ONC Artist in Residence debuts “Gossip with Whales”

The ocean has many songs to sing! Join us for this feast of music and celebration as we launch the world premiere performances of four new choral compositions created during Dennis Gupa‘s artistic residency with Ocean Networks Canada.   

Together with a panel of artists, performers and scientists, Gupa will present the unique collaboration “Gossip with Whales: Exploring Ocean Science through Applied Theatre” at 6:30pm PST Wednesday, September 22 via a free online webinar.

Exploring the tanaga and Mangyan poetic forms

Drawing on Tanaga—a Filipino traditional lyrical art form—the four pieces that make up “Gossip With Whales” will offer artistic insights into current challenges for our oceans. One of the poems was translated into an Alangan-Mangyan poetic form of the Mangayan of Mindoro Province, Philippines.

“By looking at the experience and knowledge of local people—who have been experiencing these climatic events for so many years, but are not really given a lot of opportunities to tell their stories—we can learn from their knowledge and wisdom,” says Gupa. “Our poetries and songs renew our kinship with the ocean.”

Find out more about Dennis Gupa’s work here.

Gupa, together with participating Filipino artists Karla Comanda, Roijin Suarez, Darren Vega, Thai Hoa Le and Jeremiah Carag, will discuss the creation and intention of these pieces with event moderators ONC scientific data specialist Megan Kot and School of Music composer Taylor Brook

Dennis Gupa

The arts & oceans together

A PhD in UVic’s Theatre department, Gupa is also the most recent artist-in-residence with Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative.

He sees the artistic residency—launched by the Faculty of Fine Arts and ONC two years ago—as a natural fit with his doctoral focus on Indigenous sea rituals, climate change and sustainable ecology.

“This residency program comes at a time of crisis in ocean sustainability,” ONC chief scientist Kim Juniper. “Science-art collaborations such as this one bring together the insight and power of two ways of looking at the world, and will hopefully lead to new understanding and greater benefits for our ocean and our future.”

This event is presented by UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts & Ocean Networks Canada in celebration of our shared ocean and the launch of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030. 

An example of Ambahan, a Hanuno’o poetic form.
Source: PINAGMULAN: Enumerations from the Philippine Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ed., Dr. Jesus T. Peralta, NCCA & I). ICHCAP, 2013 // Photo by Renato Restrollo, NCCA – ICH (2013) (courtesy of National Commission for Culture and the Arts)

Student jobs now open!

Looking for on-campus work that won’t conflict with your studies? Check out UVic’s workstudy program: with 58 student jobs now posted in Fine Arts alone, each of our departments (and some associated units) are offering paid positions that will benefit your academic experience.

We have all sorts of jobs now available in various areas, including—but not limited to:

  • props and costumes 
  • stage managers and ushers
  • visual resources
  • technical theatre
  • communications and social media
  • web design
  • sound recording
  • lab supervision
  • life drawing
  • photo lab

Most pay $16 to $19/hour and offer invaluable skills to boost your degree—and look great on a resume! While some departments prefer to hire students from their own areas, you can apply for any position across campus—some units even have multiple positions available.

Click here for full application details

Here’s the current list of Fine Arts-related jobs:

Fine Arts

  • SIM Lab supervisor (6)
  • Communications assistant
  • Web designer
  • Developer

Art History & Visual Studies

  • Visual resources assistant
  • Social media/communications coordinator

Music

  • Recital hall coordinator
  • Concert & event stage manager (4)
  • Recording technician (4)
  • Social media assistant
  • Concert & event usher (4)
  • Orchestra/Wind Symphony stage manager
  • Livestream technician

Theatre

  • Communications assistant (2)
  • Audience service assistant (5)
  • Theatre production assistant
  • Theatre properties assistant
  • Technical theatre assistant (4)
  • Scene shop assistant (4)
  • Senior costume assistant (3)

Visual Arts

  • Photo lab technician
  • Workshop assistant (2)
  • Life drawing coordinator
  • Visiting artist assistant

Writing

  • Digital storytelling online editor

Legacy Gallery

  • Visitor engagement assistant (3)

Malahat Review

  • Editorial assistant
  • Social media assistant

Student recording technician at work in the School of Music

Theatre alum Justin Lee explores cultural hybrids

If the COVID era has shown us anything, it’s that the future of theatre continues to be written. When the pandemic forced the shuttering of performance venues, stages around the world suddenly realized they would have to adapt to survive. Enter the age of mainstage livestreams, Zoom theatre and digital hybrids as fresh as the people thinking them up—people like Justin Frances Lee, who just graduated in spring 2021 with a BFA in Theatre and a concentration in directing.

A director, playwright and actor with a self-described mission is to “make theatre as accessible as film,” Lee sees a future for himself well beyond the footlights. By the time of his graduation, he had already appeared in a number of plays both on- and off-campus, had produced his own one-act show, and worked as the camera operator and second assistant director for a student film; and when COVID hit, he pivoted to working with established playwright and producer Janet Munsil (BFA ’89, MFA ’19) on her own pandemic project, The Canadian Play Thing—a virtual 100-seat live theatre launched in March 2020, where audiences gather to hear actors read new and under-produced Canadian plays online. 

Finding opportunities

“There are opportunities out there—you just need to find them,” says Lee, who also developed the Playwright2Playwright series, supported by the Playwrights Guild of Canada, where emerging and established playwrights have an opportunity to read from their work and interview each other. “You can’t have a romanticized, unrealistic approach: you have to be willing to collaborate with directors, with actors and really push yourself.”

As an actor, Lee had memorable roles in both Phoenix Theatre’s The Drowsy Chaperone and Langham Court Theatre’s I and You, and worked as crew on the Writing department’s short film, Dream Book.

When he heard that Munsil had launched The Canadian Play Thing, Lee jumped onboard first as a volunteer and then transformed his job into a paid position via UVic’s Fine Arts Co-op Program and Intrepid Theatre. “Justin has a very discerning, artistic and creative eye,” says Munsil. “He’s also developing a really strong producer toolkit—including promotion, production, artist relations, schedule management . . . all good skills to have.”

Entering the Apartment of Writing

Once everything was rolling smoothly, Lee took things a step further by establishing his own theatre company within the Play Thing: dubbed The Apartment of Writing, Lee brought together three other student playwrights—Megan Adachi, Brianna Bock and Megan Hands—to write and produce the spelunking drama A Way Out, a narrative audio podcast directed by recent Theatre grad Kirsten Sharun.

“We were working in a TV ‘writers room’ format—where a bunch of writers all pitch ideas and story leads—so the title became a bit of a joke, because we met in the Department of Writing, but we were all working from our own apartments because of COVID,” he explains. With a strong emphasis on solid storytelling and sound effects, A Way Out is part of the new wave of narrative podcasts gaining popularity during the pandemic.

“When it comes to working in film and theatre, it’s essential to pick the right medium for the story we’re trying to tell. A Way Out wouldn’t make sense as a stage play, but it worked perfectly as an audio drama,” says Lee.

Munsil says The Apartment of Writing was “a ton of work” and all a result of Lee’s own initiative. “He brought the project to me, and it became a major part of The Canadian Play Thing; it was a huge learning experience for him, but they turned out a really great artistic product. He can now take that company and go forward to try out new experiments in theatre media.”

Exploring cultural hybrids

But Lee’s interest in cultural hybrids extends beyond theatrical mediums. “One of the reasons I became a playwright is because I wanted to see more representation in theatre, as a lot of people of colour do right now,” he says. As a result, in 2019 he wrote and directed the one-act play Ngaii Duk for SATCo, Phoenix Theatre’s fabled Student Alternative Theatre Company. And his latest play, The Open Gate—a sequel of sorts to Ngaii Duk—is appearing at Theatre SKAM’s SKAMpede Festival July 16-18 in downtown Victoria.  

“In Cantonese, ngaii duk translates to ‘the ability to handle hardship’ and the play looked at hybrid cultural identity between Canadians and the Chinese diaspora,” he explains. “As a person of Chinese origin growing up in a very westernized school system and society, I am someone who has two different cultures mixed in and I’m interested in how those different cultural identities mesh together.”

As Lee will likely find out, ngaii duk may also be the ideal motto when it comes to carving out a place for himself in the Canadian theatre industry.

Congratulations to spring 2021 grads!

Congratulations, Class of 2021—you made it!

You are now one of over 9000 Fine Arts alumni worldwide who studied at UVic—and have the distinction of graduating during the most difficult year in our history.

“As part of an esteemed group of artists and creative thinkers, you are poised to embrace the adventures that lie ahead,” says Dr. Allana Lindgren, Acting Dean of Fine Arts in her message to new alumni. “Believe in yourself. You are ready.”

Virtual grad experience

While we are still unable to gather in person for convocation, UVic and Fine Arts remain proud of the resilience you have shown in these ever-changing times. To mark the occasion, UVic has created a virtual graduation experience, where the university community can join in the celebration of your great achievement.

This video includes messages from your fellow graduates, including Art History & Visual Studies student Saad Salman. “We have learned so much and really gone through so much upheaval and stress with the global pandemic,” he says, “but it means we’re really ready to take on the world and whatever it throws at us.”

And remember, even though you may be experiencing this virtual version of graduation now, you’re invited to return to any UVic convocation in the next three years so that you can cross the stage in style.

Fine Arts grad site

Fine Arts has also created our own convocation page, filled with video messages from the Acting Dean, faculty members from each department, the announcement of the annual Victoria Medal winner for the highest GPA in Fine Arts . . . and a few fun extras.

“As you pursue new opportunities, remember that you will always be a valued member of the Faculty of Fine Arts,” says Dr. Lindren. “Please know that we are all very proud to call you a UVic Fine Arts grad!”

Congratulations once again!

 

New $1000 student award launched

New community impact award

Are you a current or graduating UVic Fine Arts undergraduate who’s been involved with some community-engaged creative activity in Greater Victoria between Jan 1/20 & May 31/21? If so, you could qualify for $1,000 via our new Community Impact Award!

The first annual Fine Arts Student Community Impact Award will be awarded in Fall 2021 to undergraduate students who have demonstrated an outstanding effort in a community-engaged creative activity in Greater Victoria. Student recipients are eligible to receive funding of $1,000 or more.

“This award is particularly exciting because, for over 50 years, the Faculty of Fine Arts has been an incubator for young artists, arts administrators, volunteers and audience members,” says Acting Dean of Fine Arts, Dr. Allana Lindgren. “We felt it was time we recognize the work and contributions that our students make in the local community—and to thank the local arts community for helping to foster and mentor our students over the years.”

Eligibility criteria

Entering, graduating, transferring, or continuing undergraduate students of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts are eligible for the award at this time. Activity must have occurred between January 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021.

For the purpose of this award, “community-engaged creative activity” may include (but is not limited to) any exhibit, performance, workshop, literary, curatorial, educational, digital, production and/or administrative role within the regional boundaries of Greater Victoria (Sidney to Sooke).

Submission deadline

A completed submission package—including the submission form and all supporting materials—must be received by 5:00pm Monday, May 31, 2021. 

Submissions and relevant support material must be uploaded here.

Requirements

The following elements will be required in order to submit your award application.

  1. A description of the community-engaged creative activity (maximum 500 words), including a title page with applicants contact information.
  2. A letter from an individual or organization demonstrating how the student was involved in the community-engaged creative activity (maximum 300 words).
  3. Two letters of endorsement of the project (maximum two pages and from different people than #1. The letters must be written by people who are not related to the nominee).
  4. A resume, CV or portfolio encapsulating the student’s work.

Selection criteria

Nominations will be evaluated on the quality of experience, recognition and dedication to creative practice including contributions to, engagement with, and impact on the local arts community.

  • Nominations can be made by any individual or organization in Greater Victoria.
  • Students can nominate themselves for the award.
  • Neither the nominator nor the letters of endorsement can be from a relative of the nominee.
  • Students are only able to receive the award once, but can submit multiple nominations.
  • All nominations will be screened for basic eligibility. If a nomination is incomplete or deemed ineligible, it will not be advanced to the jury.

Selection process

The Fine Arts Student Community Impact Award recipients will be chosen by a jury representing the five disciplines of Fine Arts convened annually by the Dean of the UVic Faculty of Fine Arts, based on the criteria for the award.

The fine print

Approval of the recipient will be made by the Senate Committee on Awards upon the recommendation of the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. The Award will be presented annually as part of the annual Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards (or another suitable event) as determined by the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and the Dean’s External Advisory Committee.

Questions?

Contact us at fineartsawards@uvic.ca.

Dennis Gupa: from sea rituals to applied theatre and science

Dennis Gupa in February 2021. (Photo: John Threlfall)

The idea of artists working with scientists is nothing new to Dennis Gupa.

A PhD candidate in UVic’s theatre department, Gupa is also the current artist-in-residence with Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative. He sees the artistic residency, launched by the Faculty of Fine Arts and ONC two years ago, as a natural fit with his doctoral focus on Indigenous sea rituals, climate change and sustainable ecology.

While Gupa’s term at ONC will wrap up this spring, he’s also finishing his doctoral work in applied theatre under the supervision of theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yetka, whose experience in community-engaged research includes projects in Indigenous language revitalization through theatre with children in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, young people in Brazilian favelas, young women in rural areas of Cambodia and students with special needs in schools in The Netherlands.

As with any applied theatre practitioner, Gupa also wants to use the tools of theatre and drama to help bring about social change and build a sense of community—and, in his case, to attempt to grapple with the gravity of global warming especially in the island nations of the world.

Strengthening connections between art and science

Sharing stories is exactly what Gupa has in mind with the ONC initiative: recently repositioned as an opportunity for Fine Arts graduate students, the ONC artist-in-residence program exists to strengthen connections between art and science, and ignite cross-disciplinary exchanges around the major issues facing oceans today.

“This residency program comes at a time of crisis in ocean sustainability,” ONC chief scientist Kim Juniper. “Science-art collaborations such as this one bring together the insight and power of two ways of looking at the world, and will hopefully lead to new understanding and greater benefits for our ocean and our future.”

While the pandemic is complicating Gupa’s original idea to create an immersive, ONC data-fueled performance experience involving the Filipino diaspora community—including playwright Karla Comanda, classical singer Jeremiah Carag, Philippine-based composer Darren Vega and Vietnamese-Canadian actor Thai-Hoa Le—Gupa is still hopeful about uniting these two worlds during his spring 2021 residency.

“How can we share our stories with the scientists, and what does that mean to them to listen to immigrants?” Gupa ponders. “How does our history of exile connect with the history of climate disaster? We’ve never really tapped into that or discussed it in a scientific space.”

For Gupa, the ONC residency is less a challenge and more a cumulative opportunity between his artistic and academic pursuits.

“There’s a lesson in fluidity that this water is teaching me and I’d like to bring that to the fore in my work … it’s not just a fascination, but water is so embodied in my work as an artist. It’s beautiful but it’s also dangerous. We cannot wait any longer for inclusive and deeper collaborations to make things better for all living things in this earth—both seen and unseen.”

Ces Bersez, Dennis Gupa, & Francis Matheu in “Murupuro/Island of Constellations” at Prairie Theatre Exchange in 2018. (Photo: Migrante Manitoba FB web page)

Social justice for the seas

“When we think of the water, I think of social justice,” Gupa adds. “As an archipelagic country surrounded by water, the Philippines have been suffering from ocean disasters due to climate change: resources are depleting, coral are bleaching, fish are dying and the waters are warming so the fish don’t have food. So what do they do? They migrate, just like Filipinos—fish are the first climate refugees.”

Gupa has also been looking at how climate change has impacted Canadian Filipino diaspora communities, with whom he created and then toured a highly collaborative theatrical production in 2018 (Victoria, Vancouver, Winnipeg).

Gupa performing the mask of Imelda Marcos during his production of “Murupuro”. (Photo: Fiona Ngai)

Applied theatre, traditional knowledge and climate crisis

Having grown up in the Philippines, Gupa has witnessed firsthand the threat of extreme weather events. With his country being a former colony—extending across 7,600 islands and known for its maritime history, marine diversity and Indigenous population—the parallels between the Philippines and Vancouver Island are clear to Gupa. He says this is probably the reason he decided to do his grad studies at UVic.

“By looking at the experience and knowledge of local people—who have been experiencing these climatic events for so many years, but are not really given a lot of opportunities to tell their stories—we can learn from their knowledge and wisdom,” he says. “Our poetries and songs renew our kinship with the ocean.”

Gupa’s research focuses on traditional ways of knowing, as well as storytelling and applied theatre, and how these elements can be drawn into important discussions and dialogue in support of social justice, community participation and climate action.

A youth theatre project in 2015 co-directed by Gupa for a rural high school “glee club” in the Philippines. (Photo: The Perfect Grey | ASEAN Center for Biodiversity)

And he very much believes in bringing people together to share stories. Gupa says, “I create interdisciplinary work with a kinship among knowledge disciplines. One of the fascinating functions of an artist is being an interlocutor, bringing people together to share our stories.”

He conducted field work in the Samar-Leyte region of the Philippines, working closely with local elders on the island community of Guiuan, where the super typhoon Yolanda in 2013—one of the deadliest on record—first made landfall.

Interdisciplinary conversations on global issues

In addition to collaborating with ONC at UVic, Gupa was a visiting graduate research fellow at UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society in 2019/20 and a recipient of a 2017 student research fellowship from the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives at UVic. He is also a Vanier Scholar.

“Scientists spend hours in their labs thinking about their work, similar to what theatre and performance artists do in their rehearsal spaces,” he says. “We’re all exploring and searching for meaning; this kind of interdisciplinary conversation simply lets us be better adjusted to global issues.”

Gupa also spent a decade at the University of the Philippines Los Baños where, in addition to teaching theatre, he was named the first head of the Office of Arts and Science Fusion Program.

In 2011, Gupa received a grant from the Asian Cultural Council (established by John D. Rockefeller III) for six months in as the director-in-residence with Ma-Yi Theatre Company in New York City.

His collaborative work has also won support from the British Columbia Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, World Bank Manila Office/Australian Agency for International Development, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity and the Dharmasiswa Scholarship through the Indonesian government’s Ministry of Education, among many others.

Gupa has an MFA Directing (Theatre) degree from UBC and an MA (Theatre) from University of the Philippines.

Gupa wearing a traditional Filipino malong at a local beach in Victoria. (Photo: John Threlfall)

Follow the social media feeds of both Fine Arts and ONC for developments on the artistic residency this spring.