There was certainly no shortage of Fine Arts news in 2018, given that we tracked nearly 300 local, national and international media stories about the creative activities of our faculty, alumni, students and staff . . . and those are just the stories we know about.
From our new faculty members—including Rick Leong, Sasha Kovacs, Deborah Campbell, Katharina Clausius and Michael Elliott—to a new batch of websites for our departments of Art History & Visual Studies, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing and the School of Music, Fine Arts continues to grow and evolve as we move closer to our 50th anniversary in 2019/20.
While it was hard to choose favourites from amongst the many stories that appeared in both traditional and social media, here (in no particular order) are our choices for the top 10 Fine Arts stories from our faculty blog.
Benjamin Butterfield named to the Royal Society of Canada
Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)
Three UVic faculty members received the country’s highest academic honour by being named 2018 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) in September—and among those joining the distinguished ranks was School of Music professor Benjamin Butterfield.
While Butterfield has won international plaudits as one of Canada’s best operatic tenors, he is equally passionate about his role as head of voice for UVic’s School of Music.
“With a performance career, the more you’re in the game, the more you’ll be asked to be in the game,” he explains. “But my obligation is really to teaching . . . for me, it’s less about pursuing my ‘career’ and more about being here for students who sing, and who want to learn to sing—that’s my day job, that’s my real life, that’s what’s most important.”
Butterfield is now the eighth Fine Arts faculty member to be inducted into the RSC, including Fellows Mary Kerr (Theatre), Harald Krebs (Music), Tim Lilburn (Writing), Joan MacLeod (Writing) and Sandra Meigs (Visual Arts), as well as RSC College member Dániel Péter Biró (Music) and RSC Medal winner JackHodgins (Writing, retired).
Fine Arts has no shortage of alumni success stories, but it’s hard to top internationally acclaimed Department of Writing alumna Esi Edugyan, who won her second Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2018 for her latest novel, Washington Black.
Edugyan won $100,000 on the 25th anniversary of Canada’s richest literary award, and also earns the distinction of being one of only three authors to twice win the Giller Prize, alongside M.G. Vassanji and Alice Munro.
Washington Black was also nominated for the Man Booker Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize—as was her previous 2011 Giller Prize-winning novel Half-Blood Blues. Indeed, having only published three novels (including her debut, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne), Edugyan’s back-to-back wins for Washington Black and Half-Blood Blues is doubly remarkable, especially when you consider both were shortlisted for the coveted trifecta of fiction awards.
Carey Newman receiving his Order of BC from Lieutenant Governor the Honourable Janet Austin and Premier John Horgan in September
When Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket was unveiled at the University of Victoria in 2014, it was clear the large-scale installation would quickly become a national monument and spark reflection and conversation about residential schools, settler-Indigenous relations and reconciliation. Now, Newman will continue the conversation as the sixth Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with the Visual Arts department.
“This is breaking new ground for me,” said Newman in June. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to convert the experience of mentorship into a more formal educational setting.”
When Art History & Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler-Palmer received an email from the Bank of Canada back in 2017, she didn’t put much stock in it. “To be honest, I thought it was a scam email,” she laughs, “but in fact they wanted to speak to me as an art historian.”
“It was a real honour to be asked and to be able to work on such an important change in our currency,” Butler-Palmer said in this recent interview with the Martlet. “I think the change is really reflected too, [particularly] that they changed the orientation as well . . . to signify the change in the way that they represent Viola Desmond on that bill.”
Douglas Peerless as the Man in the Chair (photo: Dean Kalyan)
The response to Phoenix’s fall mainstage production of The Drowsy Chaperone, directed by Jacques Lemay, was fantastic. Audiences and reviewers alike praised this production as one of the finest in Phoenix’s 50-plus year history.
“This is one of the best shows staged by the university’s theatre department in recent years and should not be missed,” notes thisTimes Colonist review by Adrian Chamberlain. “Everything about this elegant, detailed production works well: the excellent costumes, set, acting, dancing, choreography . . . . [this is] a truly superior piece of theatre that will undoubtedly be a highlight of the season.”
It was such a hit, in fact, that they ended up adding two additional shows after the entire run was essentially sold out in November!
Alexander Dunn, an internationally renowned guitarist and UVic music instructor for nearly three decades, played a vital role in bringing the guitar quartet to UVic by working for the past 18 months with two US-based organizations—the Artist Protection Fund (APF), an innovative initiative of the Institute of International Education, and the non-profit organization Remember the River.
Now safely in Victoria as the recipients of a prestigious Artist Protection Fund Fellowship grant, the Orontes quartet offer a remarkable message about the power of music, hope and determination. The quartet told theGlobe and Mail that their peaceful lives in Syria had been disrupted by the civil war, and violence and terror became commonplace. But when the ensemble started to play together, “we forgot everything because we just focused on what we are doing,” as recounted to The Globe’s arts reporter Marsha Lederman in a December 8 article in the national edition of the newspaper.
Colton Hash named Artist in Residence for Ocean Networks Canada
Colton Hash with his full-size sculpture of an adolescent female orca (photo: Ashton Sciacallo)
Victoria-based artist Colton Hash became the inaugural recipient of an Artist-in-Residence program by the Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative. The new ONC residency will strengthen connections between art and science, and broaden perspectives on major issues ranging from technology and the environment to biodiversity and healthy communities.
“I see this as a great opportunity to collaborate with ocean scientists and experiment with digital media to communicate some of the dynamic processes that play a critical role in coastal waters,” says Hash. “Whether it’s how a kelp forest responds to climate change or how the thawing of frozen methane affects sediment stability of submarine slopes, I hope I can use interactive art to inspire viewers to care more about what is happening beneath the ocean’s surface.”
Presented in partnership with Universities Canada, the Building Reconciliation Forum brought together close to 250 thought leaders from universities, Indigenous governing bodies and communities, and federal and regional government officials from acorss Canada to consider how universities are answering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
As part of the Forum, Fine Arts Dean Dr. Susan Lewis hosted a near-capacity panel discussion on First Nations Art Practice & Reconciliation at downtown’s Baumann Centre, featuring a range of local artists, administrators, activists and alumni discussing how Victoria’s arts community can advance decolonization and reconciliation.
Panelists included Visual Arts MFA alumna and the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence Lindsay Delaronde; the Belfry Theatre’s Indigenous cultural advisor Kristy Charlie and executive director Ivan Habel; Pacific Opera’s director of community engagement Rebecca Hass; Open Space board member and Visual Arts sessional instructor Charles Campbell; Legacy Gallery director Mary Jo Hughes; and Art Gallery of Greater Victoria curator of engagement Nicole Stanbridge.
Also during the forum, the Theatre department hosted Nomad, a musical and visual journey through Inuit history with Inuk singer-songwriter and Order of Canada recipient Susan Aglukark.
Department of Writing professor Bill Gaston won the 2018 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for his short-story collection The Mariner’s Guide to Self Sabotage (Douglas & McIntyre). Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and co-sponsor Brian Butler presented Gaston with his $5,000 prize at a gala October 17 event at downtown’s Union Club.
2018 was a strong year for the Writing department at the Victoria Book Prize, given that fellow nominees included professor emerita Lorna Crozier (What the Soul Doesn’t Want), longtime instructor Patrick Friesen (Songen) and longtime Faculty of Fine Arts colleague and Dean’s External Advisory Committee member Maria Tippett (Sculpture in Canada: A History).
Gaston is also one of 10 authors nominated for the prestigious RBC Taylor Prize for his 2018 memoir, Just Let Me Look At You (Hamish Hamilton).
Twin Kennedy are now Distinguished Alumni (UVic Photo Services)
It’s only been 10 years since sister duo Twin Kennedy graduated from the School of Music, but during that short decade, the acclaimed country/roots duo already released two albums, toured across North America, moved to Nashville and won the hearts of country radio and fans alike. The sisters headed back to UVic in February to be honoured as the Fine Arts winners of UVic’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award—an award that’s doubly special this year, given that it was presented during the School of Music’s 50th anniversary.
Know for their distinctly “Canadiana” country roots sound, seamless harmonies and heartfelt songwriting, Carli and Julie Kennedy (BMus ’08) have been dubbed “the next big thing in country music” by the Nashville Music Examiner and Twin Kennedy’s 2017 winter single “Cold Weather” was chosen by Rolling Stone as one of the “10 new country and Americana Christmas songs to hear right now!”
“We’re very proud of years at UVic,” says Carli. “Not everyone in the popular-music world has a degree, and it’s an important part of our story. To be recognized for that side of our career is a huge honour; it means a lot to us.”
One of the world’s great interpreters of the German art song tradition known as Lieder and one of the most frequently recorded lieder singers of modern times, Mitsuko Shirai is acclaimed worldwide for her extraordinary performances and recordings of songs by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Hugo Wolf, and others.
Now, Shirai will receive an honorary doctorate from UVic on November 14, as part of the Fall Convocation. During her visit to campus, she will also give two presentations at the School of Music as an Orion guest artist.
As part of a Lieder duo with her husband Hartmut Höll, the Japanese soprano and mezzo-soprano has set a high standard as an interpreter of German lied; the duo has given recitals in Europe, Scandinavia, Israel, Africa, Japan, South America, Russia, the USA and Canada, but they are especially well known in Germany and Japan. A committee of Japanese artists awarded Shirai the Great Idemitsu Music Award 1996 in appreciation of her artistic work. She has been praised by German publication Der Stern as “the first leading lady of Lieder singing”.
But Shirai is not just limited to recital singing. A contralto, she has also found acclaim for her performances of Gustav Mahler’s orchestral songs, appearing in concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker, New Japan Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris and the Wiener Symphoniker. Shirai has also appeared in operas ranging from Mozart to Wagner.
Shirai is also distinguished for her illustrious teaching career. She teaches at the Musikhochschule in Karlsruhe, one of the primary music schools in Germany, and has conducted numerous workshops in Germany, Austria, Finland, the United States and in her native Japan. Many of her students have gone on to become the bright lights of today’s concert stages.
Shirai will speak about her career as a performer and teacher from 4–6pm Thursday, Nov 15, in MacLaurin B037. Don’t miss this unparalleled opportunity to get to know one of the foremost performers of our time—one who has worked closely with other icons of song performance. And then from 3–5pm Saturday, Nov 17, in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, she will lead a masterclass on Lieder by Robert Schumann, working with graduate student vocalists Alana Hayes and Kyron Basu (with Music professor Harald Krebs on piano) on two Schumann song cycles (opp. 35 and 135). Both these events are free.
Victoria-based artist Colton Hash is the inaugural recipient of an Artist-in-Residence program announced today by the Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative. The new ONC residency will strengthen connections between art and science, and broaden perspectives on major issues ranging from technology and the environment to biodiversity and healthy communities.
Colton Hash with his full-size sculpture of an adolescent female orca (photo: Ashton Sciacallo)
“I see this as a great opportunity to collaborate with ocean scientists and experiment with digital media to communicate some of the dynamic processes that play a critical role in coastal waters,” says Hash.
“Whether it’s how a kelp forest responds to climate change or how the thawing of frozen methane affects sediment stability of submarine slopes, I hope I can use interactive art to inspire viewers to care more about what is happening beneath the ocean’s surface.”
Hash has built his artistic practice on the integration of environmental knowledge through visual art and computer programming in order to communicate concepts related to ecosystems and climate change. A short film of his interactive sculptural installation, “Resonant Disintegration” (with projected visualizations of climate data and underwater recordings of shipping traffic), won the two top awards at the Research Reels contest during UVic’s Ideafest in 2018, and was recently remounted at Victoria’s Flux Media Gallery in October during the Antimatter Media + Art Festival. His work was also featured in UVic’s KnowlEDGE news feature in March 2018.
Colton Hash with his “Resonant Disintegration” sculpture
“The ecological challenges we face are complex and hard to be understood through science alone,” he adds. “People are being flooded with scientific data and intellectual analysis of what is wrong with the world, without having time to process what it means to them on deeper, more personal levels. Art can create spaces for people to reflect emotionally, spiritually and intuitively on our relationships with nature.”
While in the position, Hash will interact with UVic fine arts faculty members and ONC scientists, as well as other individuals using ONC’s world-leading ocean facilities. He intends to develop an interactive digital media installation that allows the public to explore and emotionally connect with ocean systems.
“Ocean Networks Canada is looking forward to collaborating with Colton,” says ONC chief scientist Dr. Kim Juniper. “We’re excited to see what his use of ocean data will produce to convey marine conservation and global change in his art.”
Gaston (centre) with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Brian Butler (photo: Victoria Book Prize Society)
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and co-sponsor Brian Butler presented Gaston with his $5,000 prize at a gala October 17 event at downtown’s Union Club.
A set of 10 cautionary tales showcasing the author’s range and narrative versatility, The Mariner’s Guide to Self Sabotage effectively captures Gaston’s gift for making ordinary moments feel transcendent. Judges praised his ability to move “seamlessly from the funny to the poignant to the surprising and absurd.”
The author of seven novels, seven short-story collections, three plays, two nonfiction books and a poetry collection, Gaston also released the memoir Just Let Me Look At You: On Fatherhood (Penguin Random House) in 2018. He previously won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize in 2007 for the short-story collection Gargoyles (House of Anansi), which was also shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and won the ReLit Award. In 2002, Gaston was a finalist for the Giller Prize with Mount Appetite (Raincoast), as well as the inaugural recipient of the Timothy Findley Prize, awarded by the Writer’s Trust of Canada.
2018 was a strong year for the Writing department at the Victoria Book Prize, given that fellow nominees included professor emerita Lorna Crozier (What the Soul Doesn’t Want), longtime instructor Patrick Friesen (Songen) and longtime Faculty of Fine Arts colleague Maria Tippett (Sculpture in Canada: A History).
“This is our 15th year awarding the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize and we are still going strong,” says Victoria Book Prize President Alyssa Polinsky. “We couldn’t do this without the support of our generous sponsors, an engaged community of readers and all the talented writers and illustrators we celebrate each year.”
The awards gala was hosted by CBC Radio’s Gregor Craigie, with Victoria’s Poet Laureate Yvonne Blomer opening the evening with a reading from her recent works.
Established in 2004, the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize is a partnership between the City of Victoria and Brian Butler of Butler Brothers Supplies. The prize is named for UVic alumnus Brian H. Butler (BA, Philosophy), a generous and longtime contributor to the Greater Victoria arts community. Past president of the Victoria Symphony Society, he has served on numerous community boards and for United Way campaigns.
Prize-winning flutist Suzanne Snizek has a dedicated practice of bringing lesser-known and previously suppressed music to the concert stage. In a noon-hour Faculty Concert on Tuesday, October 9, Dr. Snizek will present a rare selection of music by Czech, Korean, Jewish and Soviet composers.
Dr Suzanne Snizek
The concert will be rich in quality, diverse in musical styles and includes challenging solo flute pieces by Korean composer Isang Yun and Soviet composer Edison Denisov. “Both works are highly expressive although the styles differ greatly,” says Snizek.
She compares Denisov’s writing to that of Shostakovich’s “angularity and melancholy, with hints of humour,” while Yun’s work is explosive and daring and challenges the flutist to play at the extreme ranges of dynamics and colour.
Guest pianist Yoomi Kim will join Snizek in works by Sylvie Bodorová and Gunter Raphael. A Jewish composer who survived the Holocaust, Raphael’s music suffered as a result of the political suppression he experienced during that time.
Kim is a pianist, conductor, composer and teacher at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.
The Faculty Concert Series featuring Suzanne Snizek (flute) and Yoomi Kim (piano) runs from 12:30–1:20 pm Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall in UVic’s MacLaurin Building B-wing. Admission is by donation.
While the Department of Theatre crossed the half-century mark with their 50th anniversary in 2016, they’ve already started planning for the future by welcoming a number of new professors to their teaching faculty. Due to a round of recent retirements that saw the likes of design professor Allan Stichbury, director Linda Hardy and theatre historian Jennifer Wise step down, they had the opportunity to bring in fresh talent in the guise of acclaimed designer Patrick DuWors, voice and speech expert Michael Elliott and theatre historian Sasha Kovacs.
New Theatre professor Sasha Kovacs
An arts researcher, creator, administrator and educator, Kovacs holds a PhD from the University of Toronto. As the new assistant professor in Theatre History, Kovacs specializes in Canadian theatre history and theatre historiography (“how we come to ‘know’ and tell the history of performance in the place we now call Canada,” she explains), as well as performance archives and theory, material theatre culture, devised theatre and experimental dramaturgy.
When asked what she’ll be bringing to UVic (beyond a husband, new daughter and extended family), she says, “A passion for thinking about research as a creative practice.”
“I’m thrilled to be joining the community at the Phoenix,” she says. “It’s hard to find a comparable department—one that really values a balanced focus on practice and research. This is a major priority for me—it matches my own commitment to ensuring that the critical academic research I do is creative, and that the creative expressions I generate as an artist are critically engaged. Being a good thinker and researcher makes a person a better performer/director/designer, just as much as honing creative instincts makes a person a better thinker. I’m happy to join a place that shares these values.”
Teaching and practicing
As a teacher, Kovacs is passionate about both connecting with students “who really believe that this discipline we work in and study can change the world” and building their confidence.
“I want students to feel as though the classes they take under my guidance expand their performance vocabularies and enrich their understanding of the traditions of our discipline.”
Born and raised in Toronto, where she developed both an academic and practicing theatre career, Kovacs has mounted a number of her own projects with the international and interdisciplinary performance collective Ars Mechanica, and has worked with a number of notable Canadian performance companies, including Nightwood Theatre, Tarragon Theatre, Buddies in Bad Times and Canadian Stage. She has also designed community-building arts programs for children, adults and seniors as the program director for Scarborough Arts, one of the City of Toronto’s six Local Arts Service Organizations (LASO).
With such an extensive background, does she have any concerns about swapping life in the theatrical centre of Canada for the western edge of the country?
“It has been wonderful to spend so much of my life in Toronto, where the theatre scene is always buzzing, but it’s also—and only—one scene,” says Kovacs. “It’s a good time for me to expand my horizons and learn about a new community that is making—and has always made—really rich contributions to Canada’s cultural and theatrical landscape. This move is welcome at a time when I’d like to cultivate focus in my life, commit to fostering connections with students through my teaching, and pursue more depth in my research.”
Kovacs (left) in 2013’s “Tomorrow we will run faster”
Given her work with Scarborough Arts, does she foresee any community outreach here in Victoria? “Of course, I want to continue working with different arts communities in Victoria, and I will keep seeking out these interdisciplinary and multi-generational artistic environments,” she says, “but I’ll do so knowing that it will take some time to make meaningful contributions.”
Ultimately, Kovacs is excited to be joining UVic’s Phoenix. “UVic’s theatre department has a rich history in leading exceptional research on theatre and performance history,” she concludes. “I am very honoured and humbled to be working in a place that has inspired so many other historians to make exciting and ground-breaking contributions to the field. I hope I can keep the legacy alive!”
Rapid fire Q&A:
What three words would you use to describe Victoria?
“Deep (I’m used to shallow lakes, not the ocean), sweet (are there a lot of pastry shops here, or is it just me?), blue (don’t know why, I just see the colour blue in my mind’s eye whenever I think of the city).”
If you could travel back in time and attend any theatrical performance in history, what/when would it be?
“Hmmm—that’s a hard one. You’d think I would have said something specific to Canadian theatre history but I think, in fact, I’d like to have been there for Molière’s last performance in his Le Malade Imaginaire—the biting comedy that marked the end of his life and career.”
What would you say to parents worried that their child wants to pursue an arts degree and live a creative life?
“They should be proud, because arts degrees cultivate creative thinkers and the creatives will save the world! ‘Please,’ I’d cry, ‘let your child save the world!’”
How do you define student success?
“I’m my happiest when students show me ways of living that even I didn’t think were possible. Then I know I’ve done my job. I’ve given them the tools and confidence to carve out their own path.”