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.

Visual Arts student Laura Gildner wins Victoria Medal

No question, Department of Visual Arts undergraduate student Laura Gildner has been having a great year: not only was she shortlisted for the 2018 Lind Photography Prize—for the second year in a row—but she also had a solo exhibit of recent work at Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery, participated in artistic residencies in both Italy and Ontario, and had a solo exhibit locally at the fifty-fifty arts collective. Better still, she was just announced as the recipient of the Victoria Medal in Fine Arts, which is awarded annually to the Fine Arts undergraduate student with the highest GPA during their period of study, and presented during the Fine Arts Convocation ceremony on June 14.

Gildner’s “Tell Me What You Know I Want To Hear” at Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery

An intermedia artist from Ottawa, Laura Gildner creates works that exist primarily as performative events and are later translated into video installations, photographic documents, and archives of the makeshift communities that develop as a result of their creation.

In the four years she has been in the Visual Arts program, Gildner has participated in over 30 exhibitions—including three solo exhibitions outside of UVic—as well as produced several live art events and public performances. Throughout this time, she has shown in Canada, the US, the UK and Italy, including recent exhibitions and performances at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Open Space, the fifty-fifty arts collective and Xchanges Gallery. She has also taken part in residencies and projects in the US and Venice, Italy, and regularly curates and organizes community-based art events in and around Victoria.

Laura Gildner in her studio

“Within my artistic practice I have increasingly become fascinated by the idea of social choreography,” says Gildner. “I’m drawn to bringing unexpected groupings of people together to collaborate on works that reveal themselves as relationships between otherwise strangers are formed. I’m fueled by the exchange of trust and power that can develop from these interactions, while constantly negotiating how ethical lines inherent to lens-based media inform both my relationship with the subjects of my work as well as the works themselves.”

Her fascination with social choreography has been highlighted during her performance at the AGGV exhibit The Changing Landscapes of Emily Carr, and at her “Public Displays of Affection” piece during the 2017 Integrate Arts Festival. “Public Displays of Affection” was a participant-driven performative walking tour between selected Integrate exhibitions in Victoria’s downtown core; fueled entirely through anecdotal recollections sourced by interviewing strangers throughout Victoria, the piece examined layered intersections between the body, identity and art as they relate to urban geography.

Gildner’s performance during the AGGV’s Emily Carr exhibit

In addition to her studies, Gildner presented her work as part of UVic’s competitive Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards fair in February 2018, and assisted Visual Arts chair Paul Walde on his recent Ontario-based intermedia projects, The Tom Thomson Centennial Swim and “Of Weather”. Her two-week residency at Ontario’s Luminous Bodies in June 2018 saw her working on a project that would stage a participatory event resulting in a photo/video installation focused on a piece of investigative social choreography specific to Toronto Island, the site of the residency. She also staged a living installation at Victoria’s Pretty Good Not Bad Festival in May 2018 and presented video work as part of a group exhibit at the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in Scotland in spring 2019. And she was recently announced as the recipient of the Karl Spreitz Legacy Award at the annual Victoria Visual Arts Legacy Society Awards.

“What intrigues me perhaps the most about social choreography is its ability to directly confront our languages and patterns of viewing in relation to the human form,” she says. “Can understandings of aesthetic value become challenged through interactions between multiple bodies? Is judgement cooperatively rehearsed just as much as it is performed?  Why do we tend to fetishize the body as the ultimate bearer of the truth?”

Definitely watch for more to come from Laura Gildner in her final year of studies—we can guarantee it will always be something fascinating!

The Art & Science of Listening

Kirk McNally in the School of Music’s Create Lab, with music student Ayari Kasukawa (UVIC Photo Services)

Whether it’s Queen recording their iconic title track in Bohemian Rhapsody or Will Ferrell’s hilarious “More Cowbell” sketch on Saturday Night Live, what happens in the recording studio has long been mythologized in popular culture. It’s also at the core of Kirk McNally’s research.

The School of Music music technology professor is fusing his professional background as a recording engineer with a new archive of unexplored recordings to build a better understanding of the relationship between musicians, engineers and music producers.

A set of multi-track audio recordings donated to UVic in 2014 formed the basis for McNally’s initial research into the intricate relationship between technical skills and musical output in the studio. By analyzing these recordings, McNally identified exactly what decisions were made in the studio, and how they affected the creative process of producing the final album—findings he now shares with students.

A temple and a laboratory

“More cowbell!”

Revered as both a temple and laboratory by scholars, the recording studio is historically the place where the best musicians, producers and engineers create the soundtrack to our lives. But this activity has seen little critical evaluation.

“What I’m looking to better understand is the way those relationships—verbal, musical or technological—are communicated, and how the decisions made in the studio are played out to the listener,” says McNally. It could be as simple as asking for another take, or as surprising as a recording error that creates a great sound.

“There’s a long history around the exhibition of sketches that come before the creation of a recognized masterpiece, but that’s never been done for music. By listening to the final album, we don’t know what came before or what was thrown out, or if certain changes were made because of a marketing plan. That’s where my interest lies.”

But hearing what happens is only half of the equation. The rest involves activating that knowledge in the School of Music’s new Create Lab: a dedicated, state-of-the-art recording studio where McNally and his students explore the role of sound recording engineers and music producers.

Enter the new Create Lab

Completed in early 2019, the half-million-dollar Create Lab is booked 15 hours a day by student composers, musicians, engineers and sound artists in the undergraduate Music and Computer Science program—unique in Canada—and with Master of Music Technology students.

“Mindy, Body & Spirit” by Carey Newman

“It all comes down to listening,” says McNally. “Our job as engineers is to communicate something—either through technical or verbal means—in a way that’s understood by the person on the other side of the glass. That’s the importance of having a space where you can understand exactly what the sound is.”

Victoria residents may also be familiar with one of McNally’s projects outside of the studio: he consulted on the audio component of the spectacular cedar sculpture “Mind, Body and Spirit” by local artist and UVic Audain Professor Carey Newman, which fills the ceiling of Pacific Opera Victoria’s Baumann Centre and serves to acoustically enhance the space for music-making.

Fusing professional experience with academic research

Working with a team of International collaborators, McNally will explore how “aha” moments during studio recordings are identified, critically evaluated and correlated to what we hear in the final mix. Prior to joining UVic’s School of Music in 2004, McNally was a recording engineer at Vancouver’s iconic Warehouse Studio. Over the years, he has worked with R.E.M., Bryan Adams, Foo Fighters, Sloan and many others.

“By listening to the final album, we don’t know what came before or what was thrown out, or if certain changes were made because of a marketing plan. That’s where my interest lies,” says McNally, who recently received a research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to continue his research.

The research will also take him to the newly established EMI Music Canada Archive at the University of Calgary, where he will explore the multi-track recordings and support material for two albums by ‘80s Vancouver band The Grapes of Wrath: Now and Again and These Days.

McNally is interested in why those Grapes of Wrath albums have become Canadian classics. “From a Canadian perspective, what is a Canadian sound? Is that actually a thing or is just a sales pitch?” he wonders. “These Days was mixed at Abbey Road Studios in London, and it does have a referential Beatles sound—but why? Was that only because they were in that space, or was it always part of the plan?”

The EMI Music Canada Archive spans 63 years of the EMI label, including 40,000 recordings and two million documents by The Beatles, Elton John, Kate Bush, Anne Murray, Buffy Sainte Marie and thousands of others. “This archive includes important information never previously available to researchers,” he says.

Back to the studio

Ken Scott (left) in-studio with Paul McCartney

Fusing research and application, his current project will culminate in two high-quality recording sessions at Leeds Beckett University in May—including one with legendary engineer/producer Ken Scott, who worked with the likes of The Beatles, David Bowie and Pink Floyd.

By revealing what happens in the recording studio, McNally believes future generations will be equipped to better understand the creative process and consumers’ response to how music is promoted and marketed.

This story originally ran  in a slightly different form as one of UVic’s KnowlEDGE research features in the Times Colonist on April 28.

Don’t miss the annual BFA Visual Arts exhibit

April is definitely the month for exhibits in UVic’s Visual Arts department, thanks to a pair of annual exhibitions by graduating artists in both the BFA and MFA programs. While the MFA exhibit is now closed, the annual BFA exhibition is set to engage your senses with a remarkable display of work.

This year titled Scatter, the BFA exhibit will feature work by nearly 30 student artists and will completely fill the Visual Arts building. Work will range from painting, photography and sculpture to performance, digital media, installations and more.

Scatter starts with the always-popular opening night reception at 7pm on Thursday, April 18, before continuing 10am-6pm daily to April 27. (Note: the exhibition will be closed Easter Sunday/Monday.) Opening night will feature catered food and a cash bar open until 11pm.

This exhibit only happens once a year and is the artistic equivalent of a final concert or mainstage theatrical production. Don’t miss your chance to share in this celebration of student creativity, dedication and innovation!

 

Trumpet great joins Wind Symphony season finale

The UVic Wind Symphony is joined by special guests for their season finale concert on March 29. Featuring solos by trumpet legend Jens Lindemann and School of Music trumpet professor Merrie Klazek, the evening finale—a concerto for wind symphony and jazz quartet—will star Music instructor Wendell Clanton on alto saxophone.

“Something Borrowed, Something Blue” offers  an eclectic program featuring contemporary pieces that have borrowed from other composers or take their inspiration from jazz and Latin music.

UVic’s Wind Symphony (photo: Fiona Ngai)

With works by Shostakovich, Hindemith, Gershwin, Mackey and world premieres by UVic student Deborah Baynes and Esquimalt High School student Julian Glover—both commissioned by the UVic Wind Symphony—this concert presents some of the most innovative and exciting pieces written for the genre.

The UVic Wind Symphony, conducted by Steven Capaldo, is recognized as one of the leading wind ensembles in the Pacific Northwest. Recently, as the featured ensemble at the Okanagan Music Festival, the Wind Symphony performed concerts to over 800 students, parents and teachers. If you can’t make the concert, you can listen to it live here.

Trumpeter Jens Lindemann is hailed as one of the most celebrated soloists in his instrument’s history and is the first classical brass player ever to receive the Order of Canada. As an internationally recognized virtuoso and multiple Juno and Grammy nominee, he has performed in every major concert hall in the world and has an extensive discography in a multitude of styles ranging from solo and chamber to jazz and contemporary.

Trumpet legend Jens Lindemann

Lindemann is also the recipient of numerous international awards including the Prague Spring Festival, the Ellsworth Smith, ARD in Munich, was recently named “International Brass Personality of the Year” (Brass Herald), and is the only trumpeter to win the Grand Prize in the 60-year history of the Canadian Music Competition.

Presented as part of the Orion Series in Fine Arts, Lindeman will also offer a short performance featuring classical and jazz repertoire followed by a Q&A session at 11:30am Thursday, March 28, and lead a masterclass with School of Music brass students at 1:30pm on Friday, March 29.

This Wind Symphony concert will present some of the most innovative and exciting wind ensemble pieces written for the genre. Don’t miss it!

The UVic Wind Symphony’s finale concert, “Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” starts at 8pm Friday, March 29 in The Farquhar at the University Centre. Tickets range from $5 to $20 and are available from the UVic Ticket Centre (250-721-8480) and at the door. Tickets are also complimentary for all UVic students!

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.