic. She believes that storytelling is the most compelling medium to move us to a place where everyone is provided the opportunity to live peacefully.

Kim feels her work is in deep service to her peoples. “I say my stories are a place of respite for their trying lives and if I make them laugh once or momentarily nourish their spirits I’ve done my job,” she says. “I hope my continued work supports the next generation in the ongoing practice of making a more equitable and peaceful future.”

Read more about Kim Senklip Harvey here.

Marion Newman

Kwagiulth and Stó:lō First Nations mezzo-soprano and CBC Saturday Afternoon at the Opera host Marion Newman (Music, ’93) is the recipient of one of UVic’s new Indigenous Community Alumni Awards. “I hope to bring about better awareness and understanding that will lead to meaningful change in who we see as our leaders and innovators,” she says.

As a singer, Marion is acclaimed for her portrayals of Dr. Wilson in Missing and title roles in Shanawdithit and Carmen, and will make her debut with the Welsh National Opera in June 2022. She is also co-founder of Amplified Opera, a group that centres artists and encourages audiences to embrace diverse and challenging cultural experiences.

She is sought after as a speaker, teacher, dramaturge, director and advisor for institutions and arts organizations across North America.

When asked about her advice to young people entering the world of professional music, who may feel lost or confused about their future, she had this to say: “Never stop learning and don’t be afraid to make mistakes: learn, apologize if needed and move forward. And remain open to other ways of engaging in your area of interest and expertise.”

Read more about Marion Newman here.

 

Karen Clark Cole

Recipient of a prestigious President’s Alumni Awards, Karen Clark Cole (AHVS ’91) is the CEO & co-founder of the award-winning, global experience design firm Blink UX. “Our mission is to enrich people’s lives . . . so the world can have more happy people,” she says from her home in Seattle, where she loves to trail run, garden, backcountry ski, kitesurf and hang out with her amazing daughter.

Karen’s leadership philosophy is grounded in what she calls being a “Possibility Thinker.” Her optimistic, fully present approach to life enables her to turn big visionary ideas into action and plant a seed for what is possible in everyone she meets.

When asked about her time in Fine Arts, Karen recalls, “The campus, the students, and the professors were all top notch. The profs were all so accessible and engaged it created a very personal and intimate learning experience.”

Karen is also executive director for Girls Can Do, a non-profit she founded in 2014. Girls Can Do hosts an event series for girls with the mission to inspire a generation of possibility thinkers and ignite a vision for equal opportunity. In 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a keynote video address, and Karen received a thank you letter from President Barack Obama for her work with girls.

Read more about Karen Clark Cole here.

BC Arts Council Funding 101

 

Curious about funding your creative projects? Wondering how to apply for grants?

Get to know the BC Arts Council—the provincial funding agency for arts & culture—in this Q&A info session aimed at upper-level undergrads in any Fine Arts department.

Featuring BC Arts Council program officer & Theatre alum Erin Macklem, this 1-hour session covers grants for individual artists—including eligibility requirements, current strategic priorities, registering an online application & invaluable tips for writing successful grants!

About the presenter

After 25 years working in professional theatre as a costume designer, playwright and administrator, Erin Macklem joined the team of Program Officers at the BC Arts Council in 2018 where she facilitates youth-focused multidisciplinary programs. She has a passion for outreach and engagement, especially as they relate to supporting the BC Arts Council’s strategic priorities. A graduate of UVic’s Theatre department, Erin is a member of the Metis Nation of BC and the Metis Nation of Greater Victoria. She strives to bring this cultural lens to her work, while being conscious of the white-skin privilege afforded her by her father’s Irish and English ancestors.

 

 

Fine Arts well represented at the 2022 Victoria Film Festival

Running February 4-13, both online and in theatres, the Victoria Film Festival will descend on Victoria with a new raft of films to delight movie goers of all stripes.

No stranger to the VFF, you’ll once again find Fine Arts well-represented in these films and events:

Writing alum Sean Horlor (co-director, Someone Like Me, Feb 5) : this award-winning documentary follows the story of Drake, a gay asylum seeker from Uganda. When a queer group unites to support Drake seeking asylum in Canada, unexpected challenges lead them down an emotional road together in search of personal freedom.

Writing’s David Leach (moderator, Welcome to the Metaverse, Feb 9) : Join Brett Gaylor (documentary filmmaker) and Mike Wozniewski (President & CTO, Hololabs) for a hands-on demonstration and discover the power and perils of facial-recognition data-harvesting technologies — and how to make your “metaverse” a “better-verse”. Moderated by UVic’s David Leach and SFU’s Kate Hennessy.

Theatre’s Leslie D. Bland (co-director, Tzouhalem, Feb 13) : This documentary examines the near-mythic figure of Cowichan Chief Tzouhalem, the account of his life from both historians and First Nations Elders, the folkloric tales concerning him, his impact on the modern relationship between the Crown and First Nations, and how his legend remains alive to this day, examining critically how his story has been told and passed down to us.

Writing’s Dan Hogg (producer, Esluna: The Crown of Babylon, Feb 6) : In this action-packed animated feature set in the retro-futuristic world of Esluna, a relic hunter and her crew must track down an ancient artifact known as the Crown of Babylon.

MFA alum Katherin Knight (director, Still Max, Feb 10) : See how artist Max Dean learned to cope with his cancer diagnosis the same way he has dealt with everything in his life: through art. Sometimes whimsical, ultimately touching, this journey is a life enhancing story as only an artist can tell it.

Theatre alum Trevor Hinton (actor, Fragile Seeds, Feb 10) : The dramatic thriller Fragile Seeds follows Ryann Temple, a therapist working with sex offenders who uncovers haunting secrets in her family’s past through the disturbed men she counsels every day.

Visual Arts alum Laura Gildner and former Visual Arts student Enda Burke (Posterful art exhibit, Feb 4-13) : We’ve asked 10 local artists to reinterpret their favourite indie film poster at the Atrium Building.

Visit the Victoria Film Festival’s website for how to attend these and other entertaining and thought provoking shows.

Top-10 Fine Arts stories of 2021

As we wind down a(nother) year of unprecedented firsts, it is with gratitude and awe that we look back on the student accomplishments, faculty successes, new appointments and visiting scholars who made 2021 memorable. Read on to see some of the things that kept our year bright even in these often trying times.

New Impact Chair

Most recently, Fine Arts was proud to announce that we are now home to one of just four new Impact Chairs positions at UVic. With a deep understanding of art’s power to inspire change and a teaching style that embraces cultural learning, Carey Newman brings his passion for decolonization and Indigenous resurgence to his new appointment as Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices in both the departments of Visual Arts and Art History & Visual Studies.

 

Learning with others

“There’s something quite sacred about listening and working with your hands at the sametime.” Award-winning poet, memoirist and Writing professor Gregory Scofield—also a traditional Cree-Metis beadworker— connects traditional beadwork and writing through his creative practice and teaching. All of this unites in Scofield’s course on Indigenous women’s resistance writing and material art, which combines hands-on learning in traditional Cree-Metis beadwork with readings, films and writing practice centered on resurgence and resistance.

And in July, Fine Arts welcomed Karla Point as the new Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator, and we couldn’t be happier. Here’s what Karla had to say about it, “When I was a cultural support liaison with Law, I was ‘Aunty Karla’ for the Law students—so I’d love to be Aunty Karla for all the Fine Arts students.”

 

Transformational theatre

Eurocentrism in theatre continues to be one of the most pressing artistic issues of our time, whether on professional stages, community performances or academic institutions. Enter the Theatre department’s new initiative, Staging Equality—which offers a vision of how theatre can address issues of race, diversity and inclusion by building relationships based on trust and respect. Created out of the Strategic Framework Impact Fund, Staging Equality is a three-year collaborative and creative research project devised by Theatre professors Yasmine Kandil and Sasha Kovacs.

 

Graduate achievements

On June 1, Syilx & Tsilhqot’in playwright & director Kim Senklip Harvey became the first Indigenous woman to win the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama for her play Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story (Talon Books)—less than a week after receiving her MFA in Writing from our Writing department. The widely acclaimed play then received a staged reading at Phoenix’s Chief Dan George Theatre in November.

In September, Theatre PhD candidate Dennis Gupa premiered his Gossip with Whales, a unique choral collaboration which seeks to give voice to those most affected by climate change on the oceans. It was created while Gupa was Artist in Residence with Ocean Networks Canada.

Making music matter

In November, the School of Music’s AUDIO+ held its second annual event to advance the integration of women and non-gender conforming persons into the male-dominated realm of audio engineering. With exciting events including a build-your-own-synthesizer workshop and strong student participation, we hope this is the start of a new tradition here on campus.

Along similar lines, School of Music students highlighted marginalized voices during UVic’s 5 Days of Action this fall, with the hopes of bringing awareness to EDI-related challenges faced by both musicians and music institutions.

Student accomplishments

School of Music undergraduate Iryna Peleshchyshyn received the gift of a lifetime this past year when she was given the opportunity to play a treasured 18th century violin during her degree program. The French violin—crafted in 1748 and valued at nearly $35,000—was donated to UVic by well-known local violinist Trudi Prelypchan, who knows a thing or two about being a young violinist: at just 16, she began playing with the Victoria Symphony in 1964.

In other departmental news, Visual Arts was able to launch its long-awaited and newly upgraded Photography Lab this summer thanks to the help of UVic’s Capital Projects and our donors.

Changing climate

While we are all aware that there is a climate crisis and there’s not enough happening to stop it, the appointment of Sean Holman as the new Wayne Crookes Professor in Environmental and Climate Journalism to help change the narrative around climate change.

And back in June, Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson brought her environmental vision to the world when she was selected as one of six international artists by the UN Convention on Biodiversity to participate in the Instagram takeover of @withnature2020.

Guest speakers

Fine Arts was fortunate to host a remarkable range of guest speakers this past year, most hosted by our long-running Orion Lecture Series and many of which are still available for viewing on our Orion playlist. Guests range from celebrated nonfiction author JB MacKinnon, who explored society’s problematic relationship with consumerism, to musical scholar Gayle Young, who offered a unique workshop on microtonality and tuning. Notable among our many other speakers were Islamic curator Fahmid Suleman, multidisciplinary painter Manuel Mathieu and Indigenous actor Gary Farmer, to name but a few.

Online exhibits

Plays and concerts weren’t the only things to shift online: this year also saw the annual BFA exhibition shift into an online virtual reality walkthrough format. “Any limitations have only inspired innovation,” noted supervising Visual Arts faculty member Jennifer Stillwell. The exhibit, titled The End, proved that even a pandemic can’t keep art down as 30 graduating students filled much of the Visual Arts building with their creations.

Livestream and live performances

dead man's cell phone posterLast March, Problem Child became the sole public main stage production of the 2020/21 Phoenix Theatre season due to COVID—prompting a major technological shift as students learned to live stream their first major production. But this fall saw audiences return to the Phoenix Theatre mainstage with a production of the highly entertaining Dead Man’s Cell Phonewith more to look forward to in spring 2022.

The impact of Indigenous art practices on truth & reconciliation

Art not only has the power to inspire, it can also be a powerful catalyst for change. Nowhere is this more evident than in issues of truth and reconciliation, as Carey Newman well knows. Recently appointed as the inaugural Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices with the Faculty of Fine Arts, Newman brings his passion for decolonization and Indigenous resurgence to this new position. 

A multi-disciplinary Kwakwak’awakw and Coast Salish artist, master carver, filmmaker and author, Newman strives to highlight Indigenous, social and environmental injustice through his art practice. In addressing the impacts of colonialism and capitalism, he uses material truth to unearth memory and trigger the necessary emotion to drive positive change. He is also deeply engaged with community and incorporating innovative methods derived from traditional teachings and Indigenous worldviews into his process.

Newman was most recently UVic’s sixth Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest. Now as the Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices, he is jointly appointed to the Department of Visual Arts and the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, where he will teach both graduate and undergraduate students, as well as continuing his own research and cultural production.

About the Impact Chairs

UVic Impact Chairs are intended for exceptional researchers acknowledged as leaders in their field, with recognized success in research-inspired teaching and fostering collaborative and interdisciplinary research. The role of the Impact Chair is to convene, connect and facilitate collaborative research and education across disciplines and academic units, knowledge sharing and mobilization, partnerships on campus and with external partners and communities, and to provide leadership in relation to the relevant Strategic Framework priorities.

Newman is the third of four inaugural UVic Impact Chairs appointed to five-year research positions funded by the university’s strategic framework initiative. His appointment also reflects UVic’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), specifically the UN SDGs on reducing inequalities and on fostering peace, justice and strong institutions.

In this Q&A, Newman discusses the intersection between his art practices and social issues, as well as his hopes to build new relationships while challenging Canada’s historical narrative.

How can Indigenous art practices promote meaningful intellectual exchange and community building?

My artwork is inspired by, and responds to, a wide spectrum of historical and contemporary social issues. It is rooted in Kwakwaka’wakw and Sto:lo world views that see governance, law and arts as inextricably interconnected: I include all of these when considering the potential impacts of Indigenous art practices.

I think about this Impact Chair position as being not just about the process and practices of Indigenous art making, but as an opportunity to discover what is possible when the distinctions between disciplines are removed, and the processes of creative production and intellectual exchange are transformed by not only changing who participates, but also the questions we pose, how we approach finding solutions and the metrics we use to evaluate success.

Newman at the opening of his Earth Drums installation in Saanich, BC

How do you hope to use this position to build new relationships between truth, art and reconciliation?

When I think about the goal of reconciliation, the process begins with learning, understanding and accepting truth. I make a distinction between understanding something intellectually and feeling it on a fundamental or emotional level. I make the same distinction between being taught or told something and discovering that same thing through personal realization. That small distinction makes an enormous difference when it comes to how willing a person is to participate in, or make the sacrifices necessary for transformational change . . . like reconciliation.

We know that art can be a catalyst in the process of discovering and sharing truth. We also know that art has the power to inspire people to action. This position provides me the time and resources to continue making art that addresses injustice and asks difficult questions. It also provides the opportunity to write about and critically reflect upon the process, and in doing so gain a better understanding of what works or doesn’t work and why.

Newman with his Witness Blanket sculptural installation in Winnipeg, MB

How can the arts help challenge the historical narrative of Canada’s colonial truth?

Throughout history, music, dance, literature and visual arts have all been used to confront various forms of injustice and inequality. When it comes to the genocide wrought by colonial Canada, generations of artists, scholars, activists and knowledge keepers have advocated for awareness and called for change by varying degrees of confrontation and inspiration.

The work of reaching hearts and minds and then turning them to action is slow, but recently we have seen how quickly the confirmation of unmarked graves at residential schools transformed the perspective and galvanized the commitment of many in this country.

How does that translate into your own art practice?

In my own creative practice, I build upon the work of those who came before me, making artwork that looks at how the colonial foundations of Canada have created the social, ecological, racial and economic injustices we face today.

I believe that by understanding this history and recognizing how it is perpetuated today—and maybe embracing some Indigenous ways of being—we can dismantle what makes it systemic, and eventually live up to the altruistic self-image that has long been embedded in Canada’s national identity.

How can this position better bridge the space between institutional and community-based learning?

Something that unsettles me about the way scholars and institutions engage with community-based knowledge systems is how academia views research as proprietary. Whoever publishes something gets credit and is cited as the “expert,” regardless of where the knowledge came from, or how many generations contributed to its development; even with ethics reviews and consent forms, this practice is extractive.

In oral traditions, storytelling is the way knowledge is carried through generations, so it is natural to share information—but just because something is freely told, it doesn’t mean the rights to it have also been given. Better understanding this nuance between rights and responsibility will go a long way toward building stronger relationships between academia and communities.

What projects are you currently working on?

Every project seems to take longer than expected, so they always end up overlapping, but as I begin my term as Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices, there are two projects that I am particularly excited about. The first is establishing the unCentre for Arts and Decolonisation, a legacy of the Witness Blanket that will take an anti-oppressive, anti-racist, nonhierarchical approach to collaboration. My goal is to encourage more interdisciplinary creative/research projects that address the root causes of systemic issues that broadly impact society, including

(but not limited to) Indigenous injustice, systemic racism, gendered violence, the climate crisis and global inequality. The other one is a conceptual art project called “The Seedling” that will ask us to transform our relationship with land, reconsider who and what our governance serves, and challenge us to change our actions and sense of collective responsibility today by radically expanding the timeline we use when planning for the future.