Audain professor makes history again with Witness Blanket

Indigenous concepts and Western legal principles have been united in a historically unique agreement signed by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and Carey NewmanAudain Professor in the Department of Visual Arts. The agreement covers the protection and use of The Witness Blanket, Newman’s powerful art installation made with over 800 items collected from the sites and survivors of Indian residential schools across Canada.

Carey Newman’s “Witness Blanket” installed at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg (photo: Jessica Sigurdson, CMHR)

An unprecedented move

In an unprecedented move, written documents and an oral ceremony have been given equal weight in an agreement that vests legal rights with the artwork itself, as a living entity that honours the stories of the survivors.

Audain professor Carey Newman

“Rather than trying to decide our rights, we put the rights with the Blanket and the stories that were given to us by survivors,” says Newman (Ha-Yalth-Kin-Geme), a Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist and master carver from Sooke. “We were not negotiating against each other but collaborating together in the best interest of the Blanket itself. We didn’t want to treat it like a transfer of property because I don’t feel ownership of the Blanket, I feel responsibility towards it and I wanted to make sure the Museum felt this too.”

UVic professor Rebecca Johnson, associate director of the Indigenous Law Research Unit, reviewed the agreement before it was finalized and called it “totally unique”.

“It has huge implications for me as a law professor because it models new and hopeful possibilities of seeing the law in its creative and expansive forms, not just as something that constrains and punishes,” she says. “It captures the heart of what’s possible when people work together to imagine new ways of drawing on law—both Indigenous and Canadian—to move us in a new direction.”

UVic’s Faculty of Law plans to incorporate the agreement into its curriculum, which will help students explore creative avenues for drawing Indigenous and Canadian legal orders together.

Read more in the CBC story here.

Relationships, not ownership

Now that the 12-metre-long, cedar-framed artwork—which was first presented publicly at UVic back in 2014—has been taken into the care and protection of the CMHR in Winnipeg on Treaty 1 Territory, it will undergo restoration work after several years of traveling, including an extended exhibition at the CMHR in 2015-16. A new traveling version of the Witness Blanket has also been created, which will have its first showing at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery from May 4 to June 23.

Interacting with the installation. (Photo: Jessica Sigurdson/ CMHR)

CMHR president and CEO John Young said meaningful working relationships with Indigenous people create opportunities to learn, grow and share in new ways—which is also important to reconciliation. “Museums have sometimes assumed a unilateral authority to interpret Indigenous cultures and artifacts,” he says. “In collaborating with our Indigenous partners, we instead work to honour the perspectives, skills and experience they bring to the discussions.”

CMHR head of collections Heather Bidzinski researched positive examples from other cultural institutions but worked to create something entirely unique. “This agreement is based on understanding each others’ traditions in a mutually respectful way and recognizing that agreements are really about relationships—not about concepts of indemnity and ownership, which can be adversarial and confrontational,” she says

The new documentary film, Picking up the Pieces, about the making of the Witness Blanket—which debuted last fall at the Vancouver International Film Festivalwas also shown at the CMHR as part of the announcement, followed by a conversation with Newman and film producer Cody Graham of Victoria-based Media One.

UVic’s Young said the Witness Blanket is a work of national significance that provides a tangible framework for conversations about the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada. “Its stories, its objects and what they represent help us better understand this issue in terms of human realities and consequences instead of being just an abstract concept. As a national museum devoted to human rights education, we are committed to playing a meaningful role in sharing this truth as we work towards reconciliation.”

Newman is the sixth Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with UVic’s Visual Arts department. As well as being a former School of Music student, Newman is the first Audain professor to hold a three-year position with the department. Previous Audain professors include Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore, Rande Cook, Nicholas Galanin, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas and Jackson 2Bears.

UVic promotes teaching that reflects the aspirations and calls to action of the Truth an

d Reconciliation Commission, including addressing issues most relevant to Indigenous people and working with Indigenous communities and organizations to understand, preserve and celebrate traditions, knowledge and cultures.

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!

 

Annual MFA exhibit lights up downtown gallery

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.

First up is the annual MFA exhibition, showcasing Victoria’s best emerging contemporary artists. This year titled It’s Only An Island If You Look At It From the Water, the exhibit run April 5-14 at downtown’s Victoria Arts Council (1800 Store Street).

It’s Only An Island offers a diverse and compelling range of painting, photography, installation and sculpture by graduate student artists Lauren Brinson, Kaitlyn Dunsmore, Angus Fergus, Levi Glass, Mona Hedayati, Dani Proteau and Claire Scherzinger.

Please join us for the closing reception, starting at 7pm Friday, April 12.

Keep your eyes open for the upcoming BFA exhibit, Scatter, opening April 18 in the Visual Arts building on campus.

Explore the world of Ideafest 2019

It’s neither a surprise nor an exaggeration when UVic describes Ideafest as being about “ideas that can change everything.” This eighth-annual, week-long festival of research, art and innovation runs March 4-9, both on- and off-campus, and offers more than 40 public events designed to inform and engage with thought-provoking and culturally engaging events. And Fine Arts is participating in eight different events this year.

“Ideafest connects research to community. It allows UVic researchers and artists to share knowledge in different ways to appeal to a wide range of audiences,” says David Castle, UVic’s vice-president research. “We invite the public’s engagement so they can better understand how research impacts their own lives and that of society.”

As always, Fine Arts is once again an active Ideafest participant, hosting four separate events of our own and participating in four others across campus. All are free, unless otherwise noted: you can view the full Ideafest schedule here, which is searchable by day or category, but here’s our list of events.

Eva-meta art exhibit

The Visual Arts department’s Drawing 300 class continues its tradition of staging an outdoor drawing exhibition near the Fine Arts building for the duration of Ideafest. Led by Drawing 300 instructor David Gifford, students this year are interpreting meta-drawing and encounters with “aboutness, the recursive and the beyond.” Drawing 300 makes an outdoor exhibit of pictures about pictures. Prepare to have your assumptions challenged!

The Eva-meta exhibit runs Monday-Friday, March 4-9, outdoors in the Visual Arts building courtyard.

Research Reels Video Showcase

Get a taste of the amazing research and creative activity taking place at UVic, as told by our talented students, faculty and staff. A juried collection of short videos highlighting UVic research and how it’s having an impact on our lives and our world will be showcased for one night only. Prepare to be amazed and inspired! Hosted by Lara Lauzon (School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education) and juried by Jay Cullen (School of Earth and Ocean Sciences), Cody Graham (Filmmaker and multimedia producer) and Katrina Pyne (Hakai Magazine).

Among the entries this year are short films created by current students Peter Ojum, Leah Tidey and Chen Wang, plus recent alumnus and current Artist in Residence at Oceans Network Canada, Colton Hash (also last year’s Research Reels winner). Their films cover topics ranging from applied theatre practice and choral research to the research and creative practice of Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson, and her current IMAX video installation commission from the XL Outer Worlds project, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the IMAX camera — a Canadian invention! Be sure to attend and vote for our faculty’s films in the viewer’s choice category!

Research Reels: Video showcase runs 5-6:30pm Tuesday, March 5, at Cinecenta in UVic’s SUB. And there will be free popcorn!

Write On: A Night Out with New Writers

Meet the next generation of Canadian Literature as MFA students from UVic’s legendary Department of Writing read (and perform) from ground-breaking graduating manuscripts in fiction, poetry, playwriting and creative nonfiction at this lively (and licensed) literary cabaret. Hosted by Writing professor Maureen Bradley, graduate student readers include Vaughn Gaston (fiction), Taylor Houghton (fiction), Janet Munsil (playwriting), Tom Prime (poetry) and Miles Steyn (creative nonfiction). Watch for guest appearances by faculty mentors.
Doors open at 6:30 pm

Write on: A night out with new writers runs 7-8pm Tuesday, March 5 at the Copper Owl Bar & Lounge, 1900 Douglas Street (above Paul’s Motor Inn).

Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards Fair

Meet the next generation of leading Canadian researchers at UVic’s Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA). Awards go to exceptional undergrad students to carry out research in their field of study. The JCURA research fair will feature over 100 of these inspiring projects, ranging from the effects of meditation on memory retention, to improving emergency water treatment in refugee camps. Fine Arts participants include Hannah Bell (Theatre), Kai Conradi (Writing), Jamie Crystal (Music), Kim Dias (Writing), Pascale Higham-Leisen (AHVS), Sarah Kapp (AHVS), Trevor Naumann (Music) and Lee Whitehorne (Music). Just click on their individual names to read a brief of their research projects.

The JCURA symposium runs 11:30am – 3pm Wednesday, March 6, in the Michele Pujol Room (A121) of UVic’s SUB.

UVic Author Celebration

Each year, UVic faculty, staff, students and alumni publish an incredible amount of intellectual content, reflecting a wide range of research, teaching, personal and professional interests. Join UVic Libraries for this annual celebration of books written by UVic — including Writing professor Bill Gaston, who will be reading from his recent memoir, Just Let Me Look at You: On Fatherhood, and recently retired Writing instructor Patrick Friesen, reading from his latest poetry collection, Songen. Hosted by Jim Forbes, Director of Campus Services, other readers include History professors Jason M. Colby, reading from his Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator, and Lynne Marks, reading from her Infidels and the Damn Churches: Irreligion and Religion in Settler British Columbia.

The UVic author celebration runs 2-4pm Thursday, March 7 at the UVic Bookstore.

Hear, Hear: Best Seats in the House

Experience the beauty of an orchestra from the inside out at this unique rehearsal of the UVic Orchestra, where seats for visitors will be interspersed among musicians to provide an unforgettable opportunity. Immerse yourself as never before in the works of Tchaikovsky and Debussy. Feel the magic of being in the midst of it all. Hosted by School of Music conductor and professor Ajtony Csaba and featuring the student musicians of the UVic Orchestra.

Hear, hear runs 3:15-4:15pm Thursday, March 7 at The Farquhar in UVic’s University Centre building.

Voice in Motion

Can the impact of dementia be reduced through singing and socializing? An interdisciplinary research team at UVic — including School of Music professor emeritus Mary Kennedy— is studying the impact an intergenerational choir may have on health outcomes for people living with dementia and their caregivers, as well as the impact on perceptions of dementia for participating high school students. Hear about the researchers’ findings and observations, then listen to this joy-filled choir share their music. Hosted by UVic School of Nursing professor Deb Sheets, presenters include not only Mary Kennedy but also Erica Phare-Bergh (Choir Director), Stuart MacDonald (Department of Psychology) and Andre Smith (Department of Sociology). With thanks to project partners Island Health, St. Andrew’s Regional High School, St Aidan’s United Church, the University of Victoria’s School of Nursing, School of Psychology and School of Sociology.

Voices in Motion runs 4-6pm Thursday, March 7 at St. Aidan’s Church Sanctuary, 3703 St. Aidan’s St. Note: registration is required for this free event: register here.

Other Faces of Nihonga

An expansion of the current Legacy Gallery exhibit,Translations: The Art and Life Of Elizabeth Yeend Duer-Gyokushō玉蕉, Ideafest welcomes Vancouver-based contemporary artist Cindy Mochizuki for a collective embroidery and listening experience focusing on the racialized effects on women of Japanese descent in British Columbia. Visitors will work together with Mochizuki to embroider an image informed by historical references to Japanese Canadian women during and after World War II, while listening to audio recordings of interviews of Japanese Canadian women exploring issues of race, class, citizenship, nationhood and diaspora.

Other Faces of Nijhonga runs 4-8pm Friday, March 8, and 11am-3pm Saturday, March 9, at the Legacy Art Gallery, 630 Yates St. 

Translations continues to April 6, also at the Legacy Gallery, and showcases the movement of ideas, aesthetics, politics and people between England, Japan and Victoria by looking at the life and work of Anglo-Japanese artist Elizabeth Yeend Duer (1889–1951). Born a British citizen in Nagasaki to an Englishman and a Japanese woman, Duer studied Nihonga, a traditional Japanese-style painting, with the renowned painter and teacher Atomi Gyokushi. 跡見 玉枝. Duer took on the artistic identity of Gyokushō 玉蕉. She immigrated to Victoria in 1940 and is among the remarkably few people of Japanese heritage who were not interned during World War II. Instead, she Japanized her new environment by producing Nihonga-style paintings of local indigenous wildflowers while her own identity was being anglicized.

This exhibit is co-curated by Art History & Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler Palmer, Mikiko Hirayama (University of Cincinnati) and Janice Okada (BA, MM St). This is a project of the Williams Legacy Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art of the Pacific Northwest.

Other Ideafest events that will have appeal for Fine Arts followers include the Re-imagining Justice: Art, Law & Social Change exhibit (March 4-8), Latin American Muralism and Identity (March 5), the Express Your Thesis performance (March 6), and the Three-Minute Thesis competition (March 7). But again, be sure to view the full Ideafest schedule.

Fine Arts is full-on during Alumni Week 2019

UVic celebrates graduates old and new with our annual Alumni Week, running Feb 1- 8 across campus. From film screenings and fascinating talks to concerts, a curling bonspiel, Vikes basketball and the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards night, there will be over a dozen special events to check out. Better still, most are free, although you may have to register in advance.

And Fine Arts is a big part of Alumni Week this year, as we participate in five different events showcasing the talents of a number of our alumni. Here’s what’s coming up:

Film screening with Connor Gaston

Connor Gaston

Did you know that 1 in 3 UVic staff and faculty are UVic alumni? It’s true, and you can meet many of them as we celebrate our campus alumni  and kick off Alumni Week at an exclusive event at Cinecenta. Join us at noon on Feb 1 for a screening of the short film, ‘Til Death, by director and campus alumnus Connor Gaston.

About the film: After losing his soul mate in a fatal bicycle accident, 10-year-old Zachary sets out on a journey to bring Samantha back to life in this magical, modern fairy tale.

Gaston, who holds both a BFA and MFA from the Writing department, is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has screened at film festivals around the world, including the Toronto International Film Festival. Gaston’s first feature film, 2015’s The Devout, earned him five Leo Awards (including Best Picture), the BC Emerging Filmmaker Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best First Feature. He is also a current sessional instructor in UVic’s Writing department.

Pizza, popcorn and soda will be provided at the screening for just $5, plus everyone will receive a free gift! (Tickets at the door.) Following the film screening, there will be a Q&A with the director.

This event runs noon to 1pm Friday, Feb 1, at Cinecenta in UVic’s SUB. Film starts at 12:15pm, so come early to get your pizza!

Fifth Street

Emerging Alumni concert with Fifth Street

Victoria-based vocal quintet Fifth Street combines the worlds of pop, jazz and R&B in perfect five-part harmony. The sublime voices of Natasha Penfield, Jilaine Orton, Ryan Narciso, Kenji Lee and Taylor Caswell found a groove together while students and as members of UVic’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble. You’ll enjoy their original a cappella arrangements of pop hits by the likes of Imogen Heap and Justin Timberlake as well as fresh takes on timeless classics.

UVic Music alumni are invited to an exclusive pre-concert reception with tasty hors d’oeuvres, door prizes, plus a special pre-concert appearance by Fifth Street. Hear them in action at 8pm Saturday, Feb 2, in the School of Music’s Phillip T Young Recital Hall, in UVic’s MacLaurin building B-wing. Entrance is by donation.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Come join UVic’s annual celebration recognizing and honouring Distinguished Alumni Award winners that have been chosen from the faculties, UVic Libraries and Continuing Studies. This year, Fine Arts is honouring Theatre alumnus Nathan Medd —a cultural non-profit leader whose work is devoted to developing the performing arts in Canada.

Now the 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 — Medd was also the managing director of English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre, where his team successfully championed Canadian creators and initiated a new national stage for Indigenous performance.

Join us at 7:30pm Tuesday, Feb 5, in the Songhees Wellness Centre, 1100 Admirals Rd. Free, but registration is required.

Nathan Medd on Creative Placemaking

Nathan Medd (photo: Andrew Alexander)

Join 2019 Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Nathan Medd for this lively discussion about the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of creative placemaking. From development and gentrification to funding and accessibility for artists and audiences, get ready to “nerd out” about the business of the arts. Joining Medd on the panel will be long-time colleagues Kevin Kerr, Writing professor and co-founder of Vancouver’s Electric Company, Janet Munsil, former Intrepid Theatre artistic director and Metro Studio co-founder (also a Phoenix alumna and current MFA candidate in Writing), and Ian Case, Theatre alumnus, director of The Farquhar at UVic and former general manager of Intrepid Theatre.

In addition to his current position at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Medd was previously the managing director of English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre. As managing producer of Electric Company, he produced original works for the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and co-founded East Vancouver’s Progress Lab performing arts creation studio in 2009. In Victoria, he worked for Intrepid Theatre, where he co-founded Metro Studio — a flagship venue for Vancouver Island — and held positions with both the Belfry Theatre and the BC Arts Council.

This free talk runs from 12:45-1:45pm Wed, Feb 6, in the Bishop Theatre at UVic’s Phoenix Building.

Esi Edugyan with Shelagh Rogers

Join UVic Chancellor and CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers as she has a frank and fascinating live conversation with two-time Giller-prize winning novelist and Writing alumnus Esi Edugyan. The internationally acclaimed author of Washington Black, her latest novel, Edugyan is also the author of the Giller Prize-winning Half-Blood Blues and The Second Life of Samuel Tyne.

Join us at 7pm Thursday, Feb 7, in the Michelle Pujol Room at UVic’s SUB. Copies of Washington Black will also be for sale, courtesy of UVic’s Bookstore. Update: this event is now sold out, although a waiting list is being taken.

UVic is accessible by sustainable travel options including transit and cycling. For those arriving by car, pay parking is in effect. Evening parking is $3.

But wait, there’s more!

While Alumni Week only runs Feb 1-8, our Fine Arts alumni are busy throughout the year with their own creative endeavours. Here’s a quick rundown of some other alumni who are active around town in the next couple of weeks:

Victoria Film Festival

The 25th annual Victoria Film Festival features work by both Writing and Visual Arts alumni and students, running throughout the festival. Writing alum Connor Gaston is showing the short film Encore as part of the shorts program “Beautiful Obsessions” on Feb 4.  The Safe Space Panorama exhibition runs Feb 2-10 at the Atrium and features work & talks by Visual Arts MFA candidate Levi Glass (talk: 3pm Feb 3), undergrads Laura Gildner (3pm Feb 4),Jordan Hill (3pm Feb 6) and Jake Hrubizna (3pm Feb 8), plus MFA alumni Leah McInnis (3pm Feb 7) & sessional instructor Emily Geen (5pm Feb 5), as well as the 25th anniversary multimedia installation States of Play, curated by recent Visual Arts alumna Gina Luke.

Cry-Baby

Phoenix alumna & musical theatre teacher Kim Sholinder and the student cast & crew of Victoria High School will perform the Broadway musical Cry-Baby — based on the hit 1990 John Waters film of the same name, which starred a young Johnny Depp! This upbeat, campy musical provides a fun twist on 1950s star-crossed young lovers. Cry-Baby runs Feb 5-9 at Victoria High School, 1260 Grant. Tickets are $10-$12.

For Ground; Background  

The Victoria Arts Council is pleased to be working with Visual Arts MFA alumnus Hjalmer Wenstob on a new solo exhibition. For Ground; Background is a culmination of selected sculptures from over the last four years, as well as new works and installations. For Ground; Background hosts works of question, concern and education, in regards to environment, urban relationships to the land, and treaties. Wenstob is an interdisciplinary artist who specializes in sculpture, installation, and carving; he speaks of three dialects of his work — contemporary, traditional, and community-based.

Through his contemporary dialect, he completed both an undergraduate and master’s degree at UVic, exploring the relationships between cultures and art, and the balance between traditional and contemporary. His work is at times highly political and uses humour and irony to pose difficult questions of respect, reconciliation, and environmental issues. Nuu-Chah-Nulth from the Tla-O-Qui-Aht First Nations on his father’s side, and Norwegian and English on his mother’s side, Wenstob and his family recently opened Cedar House Gallery in Ucluelet, B.C. where he is exploring ways of weaving his contemporary/political work with more traditional materials and styles.

For Ground; Background runs until Feb 16 at the new Victoria Arts Council space at 1800 Store St. Open 11am-5pm Tues-Sat.

Todd Lambeth: Night Moves

Visual Arts instructor & MFA alumnus Todd Lambeth presents Night Moves, a series of paintings that investigates the abstract relationship between space and colour. Influenced by Cubism, hard-edged Modernist painting, comic books and candy wrappers, the colours in these paintings reference the world of advertising and design. These visually stimulating works express the artist’s interest in perceptions of pictorial space and are a direct response to the proliferation of digital imagery and imaging technology.

These paintings explore optical perceptions of space; emphasizing the formal properties of structure and design, Lambeth’s images present the viewer with a sense of visual pleasure. With their bright, welcoming colours and forms the paintings in Night Moves foreground ideas of beauty and express Lambeth’s desire to create optimistic works that distract the viewer from the difficult times in which we live.

Night Moves runs through to March 2 at Deluge Contemporary Art, 636 Yates. There will be an artist talk at 3pm Sat, Feb 16.

 John Barton: New Poet Laureate

Writing alumnus and former longtime Malahat Review editor John Barton has been named the new Poet Laureate of Victoria. Barton has written 26 books and is currently working on his first book of prose; his appointment was reported in this Times Colonist article and this piece from Monday Magazine.

Fowler (in yellow)

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The Victoria Theatre Guild offers a lively version of this 2005 Tony-winning show — a clever, charming and sweet-natured musical comedy about six quirky tweens competing in the spelling bee of a lifetime. While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home lives, they spell their way through a series of words, hoping never to hear the soul-crushing ding of the bell that signals a mistake. In the end, the youth learn that winning isn’t everything, and that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser.

Featuring a fantastic performance by Phoenix alumni Hailey Fowler and an outstanding set by Barbara Clerihue.

Spelling Bee runs until Feb 2 at Langham Court Theatre. Tickets are $25-$35 . . . if you can find one!

 

 

Top 10 Fine Arts stories of 2018

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 Jack Hodgins (Writing, retired).

Read more about Butterfield’s RSC appointment here.

Esi Edugyan wins second Giller Prize

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.

Read more about Edugyan’s Giller win here.

Carey Newman is the new Audain Professor

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.”

It’s been a big year for Newman: on top of being declared the Audian Professor for the next three years, he was granted the Order of BC, was named the inaugural recipient of the Professional Arts Alliance of Greater Victoria’s Regional Arts Award, played a role in the Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs program with the Gustavson School of Business, received a Saanich150 art commission and debuted his new “Witness Blanket” documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Read more about Newman’s Audain position here.

Carolyn Butler Palmer advises on new $10 bill

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.”

While it’s no secret now that Canada’s new vertical $10 bill features Nova Scotia civil libertarian Viola Desmond, Butler-Palmer was under a strict confidentiality order for several months starting in summer 2017 while she was consulted by the Bank of Canada about the proposed design. One of a number of experts contacted, Butler-Palmer came to their attention due to the Globe and Mail coverage of her early 2017 exhibit Ellen Neel: The First Woman Totem Pole Carver at UVic’s Legacy Gallery.

“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.”

Find out more about Butler Palmer’s involvement in the $10 bill here.

The Drowsy Chaperone a stunning success

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!

Read more about the amazing success of The Drowsy Chaperone here.

The Orontes Guitar Quartet welcomed as Visiting Artists

(l-r) Orwa Al Sharaa, Gaby Al Botros, Nazir Salameh & Mohammed Mir Mahmoud in front of UVic’s Fine Arts Building, November 2018. (UVic Photo Services)

The dramatic story of four musicians escaping daily violence in Syria for a fellowship in UVic’s School of Music caught the attention of The Globe and Mail in December, and became one of UVic’s top news stories of 2018.

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 the Globe 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.

Read more about the Orontes Quartet here—and be sure to watch this Globe and Mail video of the quartet playing together.

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.

A recent graduate of UVic’s combined undergraduate program in Visual Arts and computer science, Hash was selected for the residency from a field of nearly 70 local, national and international applicants. He will hold the position from November 2018 to March 2019 and, following his residency, will provide a public exhibition of the resulting body of work.

“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.”

Read more about Hash’s ONC residency here.

Fine Arts hosts Reconciliation & the Arts forum

There was a capacity audience for the Nov 15 forum at the Baumann Ctr (photo: Fiona Ngai)

The fourth annual Building Reconciliation Forum was hosted at UVic in November and, as part of the two-day event, Fine Arts hosted a panel discussion on First Nations Art Practice & Reconciliation.

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.

Find out more about the First Nations Art Practice & Reconciliation event here.

Bill Gaston wins Victoria Book Prize

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).

Read more about Gaston’s win here.

Twin Kennedy win Distinguished Alumni Award

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.”

“And we did it together!” laughs Julie.

They now join the ranks of our previous Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award winners: visual artist Althea Thauberger (MFA ’02) director Glynis Leyshon (BFA ’73), author Esi Edugyan (BA ’99), lighting designer Michael J. Whitfield (BA ’67), director and 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).

Find out more about Twin Kennedy’s award here.