Congratulations, Class of 2019!

June 14 is convocation day and the Faculty of Fine Arts is very excited to welcome 224 new graduates to our alumni family! Here is a quick glimpse into our diverse group of graduates:

Together with the new class of grads, you are part of an expansive network of over 8250 alumni. Given that you’re graduating on the cusp of Fine Arts celebrating our 50th anniversary as a faculty, there are many reasons to stay connected.
We are always interested in hearing about alumni accomplishments—please do keep in touch as your career develops, and let us know if you have any events or honours to celebrate.

We had another creatively inspiring year in Fine Arts. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Alumni success

Nathan Medd (photo: Andrew Alexander)

A cultural non-profit leader whose work is devoted to developing the performing arts in Canada, Nathan Medd (BFA ’01) is currently Managing Director of Performing Arts for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, the nation’s largest arts training institution and incubator of new works. This year, he was honoured with the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award. Read more

Celebrated novelist and Writing grad Esi Edugyan (BFA ’99) soared to new literary heights this year by becoming only the second author in Canadian history to win two Giller Prizes — first for 2011’s Half Blood Blues and now for 2018’s Washington Black, which is also currently in development as a limited run TV series. Read more

Student success

Laura Gildner in her studio

Graduating Visual Arts student Laura Gildner was shortlisted for the Lind Photography Prize, mounted a solo photography exhibit at Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery and staged work at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. She also won the Victoria Medal for the highest undergraduate GPA in the faculty. Read more

Members of the School of Music’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble were thrilled to have the opportunity to sing the music of iconic rock band Queen when the Victoria Symphony presented their Best of Queen concert this spring. Read more

Faculty success

Kirk McNally (School of Music) oversaw the installation of the new CREATE Lab and recording studio for music technology students, dedicated to the art and science of listening. Read more

Carey Newman (Visual Arts) made history twice this year by seeing his Residential School memorial sculpture The Witness Blanket entered into the permanent collection of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and in seeing the piece designated as a living entity that honours the stories of the survivors. Read more

Bill Gaston (Writing) won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for his story collection, A Mariner’s Guide to Self-Sabotage — one final honour before he retires at the end of this academic year. Read more

Cast of The Drowsy Chaperone

Jacques Lemay (Theatre) led the student team behind The Drowsy Chaperone to create a smash hit show that resulted in a sold-out, held-over run — and one of the most popular Phoenix shows in recent memory! Read more

Carolyn Butler-Palmer (Art History & Visual Studies) consulted on the new $10 bill featuring Canadian civil rights leader Viola Davis, which means you can see the influence of our faculty whenever you get one of the new bills. Read more

Donor impact

Our generous donors gave over $1.8 million in 2018/19, with 45% of that coming from Fine Arts alumni. Overall, we distributed $709,621 to students last year via donor-funded scholarships and bursaries.

Theatre student Emma Leck became the inaugural recipient of the Spirit of the Phoenix Award, named for the late Phoenix student Frances Theron.

With the 50th anniversary of the Faculty of Fine Arts coming up in 2019/20, we would love to hear your thoughts on how we can continue to engage with our alumni in significant ways. Convocation is a day for making meaningful memories—we hope that the culmination of your student years marks the start of our new relationship as alumni and colleagues.

Three Fine Arts alumni receive Pro Art awards

Anyone looking for the continued impact of Fine Arts alumni on Victoria’s vibrant arts scene needs look no further than the winners of the 2019 ProArt Regional Arts Awards—all three of whom are Fine Arts alumni.

Matthew Payne (left) with Colton Hash

On May 9, members of the Greater Victoria arts community and the Professional Arts Alliance of Greater Victoria (ProArt) gathered at Pacific Opera Victoria’s Baumann Centre to acknowledge and honour three artists working in the region.

Department of Theatre alum Matthew Payne recieved the PARC Retirement Living Mid-Career Artist Award, while Visual Arts MFA alum Lindsay Delaronde received the inaugural ProArt Early-Career Artist Award, and recent Visual Arts alum Colton Hash was honoured with the new Witness Legacy Award for Social Purpose and Responsibility Through Art, presented by Audain Professor Carey Newman.

Matthew Payne is the Artistic and Managing Producer at Theatre SKAM, possibly the most successful alumni company to ever emerge from the Theatre department. Since graduating in 1993, Payne has regularly worked professionally in Canadian theatre, taking on a variety of roles and spending time in Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto as a writer, performer, carpenter, director, production manager, stage manager and administrator. Locally he has worked with a myriad of companies, including the Belfry Theatre, Pacific Opera Victoria, The Other Guys, Theatre Inconnu, Story Theatre, Kaleidoscope Theatre, Giggling Iguana Productions and, of course,  Theatre SKAM (for whom he is the “M”); nationally, he has worked with Nightswimming, Crow’s Theatre, and Production Canada in Toronto, and a dozen peer companies based in Vancouver. He has also served on the executive of IATSE Local 168.

Carey Newman (left) with Colton Hash

Nominated by the Theatre SKAM Board of Directors for the ProArt Award, Payne was the jury’s strong choice demonstrating a comprehensive practice that represents excellence in the Mid-Career category. The jury was unanimous in its support of Payne’s commitment to his performing arts practice and the significant contribution that he makes to local theatre and the regional arts community.

“Matthew dedicates his professional career to dreaming up inspirational and innovative projects that tour the world, to the development of new work—primarily by Victoria writers—and to building community,” noted his nomination letter.

Audain Professor in the Visual Arts department Carey Newman initiated a new award this year: the Witness Legacy Award for Social Purpose and Responsibility, which he presented to artist Colton Hash. Hash, the inaugural artist-in-residence with Ocean Networks Canada for 2018/19, was presented with this award to recognize the significant impact that artists can have on issues relevant to the Capital Region.

“Colton Hash is doing ground-breaking work combining digital and physical artforms to create installations that bring the forward the reality of data in a visceral manner,” said Newman. “His efforts to draw focus to environmental and climate issues through his practice are not only worthy of recognition, they are an excellent example of what it means to use art for social purpose and responsibility.”

And while she was unavailable to attend the awards ceremony, Lindsay Delaronde was announced as the winner of the ProArt Early-Career Artist Award. Created to recognize an artist who is showing dedication and promise in the early stages of their career, Delaronde’s recent role as the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist-in-Residence was highlighted by Newman in his remarks.

Lindsay Delaronde supported by dancers during the ACHoRd performance during her time as Indigenous Artist in Residence (Photo: Peruzzo)

“I selected Lindsay for this award to recognise the incredible work she has done as Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence,” he said. “Her way of raising awareness around critical social issues and engaging community through her art and curation is something to celebrate. The power of her performances and work are a reflection of her strength and resilience and a testament to her potential.”

Each of these recipients does contributes excellent creative work to the regional arts community, and all are representative of the dynamic arts and cultural community Fine Arts has long supported and encouraged in Victoria.

The Professional Arts Alliance of Greater Victoria was formed to advance the important role the arts play in the life of our community, and to advocate for public sector support. ProArt believes that, by working in partnership with our legislators and government agencies, we can sustain and build our region’s vibrant cultural sector for the benefit of all of our residents and visitors.

Celebrate Star Wars Day with Charles Ross

When Theatre alum Charles Ross (BFA ’98) debuted his One-Man Star Wars Trilogy back in 2002, the cultural landscape was quite different: audiences were already becoming jaded by the new prequels, spin-offs like Rogue One, The Clone Wars and Solo were as yet unimaginable, and Disney ownership of the series seemed an Imperial ploy at best.

Charles Ross

But where Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones fell flat with most viewers, Ross’s high-speed paean to the original trilogy found a ready audience, thanks to his remarkable mimicry, boundless on-stage enthusiasm and sincere love for the series. Now, 17 years and literally thousands of performances later, the 44-year-old Ross is still up to his Jedi mind tricks and happily reports that none of it feels forced.

“I’m certainly not sick of it,” he admits. “I still love it as much as I did when I was a kid, because love doesn’t diminish. Every time I do the show, there’s something about that feeling I’m trying to share — a simple early love for the story — and that’s what people recognize in themselves.“

Star Wars Day event

Ross will be back at UVic with a special presentation of his One-Man Star Wars Trilogy on May 4—that’s Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you”)—at The Farquhar in UVic’s University Centre. Tickets range from $15.75 to $32.75 at the UVic Box Office.

Christopher (left) & Hodge (right)

Starting at 7:30pm, the evening will open with a short discussion panel featuring Writing professor and filmmaker Maureen Bradley, Art History & Visual Studies PhD candidate and recent Star Wars elective instructor David Christopher, Sociology instructor Edwin Hodge (who recently taught a Star Trek elective at UVic) and current UVic student Monica Ogden, hosted by Fine Arts communications jedi John Threlfall.

Read more about the courses offered by Christopher and Hodge in this 2018 article in UVic’s Ring newspaper.

The force is strong with this one . . .

What started out as a niche play for sci-fi nerds has since grown alongside the franchise itself: now 10 films in and, with the “Skywalker Saga” coming to a finale in 2019’s Episode IX, Ross has seen his own solo show go global as well. “There isn’t a part of the planet Star Wars hasn’t touched,” he says. “It’s become much more homogenous, more a part of popular culture: you can just be a normal person and get the references—it doesn’t qualify you as a nerd anymore, just as a human being who’s seen the movies.” (Indeed, UVic even offers a Star Wars elective now.)

Officially endorsed by Lucasfilm, Ross’s 75-minute show has been performed for over a million people worldwide, including extended runs off-Broadway, in London’s West End and at the Sydney Opera House, as well as appearances on the likes of Late Night with Conan O’Brien and the popular How Stuff Works podcast.

The latest parody by Ross

And it shows no sign of slowing down: regular North American dates aside, since 2006 Ross has toured to Australia eight times, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival nine times, the UK 12 times, and has performed to audiences in Malaysia, Singapore and China. In 2017 alone, he spent 175 days on the road with it.

Star Wars has a huge reach,” he says. “My name doesn’t mean much to many people, but the concept certainly does. There are housewives in the American Midwest who still know my work from seeing me on The Today Show a decade ago.”

The once and future one-man

And while Ross has developed a series of other solo shows over the years — including the One-Man Lord of the Rings Trilogy, One-Man Dark Knight Trilogy, One-Man Pride & Prejudice and, most recently, One-Man Stranger Things (many of which were directed by and co-created with fellow Theatre grad TJ Dawe) — time has proven that love for the original Star Wars trilogy endures.

“You never know where things are going to go, but it exciting to imagine where things could go,” he says. “If you can look back and say you made one little bit of difference — a blip in the history of Star Wars, or a footnote in the history of solo shows — that would be the most amazing thing in the world.”

Student designer reconstructs a storied legacy for latest Phoenix production

Every play needs a set, whether the audience realizes it or not. From a bare wood floor to a drab apartment that slides open to reveal a musical fantasy land, the set is the canvas upon which the actors come to life. But, rather than creating a set from scratch, what happens when a director asks you to simply adapt a design that’s 30 years old? The short answer, as student designer Conor Farrell discovered, is that there’s nothing simple about it.

Conor Farrell in front of his set for 7 Stories, running March 14-23 at the Phoenix

Running March 14-23, Phoenix Theatre is presenting 7 Stories by Canadian playwright Morris Panych as the final production of their mainstage season. Given that the play is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, director and theatre professor Fran Gebhard wanted to see the original set design brought back to life for her production in Phoenix’s Bishop Theatre.

7 Stories takes place entirely on a seventh-storey window ledge, where a man is in the midst of a life crisis. While reflecting on his life, he is interrupted by the quirky residents and their self-absorbed problems; through their interactions, however, the man finds the courage to take the next step. Panych’s quick-witted, fast-paced comedy philosophizes about life and death, right up to its existential conclusion.

You can read more about the Phoenix production of 7 Stories in some of the advance media coverage it received, including this Times Colonist story, this CTV Vancouver Island segment and this piece from Monday Magazine.

“Ken MacDonald’s original set—inspired by the fabulous art of René Magritte—is iconic and adds an important layer to the meaning of the play, with the surreal elements of Magritte’s work perfectly underscoring Panych’s existential themes,” says Gebhard. “I really couldn’t see the play with any other design.”

For Farrell, that meant adapting the 2009 version of MacDonald’s set—which was originally designed for the 1989 production at Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre, before needing a few modifications for a 20th anniversary mounting at Theatre Calgary—into one cohesive construction that works with the Bishop’s entirely different stage shape.

Rene Magritte’s “La Condition Humaine” (1933)

“Ken’s original design was built for a very different space, so we’re changing it slightly,” explains fourth-year design student Conor Farrell, who is credited with “design adaptation” for this challenging production. “We’re taking the base design and trying to keep all the integral parts. We’ve spoken with him about how we need to change it and gotten his okay for that.”

Given that 7 Stories happens entirely on the ledge of an apartment building, Farrell’s set is a massive 23-foot-tall facade, shooting up from below the stage’s edge and melding into a sky of clouds. As we talk in the audience of the 208-seat Bishop Theatre, we get quick glimpses of the set crew through the faux-windows; swinging hammers and laughing as they work, the students create mini-stories of their own as they assemble the massive design.

“It’s a new kind of challenge,” says Farrell. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I would do something differently, because it needs to keep the spirit of the original design alive.”

In addition to his actual design work—using Vectorworks, a drafting program, and building a traditional maquette or set model (“the maquette helps people visualize how big the set is, whereas Vectorworks is about sizes and sightlines”)—Farrell also did a fair bit of research into 7 Stories itself: writing a research paper about three-decade’s worth of productions of this now Canadian classic, meeting with director Gebhard and design professor Patrick Du Wors, working with the all-student creative team, overseeing the actual set construction, and having a Skype call with MacDonald himself. “He wasn’t 100 percent sold on it at first, so we had a small back-and-forth and adapted our design,” he chuckles.

With no real theatrical background before moving from Saskatoon to attend UVic, Farrell seems incredibly confidant about undertaking this project, thanks to the skills he’s developed while at the Phoenix. “The best thing about the Theatre department is all the practical experience on offer,” he says. “You can go have a conversation with any professor or talk to the production staff about a problem and figure out how to solve it together.“

As for 7 Stories, Farrell is looking forward to seeing it come to life on opening night. “That’s the fun of the show: how to act with very limited space,” he says. “This set is a challenge that the actors have to solve.”

The public is also invited to a free preshow lecture with award-winning playwright and Fine Arts alumnus Mark Leiren-Young at 7 p.m. Friday, March 15. Currently an instructor with the Writing department, Leiren-Young will discuss the significance, history and secret origins of Morris Panych’s modern masterpiece.

7 Stories previews at 8pm Tuesday and Wednesday, March 12-13 (just $8). It opens at 8pm Thursday, March 14, and runs to March 23, with 2pm matinees on March 16 (with sign language interpretation) and March 23. Tickets range from $16-$26 at the Phoenix Box Office, which is open noon to 8:30pm, Monday to Saturday and at (250) 721-8000.  

Phoenix Theatre’s “Trojan Women” takes us back to the war that begat all wars

Theatre professor and Trojan Women director Jan Wood

It’s an ironic contradiction of the human condition that the only thing as timeless as war is our simultaneous desire for peace. Sadly, this makes Phoenix Theatre’s mainstage production of Trojan Women as current as when it was first performed in 415 BCE.

“The play is as relevant as this morning’s Twitter feed,” says director and Department of Theatre professor Jan Wood. “Turn on the news and you’ll find another instance of Trojan Women being played out in the world.”

Running from February 14 to 23 (with previews Feb 12 & 13), Euripides’ tragedy follows the perspective of the wives, mothers and daughters of the defeated Trojan warriors as they struggle with grief, uncertainty and, ultimately, courage while their fates are decided by the conquering Greeks.

Theatre student Una Rekic as Athena in Trojan Women (Photo: Dean Kalyan)

“I like to think art has the power to change things, but this play proves that it hasn’t,” admits Wood. “If we’re not learning the lesson that war is bad, then it must be teaching us how remarkable our ability to survive is.”

Apart from Wood and movement director Treena Stubel, who is both a Phoenix alumna and current instructor with Theatre, this production of Trojan Women is firmly in the hands of the next generation of theatre artists, thanks to the 27-person all-student team of cast, crew and designers. “They know what’s happening in the world. They’ve seen the images and they’ve incorporated the power of that loss into the piece,” says the director. “Young people today are at the forefront of enacting real change in the world. Our survival depends upon it.”

Wood feels the intentionally timeless war-torn set and costume design helps the nearly 2,500-year-old play feel current for today’s audiences. “When I see those boatloads of Syrians coming onto the shore, I think about refugees wandering with no destination, being forced out by war,” she says. “One of the things I’ve tried to do with this production is talk about the resilience of the human spirit, and its ability to move forward: how do we go on when our families have been devastated? How do we walk forward into the future? How do we survive?”

The women of Troy lament their fate (photo: Dean Kalyan)

A performance professor with Theatre since 1996, and an accomplished actor and director in her own right — many will recognize Wood from her on-stage work at the Belfry, Blue Bridge Theatre, Bard on the Beach or the Stratford Festival — this show actually marks Wood’s directorial debut at the Phoenix.

“I am definitely an actor’s director,” she says. “I try to create an atmosphere where people have the freedom to create and follow their instincts. Theatre is a collaborative art form: during rehearsals, the more my actors feel comfortable giving, the more I have to work with, and the easier my job becomes. After all, that’s why we got into this business—because we have instincts, a creative desire and a passion, and we need to trust that.”

Ultimately, however, Wood feels the real impact of Trojan Women shouldn’t be felt on the stage. “As the audience, we bear witness, not only to lives lost but to the capacity of humanity to move forward in times of great darkness.” 

The public is also invited to a free pre-show lecture by Dr. Laurel Bowman of UVic’s Greek & Roman Studies department at 7pm Friday, February 15, where she will discuss how the play would have been originally received by an Athenian audience of largely military personnel who were in the middle of a 30-year war between Athens and Sparta.

Distinguished Alumnus Nathan Medd reflects on the state of the arts

From the nation’s capital to one of the world’s leading creative spaces, the career of Department of Theatre alumnus Nathan Medd has gone far and fast since his graduation with a BFA in 2001. Now named the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient for the Faculty of Fine Arts, Medd has made a name for himself as one of Canada’s brightest young arts leaders.

Back on campus during Alumni Week to attend the Distinguished Alumni Awards night, visit Theatre classes to speak with current students and to hold a public talk about the importance of creative placemaking, Medd took time out of his busy schedule to reflect on his career to date and the state of the arts in Canada today.

Living his dream

A cultural non-profit leader whose work is devoted to developing the performing arts in Canada, Medd is currently Managing Director of Performing Arts for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, the nation’s largest arts training institution and incubator of new works, a position he took up in August 2018. Prior to that, he was the Managing Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre, where his team successfully championed Canadian creators and initiated a new national stage for Indigenous performance (launching September 2019).

Nathan Medd (photo: Andrew Alexander)

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

“When I left the Phoenix I had an usually clear sense of direction,” says Medd. “Before I turned 30, I knew I wanted to be leading a mid-sized theatre organization, and before I was 35 I wanted to be leading an A-category theatre organization.”

Any way you look at it, moving from graduation to managing the nation’s leading arts centre in just 18 years is quite the career arc. And that doesn’t even mention the Master’s degree in management from Harvard University he recently completed, or the global pilot run of Harvard Business School’s first digital learning program in which he was invited to participate.

“[Theatre alumnus] Ian Case once told me he felt called to the theatre, the way a priest might say they were called to the church, and I’ve caught myself saying that now too,” he says. “Performing arts is definitely a calling. By the time I was about 13, I knew I only wanted to be in a theatre — it didn’t matter if I was in the booth, behind the curtain or centre-stage. It was quite a surprise to my parents.”

It was no surprise to the Qualicum Beach-raised Medd, however, at least once he got involved with the ECHO Players at the local Village Theatre as a young teen. “It was a place where adults treated children like adults and children treated adults like children — everyone was equal, everyone respected each other,” he recalls. “It was a bit bohemian and I’d never been in a club like that before. It didn’t matter how old you were, we were all just grooving on the idea of making a performance.”

Rising to the Phoenix

Medd (centre) returns for the Phoenix 50th anniversary in 2016 with classmates Jeff Glenn (left) & David Schumann

Given his up-island upbringing, and perhaps the fact that he was his high school valedictorian, applying to UVic’s Theatre program was a no-brainer for Medd; what was surprising, however, was his realization that, after four years in the acting program, acting wasn’t really what he wanted to be doing.

“I had a moment in my fourth year where I started to recognize that acting wasn’t my highest and best use in the theatre,” he says with a chuckle. “I was looking forward to a steady paycheque, making the rules and being in a position to work with and hire my friends — to say nothing of the talent I didn’t have to be acting. But I did have a love for organizing other people and produce work.”

For that, he credits the long-running Student Alternative Theatre Company, or SATCo, which was started by the afore-mentioned Ian Case and the late Tim Sutherland and continues to this day. “[SATCo] gave us a lot of space to try out theories and concepts from class with no one supervising us . . . we learned so much through that, and I learned so much about managing theatre through trial and error.”

While Medd may be well known behind the scenes, his Phoenix classmates included a number of people better known for their roles in the spotlight — including Erin Karpluk of CBC TV’s Being Erica fame, Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley, The Office), Meg Roe (Onegin, and a frequent face on stage and directing with Bard on the Beach), Annette Reilly (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), plus the likes of David Schumann, who is now one of the top trailer editors in Hollywood — many of whom he still sees, whether in person or on screen.

He also points out the value of having a purpose-built facility like the Phoenix building itself. “As I visit more and more schools now, I realize just what a dream the facility is — the three stages are the real asset of the program. A lot of theatre schools across North America have the opposite infrastructure: well-equipped studios but, if they have any performance venue at all, it’s just a ramshackle stage. There’s no facility quite like UVic.”

Creative placemaking

Medd is a familiar face at conferences and arts gatherings across Canada

As part of the overall Alumni Week activities, Medd will be participating in a free public talk about creative placemaking from 12:45-1:45pm Wednesday, Feb 6, in the Phoenix’s Bishop Theatre. Joining him will be fellow Phoenix alumni and Metro Studio co-founders Ian Case (former Intrepid Theatre general manager, now Director of UVic’s Ceremonies & Events) and Janet Munsil (former Intrepid Theatre artistic director, current MFA candidate in Writing), plus Kevin Kerr, co-founder of Vancouver’s Electric Company and a professor in the Department of Writing.

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

He points to next-generational shifts that reflect a new state of mind, as much a sense of place. “Young people get the idea that colonial institutions like the NAC or Banff need to be reversed engineered or disrupted to be relevant and inviting to a wider range of communities than they were originally set up for,” he continues. “And it’s the people who are coming out of school now who’ve never had any other sensibility who will make that change. We’re in a moment where we’re correcting for history — at times, that correction may exclude people who have been in the spotlight for a long time, so maybe someone like Shakespeare needs to be set aside for a generation.”

To best understand the idea of creative placemaking — and the changes in the Canadian arts scene in general — Medd thinks of gardening. “I had a lot of time at NAC to till the soil, and that’s the best analogy for arts management: you spend your days quietly working the soil, then once a year something blooms and it’s glorious.”

The power of place

His new role as Managing Director of Performing Arts at the Banff Centre finds Medd overseeing a wide range of educational programs and residencies, ranging from theatre, dance and opera to classical music, jazz and contemporary music.

The Banff Centre’s iconic location

“It’s really the perfect job for me,” he says. “I’m having a wonderful time learning the ins and outs of other performing arts disciplines and industries and trends. The world of dance is very different from the world of theatre or classical music or jazz — and how they’re different is how they’re each responding to the great questions of our time: intersectionality, climate change, cultural appropriation and sexism.”

Known and recognized worldwide as a leader in creative development, the Banff Centre is an ideal place to have those conversations, says Medd. “Because we care so much about the artistic health of these industries, these are some of the most urgent and compelling work that’s being done today. It’s a great privilege to represent 85 years of tradition in the fine arts, and to represent Canadian culture at events around the world. The big mantra of the Banff Centre is ‘the power of place’—the value of Banff Centre is being here, feeling the power of the territory.”

Howard Jang, the Banff Centre’s vice president of arts and leadership, says he’s “thrilled” by their latest hire. “Nathan is one of the country’s brightest stars in cultural management and his leadership in working with our Performing Arts directors and Arts programs will strengthen Banff Centre’s place as Canada’s leading resource for the advancement of arts and culture.”

Between Banff and his time at the NAC, Medd is intimately aware of the emerging — and authentic — Canadian theatre aesthetics: multicultural, Indigenous, interdisciplinary and site-specific. “We’ve got great spaces all across Canada, but they don’t work for everyone I work with or want to work with. A lot of the work to come is about the underlying assumptions and structures that manage those spaces.”

Advice for the next generation

Medd on the cover of Arts Manager magazine

As the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Nathan Medd now joins the ranks of previous Fine Arts DAA winners, including country music stars Twin Kennedy (BMus ’08), visual artist Althea Thauberger (MFA ’02) director Glynis Leyshon (BFA ’73), author Esi Edugyan (BA ’99), lighting designer Michael J. Whitfield (BA ’67), filmmaker Mercedes Bátiz-Benét (BFA ’02), poet Carla Funk (BFA ’97), musician Paul Beauchesne (BMus ’88), author Deborah Willis (BA ’06), environmental designer Valerie Murray (BA ’78), author Eden Robinson (BFA ’92) and visual anthropologist Andrea Walsh (BA ’91).

As such, does he have any advice for either recent alumni or soon-to-be graduates?

“I’m in no position to give anyone advice, but one thing that worked for me was reckoning with the need to prioritize my career, and the work within, above everything: romance, nutrition . . . everything,” he admits. “I did that out of a fear of not getting a foothold in my chosen industry if I didn’t give it everything I had. But I think if we’re going to spend four years doing something, we owe it to ourselves to give it everything you have. Nothing’s guaranteed.”

That said, he does credit his UVic education with giving him the skills to achieve his chosen goals. “The great value of a fine arts education is gaining the tools of self-expression, self-examination and group process,” he says. “Those skills serve every possible direction you could take in your career, whether you end up in the performing arts or not.”

Looking ahead, Medd accepts that there be more change to come in his life, but feels ready to accomplish whatever task he sets his mind to.

“I’ve been forced way out of my comfort zone every time I’ve made a change, but it’s driven by a conviction that our important artistic institutions need custodians from my generation,” he concludes. “I want to help these institutions work in an evolving, contemporary world.”