Carolyn Butler Palmer with one of Ellen Neel’s masks in the Legacy Gallery exhibit
The newest exhibit at UVic’s Legacy Gallery Downtown seeks to correct gendered colonial myths with works by Ellen Neel, a woman carver of the Northwest Coast.
Ellen Newman Neel (Kwagiulth, Kwickwasutaineuk and ‘Namgis) is often described as the first Northwest Coast woman carver. A prolific artist, she was only 49 years old when she passed away in the 1960s. But her defiance of gender barriers and federal law carries deep resonance for all Canadians to this day—and now within the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s calls to action—and her legendary impact and artistic legacies live on in the work of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Exhibit co-curator and Art History and Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler Palmer was assisted throughout the process by two advising curators, David A. Neel (Neel’s grandson and the son of David Lyle Neel) and Lou-ann Ika’wega Neel (her granddaughter and the daughter of Neel’s son Ted). The exhibit includes artwork from six generations of the Neel family, including David’s two children.
The Globe and Mailrecently featured a story on Neel and the exhibit in its national arts section. Lou-ann was interviewed by The Globe. She said that it’s “‘really a colonial idea that our women didn’t carve. Our women have always carved. I’ve already heard a few people say, “Well, you know, our grandmother was also a carver.” Good, I want to hear about her. Let’s talk about her, too. Because all of our communities need these role models to come from the last couple of generations and encourage our young girls and women to pursue the arts, too.’”
Mary Jo Hughes (left) and Butler Palmer at the exhibit opening (Photo: Corina Fischer)
Born in Alert Bay in 1916, Neel learned during the 1920s to carve from her grandfather—the eminent master carver Yakuglas/Charlie James—at a time when the Indigenous art of carving was banned in Canada under the Indian Act. She then launched her artistic career in the 1940s during the potlatch prohibition when carving was rare and the idea of a woman carver was even rarer still.
Butler Palmer, also UVic’s Williams Legacy Chair, worked for 15 years on research in support of the exhibit at UVic’s downtown public art gallery and a book project. “Ellen Neel was a remarkable woman,” she says. “Seven decades before the TRC published its findings, Neel graciously and very publically supported the rights of Indigenous people, to fish, to fair wages, to an education and to make art. Neel was also an important role model and mentor for young artists such as Bill Reid, Art Thompson and Robert Davidson. It is hard to imagine the Northwest Coast art world today without the foundation laid by Neel in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.”
Director of UVic Legacy Art Galleries Mary Jo Hughes adds, “We are honoured to be able to facilitate this exhibition and be able to mobilize the important research by Dr. Butler Palmer and the Neel family. This project brings to public notice Ellen Neel who, perhaps unbeknownst to many of our gallery visitors, played such a pivotal role in the art of the northwest.”
Ellen Neel’s family attending the exhibit’s opening (Photo: Corina Fischer)
In 1947, with the ban still in place, Neel established her own carving business. She opened a retail outlet in Stanley Park, The Totem Arts Shop, in 1951 where she taught her children to make art. They carved hundreds of items destined for the tourist market. She also produced monumental and miniature memorial poles, including The Wonderbird Pole of 1953 for White Spot Restaurants, as well as an extensive collection including masks, hand puppets, textiles, jewelry and totemware ceramics.
Neel designed the famous Totemland Pole too, which was a commission from a tourism organization with hundreds of the miniature poles gifted to visiting dignitaries, as well as other people beyond BC including Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn.
As she told a UBC audience during a keynote address in 1948: “Were it not for the interest created by the tourist trade, the universities and the museums, we would no longer have any of our people capable of producing this art. I have strived in all my work, to retain the authentic, but I find it difficult to obtain a portion of the price necessary to do a really fine piece of work. Only when there is an adequate response to efforts to retain the best of our art will it be possible to train the younger generation to appreciate their own cultural achievements.”
Starting in May 2017, the Faculty of Fine Arts will begin offering a new minor in Digital and Interactive Media in the Arts (DIMA). DIMA will allow you to combine current electives with new training in interactive media as part of your UVic Bachelor degree.
Writing prof David Leach, part of UVic’s Digital Storytelling & Social Simulation Lab
“Our minor in Digital and Interactive Media in the Arts is an innovative program that builds on our strengths in research and creative activity, as well as the kind of hands-on, dynamic learning Fine Arts is known for,” says Susan Lewis, Dean of Fine Arts.
The arts are traditionally at the forefront when it comes to creative applications of new technologies, and the conversion of regular media to digital formats unleashes new possibilities for interactivity. Networked digital media make it possible for groups to form around all sorts of shared interests in order to better coordinate, communicate and collaborate.
Not only has digital media led to emerging genres and forms of art, but it’s also created new areas of inquiry and analysis into social and cultural impacts. And we’re hearing increased demand for digital and interactive media skills from both students and post-degree industries and institutions in general.
As such, DIMA students will learn technological production and collaborative practices to create and curate immersive and interactive stories, games, performances and installations. Courses will be offered in a range of programs, including (but not limited to):
interactive media design
photography & film production
digital art history
technology & visual studies
music, science & computers
digital publishing & digital media arts
acting for the camera
As well as a foundational course in creativity (FA 101), you’ll build on a selection of electives looking at digital media production and cultural impacts, combined with a capstone course looking at digital and interactive media in the arts. A balance of practice and theory, core lectures, seminars and studio work will explore the conceptual and creative possibilities of this new area of knowledge and study.
Open to anyone across campus, the DIMA is a natural fit for Fine Arts, already home to the Studios for Integrated Media. DIMA will also join our current batch of minors, including:
Technology & Society (offered jointly with the Faculties of Social Sciences, Engineering, Human and Social Development, Humanities and Education)
The minor in Digital and Interactive Media in the Arts is yet another way we’re looking at how new technologies are revolutionizing the way we carry out our daily lives. From Netflix to smart phone culture, digital media is already a big part of what we do — why not integrate it into the classroom as well?
By taking the DIMA minor, you’ll
Develop skills in new media to create and co-create artistic work
Understand the intersections of art, media, and culture and their impact on society
Enhance visual literacy and the capacity to reflect critically on the social impact of new media
Build a critical vocabulary to clearly communicate concepts and analyze new media
2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for Fine Arts faculty and alumni in the media. A number of stories have run in various media outlets in the last weeks of 2016 and early 2017, featuring representatives in all of our departments. Here’s a quick roundup of who’s been saying what to whom.
School of Music alumnus & instructor Paul Beauchesne was interviewed on TV’s CHEK6 news on December 10 (skip to the 8:14 mark), speaking as leader of the annual TubaChristmas concert in Market Square. The popular School of Music event has raised over $50,000 for local charities over the past 38 years.
In this op-ed for the Times Colonist, 2016 Writing Southam Lecturer Vivian Smith explains the impact of fake news and how it can undermines democracy—a notable concern particularly during the recent US elections.
Brian Pollick with UVic archivist Lara Wilson
Back on December 16, Art History & Visual Studies PhD candidate Brian Pollick was quoted in this Times Colonist story about nearly two dozen rare medieval and early modern manuscripts that are available until May 1 in Victoria — thanks to an innovative new collaboration between UVic Libraries and Les Enluminures, a firm based in New York, Chicago and Paris which has the largest inventory of text manuscripts and miniatures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. “People of the medieval time would see a whole multiplicity of different messages, and part of what fascinates me is their visual depth,” Pollick said. UVic is the first Canadian institution to partner with Les Enluminures. Pollick donated the initial funds to create the Medieval Manuscript Fund at the UVic Libraries.
Also at the end of 2016, the annual Critics’ Choice Theatre Awards were announced on CBC Radio’s On The Island and there were plenty of Fine Arts alumni among the 2016 nominees and winners. February’s Phoenix production of Wild Honey was singled out as an outstanding overall production, with Theatre professor Peter McGuire winning Best Director (community production). “It was one of those shows where you had to ask yourself if you were actually watching students or professional theatre,” says CBC reviewer David Lennam. See the full list of winners and nominees here.
Art History & Visual Studies PhD candidate and local Star Wars expert David Christopher spoke to Vancouver’s CKNW radio on Dec 16 about the release of Rogue One, calling it “the greatest spin-off yet.” An authority on all things Force-related, Christopher was also married in full Star Wars regalia.
School of Music professor Benjamin Butterfield talked to the Times Colonist for this story about both his January 2 Victoria Symphony concert “A Viennese New Year’s” and his decade-long teaching role here at UVic. “For some, the holidays couldn’t be long enough,” wrote Mike Devlin. “Butterfield, on the other hand, loves his career on campus. ‘There’s lots on my mind about what the future holds there,’ Butterfield, 52, said of UVic. ‘I could see myself doing at least another 10 years.'”
Visual Arts MFA alumna Rachel Vanderzwet‘s recent Plastic Bangles exhibit at Deluge Contemporary was written up in the Art Openings cultural blog, written by Art History & Visual Studies alumna Kate Cino. “I have a desire for each piece of the puzzle to be unique,” says Vanderzwet, “but harmonize in a composition . . . . I like the challenge of working with unusual colour combinations,” she says, “playing with pigment to create a visual push and pull within the work.” While the exhibit is now closed, Vanderzwet will be teaching a course titled “Conversations in Abstraction” from January 10 – April 4 at the Vancouver Island School of Art, which is run by another Visual Arts alum, Wendy Welch.
Significant Art History & Visual Studies donor Jeffrey Rubinoff was featured in this Globe and Mail article which ran on Dec 30. Globe arts columnist Marsha Lederman visited Rubinoff’s Hornby Island sculpture park, spoke to him about his theories about art, and mentioned his 2016 donation to AHVS.
Visual Art chair Paul Walde‘s installation “Requiem for a Glacier” received a positive mention in the December 2016 issue of Canadian Art magazine as part of the group exhibit “The Edge of the Earth” at Ryerson’s Image Centre in Toronto; it is now featured in a solo exhibition at the WKP Kennedy Gallery in North Bay, Ontario until February 10. And from January 14 until February 28, the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum in Tromsø, Norway, presents Walde’s “Alaska Variations” as part of a touring version of The View from Here: The Arctic At The Centre of the World.
UVic’s longtime Artists-in-Residence, the Lafayette String Quartet, were featured in the Jan/Feb issue of Focus magazine, highlighting their history together and previewing their upcoming Feb 3-9 performance of the complete Shostakovich Cycle of 15 String Quartets. Now entering their fourth decade of performing and teaching together, the LSQ continue to be a highlight of the School of Music. “UVic has allowed us to take on these kinds of research-based projects—delving into 15 quartets of one composer is a great opportunity,” says violinist Sharon Stanis.
Music professor Patrick Boyle January 21 “Deep in the Groove” faculty concert was featured in the Dec/Jan issue of Boulevard magazine. The concert also features Music alumni Tony Genge and Kelby MacNayr. “If you like to swing deep in the groove, you should definitely be at this concert,” says Boyle. There’s no direct link, but you can click here and navigate to pages 116 & 118.
Art History & Visual Studies professor Victoria Wyatt has once again been asked to participate in the Edge.org 2017 Annual Question. This year’s question is, “What Scientific Term or Concept Ought to be More Widely Known?” Wyatt’s response is “Evolve,” is a pitch for more integrated education that synthesizes sciences with humanities, social sciences and fine arts. “Evolved means better, as if natural law normally dictates constant improvement over time. In translating progress from species evolution to the metaphor of evolve, the significance of dynamic relationship to a specific environment gets lost. Through natural selection, species become more equipped to survive in their distinct environment. In a different environment, they may find themselves vulnerable. Divorced from context, their measure of progress breaks down. The popular metaphor of evolve misses this crucial point. Evolve often connotes progress without reference to context.”
A number of School of Music performances—including the January 7 Emerging Alumni concert featuring Jiten Beairsto, Sydney Tetarenko and Emily Burton, and the January 8 “Brass Menagerie” faculty concert by Music instructors Paul Beachesne and Scott MacInnes — were highlighted in a round-up of music events in this Times Colonist article.
Visual Arts professor Megan Dickie‘s new exhibit at Open Space, “One Way or Another”, was previewed in this Times Colonist article on January 12. Described as “her biggest and most ambitious art project to date.” “Part of this is inspired by reality television shows where they’d doing activities and failing, like running through courses and stuff,” Dickie said. “There is pleasure in seeing somebody — not fall and hurt themselves — but to go to those limits and not succeed. That’s all in there.” The exhibit runs through to February 18.
A gift from BC sculptor Jeffrey Rubinoff and the Jeffrey Rubinoff Foundation will allow doctoral students at the University of Victoria exceptional opportunities to study the complexities and richness of the history of modern and contemporary art and why it matters to Canadians and the world.
Sculptor Jeffrey Rubinoff
“UVic is internationally recognized as a leader in creative innovation and arts knowledge, and Jeffrey Rubinoff has identified UVic’s extraordinary academic environment as being ideally suited to the goals of the Rubinoff Endowment — to expose students to the leading edge of art history,” says UVic President Jamie Cassels.
Studying world art creates opportunities for intercultural understanding, as people instantly connect with the visual. A greater awareness of the impact of modern and contemporary art can add to the richness of our lives, engage us with the past and present, and inform how we think about our world.
The Jeffrey Rubinoff Scholar in Art as a Source of Knowledge Endowment establishes a recurring four-year PhD fellowship in UVic’s Department of Art History and Visual Studies, in the area of modern and contemporary art history.
“My own sculptural work is completely dedicated to art history,” says Rubinoff. “Original ideas grow out of original work, which led me to see art as a source of knowledge. Since these insights form the context within which the work becomes meaningful, it is imperative that the general public, artists and art educators understand them if the work is to be fully appreciated.”
Jeffrey Rubinoff with his sculpture “Series 1- 4” at the Jeffrey Rubinoff sculpture park on Hornby Island (Photo: August 2016. Credit: Michelle Tarnopolsky)
After receiving his MFA in the USA in 1969, Rubinoff returned to Ontario to pursue his artistic career before moving to a 200-acre farm on Hornby Island in the early 1970s. Living and working on the northern Gulf Island for nearly five decades, he has built the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park and the annual Company of Ideas forum held at the park. This remarkable 200-acre site is home to over 100 of his steel sculptures, which he has created unassisted using his one-man steel foundry.
“Jeffrey’s sculptural work is monumental in its scope and his legacy will now create a monument to future scholarship,” says UVic Dean of Fine Arts Susan Lewis. “This extraordinary contribution underscores the crucial cultural work done in the Faculty of Fine Arts and reaffirms once again that UVic is a key player in creative innovation and the exchange of ideas about social change.”
An author of Rubinoff on Art and the subject of scholarly study himself in the book The Art of Jeffrey Rubinoff, his commitment to scholarship includes the establishment in 2014 of a fellowship at Cambridge University in England. The UVic endowment is the second only such donation from the Jeffrey Rubinoff Foundation.
“Together, the Endowment at UVic and the Fellowship at Cambridge are the institutional mainstays of the unfolding, permanent educational program at the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park, which will continue to explore the future of art as a source of knowledge,” adds Rubinoff.
Art History graduate students (from left) Ali Macdonald, Munazzah Akhtar and Atri Hatif with prof. Maria Tippett (University of Cambridge), at the Company of Ideas Pavilion, Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park (Credit: Michelle Tarnopolsky)
The new endowment at UVic will also provide travel and costs for the scholar and two students to attend the annual Company of Ideas, established by Rubinoff in 2008 to engage scholarly collaborators from around the world with the advancement of education in the arts.
AHVS PhD candidate Munazzah Akhtar attended the Company of Ideas forum in 2016, and found the experience invaluable. “Being a student of Islamic art history, it was a novel experience for me to get acquainted with art beyond my area of specialization,” says Akhtar. “Unlike any other conference I had attended before, this forum gave me an opportunity to engage with not only the works of a contemporary artist but the artist himself in getting firsthand knowledge about his contributions to the art world.”
“The forum offered an unparalleled opportunity for the students to learn from and engage with artists, writers, curators and academics from distinguished universities,” she continues. “Moreover, I feel very strongly that these are fantastic occasions for students to network with renowned scholars, which could certainly be beneficial for their future endeavors.”
This contribution is ideally timed to help the department celebrate 50 years of teaching, research and scholarship — ideas all strongly linked to the educational mission of the Jeffrey Rubinoff Foundation.
“In our 50th Anniversary year, as we look forward to the next 50 years and beyond, Jeffrey Rubinoff’s generous gift to the department allows us to envision a brighter future for our vibrant and diverse graduate students, who will use this legacy to deepen the impact of art history both at home and around the world,” notes AHVS department chair Erin Campbell.
Award-winning scholar, pianist, author and School of Music professor Harald Krebs can now add Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) to his many accomplishments. One of Canada’s best known music theorists, Krebs was announced as UVic’s newest RSC Fellow on September 7.
New Royal Society Fellow Harald Krebs (UVic Photo Services)
Election to the academies of the RSC is Canada’s highest academic honour and signals that the artist, scholar or scientist has made remarkable lifelong contributions to their field and to public life. And as an internationally recognized expert on musical meter and rhythm—especially in 19th-century German art song known as Lieder—Krebs certainly qualifies.
His work in music theory highlights under-researched and little-understood music of the 19th and early 20th centuries. “It’s a great pleasure for me to open people’s ears to unfamiliar music, and to aspects of familiar music that they had not previously considered,” he says.
Krebs’s publications on the life and music of the neglected 19th century German composer Josephine Lang, for example, have made her music more internationally known, and have inspired analytical work on the music of other female composers. His SSHRC-funded research on the metrically complex music of Robert Schumann culminated in the prize-winning monograph Fantasy Pieces, which has become one of the most influential books in the field.
His theory of meter has been applied to classical music of the 18th through 20th centuries, as well as to jazz, techno, and rock. “It has always been my concern to share my research internationally—via my writings, lectures, recordings, and editions—but also to share it with a local public,” he says. For 15 years, Krebs and his wife Sharon have offered “Lieder at Lunch” recitals at UVic, as well as connecting with the off-campus community through the UVic Speakers Bureau and VIHA’s entertainment programs.
At the core of Krebs’s work is his talent as a pianist. He was named a UVic Distinguished Professor in 2010, and received the Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression in 2014. Now the Head of Theory, Krebs joined the School of Music in 1986. In addition to his teaching practice, his academic career has seen the creation of two groundbreaking books, a steady stream of peer-reviewed articles and a remarkable series of collaborative performances fusing scholarship and musical practice.
A total of 71 UVic scholars, scientists and artists—including current, former and adjunct faculty members—are Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada. Harald Krebs is the sixth Fine Arts faculty member to be inducted into the RSC, including Fellows Mary Kerr (Theatre), Joan MacLeod (Writing) and Tim Lilburn (Writing), as well as RSC College member Dániel Péter Biró (Music) and RSC Medal winner Jack Hodgins (Writing, retired).
This fall, UVic’s Department of Theatre will celebrate 50 years of creating great theatre—and great artists. Along they way, the Phoenix has also created some incredible moments on their stages. Generations of students (literally, they have several second-generation students from alumni families!) have become successes in the world of theatre, or wherever life has taken them.
This year, UVic Theatre is celebrating not only their history but also their alumni, knowing full well these students—past and present—are what truly make the Phoenix such a special place . . . a place where young people become artists, and friendships are formed that last a lifetime. Whether alumni or treasured audience members, we look forward to celebrating with everyone who has been touched by the Phoenix over the past five decades.
To mark its 50th anniversary, the Phoenix Theatre has expanded its usual fall “Spotlight on Alumni” into a three-week 50th Anniversary Alumni Festival. Internationally acclaimed artists and alumni have been invited to present five different shows during the festival, running from October 11-29.
Self-proclaimed “professional geek” Charles Ross — best known for his One-Man Star Wars Trilogy — will present all of his one-man nerd trilogies: One-Man Star Wars Trilogy,One-Man Lord of the Rings, and his newest, Dark Knight: A Batman Parody. These pop-culture hits have taken this alumnus around the world, from New York to London and Dubai to Glastonbury, including stops in Singapore, New Zealand, and even Lucasfilm’s Star Wars conventions!
Prolific writer, performer, director, dramaturg and international Fringe icon, TJ Dawe will remount his play The Slipknot, which was performed as the very first “Spotlight” presentation in 2003. Dawe regularly performs his 14 autobiographical solo shows around the world. His play Toothpaste & Cigars (written with theatre alumnus Mike Rinaldi) inspired the Daniel Radcliffe movie The F Word. In The Slipknot, Dawe performs a spellbinding comic monologue about three equally lousy jobs—from stock boy, to driver, to post office customer service. In turns hysterical and heartbreaking, frantic and thoughtful, The Slipknot offers wise observations on relationships, Santa Claus, recreational Gravol, and why you should never put meat in the mail.
Cirque du Soleil clown and co-comedic director of Zumanity in Las Vegas, Shannan Calcutt returns for the festival with her hilarious solo show, Burnt Tongue. Calcutt, who is also a writer, actor and instructor, is best known as Izzy, the charming and radiant clown with a keen sense of timing and a razor sharp wit. In Burnt Tongue, Izzy has met a man on the internet and decides this is the guy for her! She arrives for their blind date wearing a wedding dress insisting she’s just “totally prepared to be spontaneous.”
This is all in addition to the Phoenix’s 50th Anniversary Mainstage Season, featuring Department of Theatre students, which begins in November with Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the Christopher Hampton play that was adapted into the Oscar-winning film, here directed by professor Fran Gebhard. In February, MFA candidate Alix Reynolds will direct Gut Girls by Sarah Daniels. With sharp dialogue and dazzling humour, Gut Girls is set in the Victorian era against the backdrop of women’s struggle for emancipation. The season closes with Nikolay Gogol’s The Inspector. Directed and adapted by professor Linda Hardy, this 19th-century Russian satire about greed, hypocrisy and corruption is no less relevant in today’s political landscape.
The Department of Theatre is also inviting all of its graduates to come back to campus for the 50th Anniversary Alumni Reunion, happening over the November 11-13 long weekend. The Phoenix will host three days of events for alumni to reminisce with old friends, and department faculty and staff. “It will be an exciting weekend,” says Department Chair Allana Lindgren. “There are already hundreds of alumni interesting in coming—and bringing their families with them. The Department is looking forward to reconnecting and hearing what everyone has been up to in their lives and their careers.”
Phoenix alumni can learn more about these events on a special 50th Anniversary website the department has created. As well as the reunion weekend and Alumni Festival, the anniversary website also features a complete history of the Phoenix Theatre presented through a fun interactive timeline of the department’s growth, the plays they have produced, their faculty and when they worked, as well as many successful alumni and when they graduated. Alumni can send in their own biographies to be posted or share stories and photos from the past.
Generations of Phoenix alumni have become successful artists, working across the world and playing important roles in Canada’s cultural institutions, including Michael Whitfield, Resident Lighting Designer for 35 years at the Stratford Festival; Denis Garnhum, most recently the Artist Director of Calgary Theatre and soon to be at The Grand Theatre in London ON; and Nathan Medd, the Managing Director of English Theatre at National Arts Centre. Many other alumni have created their own theatre companies that have become part of Canada’s cultural landscape, including Britt Small and Jacob Richmond of Atomic Vaudeville and the Broadway-bound hit Ride the Cyclone; Peter Balkwill of Calgary’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop; Ingrid Hansen and Kathleen Greenfield of the now Toronto-based SNAFU Dance Theatre; national three-time Canadian Comedy Award winners and CBC comedy writers Chris Wilson and Peter Carlone of Peter N’ Chris; and Kate Braidwood of Portland’s Wonderheads, to name but a few.
The Department of Theatre is also in the process of planning many other activities during the year, including an exhibition of Phoenix play posters at the UVic Archives, a human library event and historical displays. Stay tuned for more details!