Portland student balances art & athletics

When it comes to making goals, Harry Ritter West is scoring two-for-two. A varsity athlete with UVic’s men’s soccer team, West knows how to keep his eye on the ball—but as a fourth-year Visual Arts student, he also has the creative vision to shoot as a photographer.

 

Why study at UVic?

Originally drawn to UVic by the manageable scale of both the campus and Victoria, West, a dual US/Canadian citizen from Portland, Oregon, was also drawn to the proximity of forests and mountains. Growing up as a frequent visitor to the region, he finds a common Pacific Northwest vibe between Victoria and Portland. Both cities have a vibrant, arts-centric downtown area and draw individuals who value a harmonious connection with the natural world, prioritizing a healthy body and mind.

“I’ve always had an appreciation for Vancouver Island. Victoria is such a beautiful place, it’s got a unique environment and everything’s super-close. As Americans, we don’t really learn a lot about Canada in high school and don’t have many opportunities to visit universities here. But we shouldn’t rule Canada out—anyone even considering studying here should just come and experience it for themselves.”

When he’s not playing soccer or shooting photos downtown, you can often find him biking and hiking around the region. “I love it here. My four years have been awesome!”

But West was also drawn by the reputation of UVic’s Visual Arts department. “I’d heard good things about the arts program here—it’s a really tight knit community and the teaching is at a very high level.”

Harry in action on the playing fields (APShutter.com)

 

A balancing act

No question, it’s tricky balancing varsity athletics and visual arts: depending on the season, West is typically looking at a 12-hour day, six days a week as the team’s left wingback, mixing classes, practices, training, games, study and photography. “Soccer usually takes up the space of at least a course, especially with the travelling,” he says.  A workload that would be challenging for any regular student is made challenging due to the nature of his studies.

“It is a lot of scheduling, especially as a photography student,” he says. “You have to plan when you need to shoot because, as an athlete, you’re going to be gone for a period of time and not have access to a camera or have time to actually create your work. You can’t waste a day.”

The only artist on his team, West faces challenges the other players don’t. “A lot of them are in engineering, economics or sciences and can do their work on the bus. But I’m on a completely different schedule and do completely different work—what if I need to shoot a sunset or a nightscape downtown?”

Realistically, that means he needs to shoot in advance whenever the team is flying off to out-of-province games, just so he can digitally edit photos on his computer while he’s away. Interestingly, West’s athletics schedule has also helped shape his creative vision.

“I do a lot of like urban and street photography with subjects, often at night, because that’s when I have the most time to shoot after practice. Night scenes also improve my understanding of the camera, because it’s a whole other beast when you have to do long exposures and account for lack of light.”

When asked if his teammates appreciate his work as an artist, West offers a quick laugh. “Some have kind of cliché views around art, but I’ve shown them a lot of my work and they really seem to appreciate it and think it’s super cool.”

Harry’s multiple-exposure self-portrait  

 

Looking forward

While he’s still got another year of scoring ahead on UVic’s playing fields and art studios, West has already applied for an internship with National Geographic and loves the idea of working as a magazine photographer.

But while balancing training, practices and games with classes, photography and creative practice may sound like a lot, West wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I’ve always had this kind of lifestyle, balancing athletics and art—I’m a very high energy guy,” he laughs. “If I were to focus on just one and not put as much time and effort into the other, I’d feel like less of a person. I really value all the creative thought I put into my day-to-day life.”

Opera star Marion Newman joins UVic Music

Critically acclaimed Canadian opera singer and national CBC Radio host Marion Newman is returning to the University of Victoria to join the award-winning teaching faculty at the School of Music.

Newman — whose traditional name is Nege’ga — is of Kwagiulth and Stó:lō First Nations descent with English, Irish and Scottish heritage. The 2022 UVic Distinguished Alumni Award recipient (BMUS ’93) will officially join the School of Music as an assistant professor on July 1, 2024.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” says Newman. “It’s always a lovely circular journey when alumni return and become part of the faculty.” Currently based in Toronto, the busy mezzo-soprano will continue hosting CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera from Victoria.

In addition to the UVic announcement, the news was picked up by a number of local media outlets who subsequently ran stories, including the Times Colonist, Victoria News, Sooke News Mirror and the Vancouver is Awesome blog. (We think Marion is awesome too!)

No stranger to local audiences, Newman just appeared in City Opera Vancouver’s Songs from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt and is currently workshopping a new opera by Ian Cusson and Royce Vavre,commissioned by Against the Grain Theatre and Edmonton Opera, based on Thomas King’s 2020 comedic novel Indians on Vacation. (“It is such a delight to play somebody who’s so full of sunshine and reality and so . . . normal,” she laughs.)

She was also lauded for her performances in Pacific Opera Victoria’s Missing, which gave voice — in English and Gitksan — to stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“Singing in Indigenous languages is something I’ve been doing for a number of years now,” she says. “It’s always exciting to immerse yourself in that way as a character to sing words . . . you start to understand what the general sound of the language is and how it grew out of the place and the people.”

Marion Newman in Pacific Opera’s Missing (photo: Dean Kalyan)

Learning and living by example

Already recognized as one of Canada’s leading singer-training programs, UVic’s School of Music is a perfect fit for Newman, who will join the internationally acclaimed likes of professors and opera performers Benjamin Butterfield and Anne Grimm, as well as a team of outstanding faculty covering program areas ranging from performance, composition and musicology to music technology, music education and music theory.

“We are thrilled to welcome Marion!” says School of Music director Alexis Luko. “Given her perspective, local connections and international reach, she’s positioned to have a profound impact on artistic and cultural life in Victoria, and will further UVic’s reputation as a destination for mindful and engaged artists.”

Newman’s new teaching position is also a good fit with her role as host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, and her passion for championing Canadian opera.

“It’s always been my wish to showcase how many amazing Canadians we have working in opera,” she says. “I know it’s exciting for students to hear from people who are working in their chosen field right now, because their information is very current and very inspirational. Learning and living by example is a fantastic thing — you can speak directly to what the challenges and changes are within the industry.”

Making connections

Newman has strong memories of her own time as a UVic Music student. “I had a wonderful piano teacher there in Dr. Robin Wood,” she recalls. “He was one of the most human humans, and really helped shape me in terms of what it means to remain connected and humble and work hard in ways that bring joy.”

As well as being the co-founder of the diversity-focused Amplified Opera organization, Newman also teaches at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and is on faculty for Manitoba Opera’s Digital Emerging Artist Program. She also serves on the Opera America Artistic Services Council, the Artist Advisory to the board of City Opera Vancouver, the board of the US-based Plimpton Foundation, which raises awareness and funds for an Indigenous Songbook and bursaries for Indigenous classical artists, as well as various other committees.

She’s also looking forward to working more closely with her brother, artist Carey Newman – Hayalthkin’geme, who is the Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices with UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

“As people who are often tasked by others to explain decolonization or Indigenization, it’s going to be wonderful to be able to have those conversations with him in person — it’s a heavy load and no one person has all the answers,” she says.

“I’ve been doing that work within the music sphere for a number of years now, so I’m really looking forward to being a part of what’s going on at the university and getting to be part of those conversations. And we have a couple of shows that we would love to create together.”

Photo: Tony Hauser

Helping to move each other forward

Newman’s hiring aligns with UVic’s Indigenous plan, Xʷkʷənəŋ istəl | W̱ȻENEṈISTEL | Helping to move each other forward, where Indigenous ways of knowing, being and learning are embedded into the university’s programs, systems and organizational structure.

“Part of what’s exciting about coming to UVic is that wish to actually do what’s needed,” she says. “There are a lot of other places who think they’re ready to have that conversation, but they’re not really ready for the consequences of those conversations.”

Newman is also clearly excited about calling the West Coast home again. “I’ve been living in Toronto for 24 years now and while I love it, I know it’s time to breathe that salty sea air again every day,” she says. “I’m still in touch with my family daily, but to be able to go to family dinners more than just three or four times a year is exactly what I want right now.”

Celebrating our Rubinoff Scholars

Congratulations go out to the Fine Arts graduate student recipients of the inaugural Jeffrey Rubinoff Student Scholarships, many of whom gathered at the University Club on March 5  to offer their thanks and mingle with the Rubinoff Foundation’s Betty Kennedy and Karun Koernig. Among those who offered their thoughtful and insightful comments were Arnold Lim and Holly Loveday (Writing), Vithória Konzen Dill (AHVS), Stephen Markwei and Narges Montakhabi (Theatre), Eva Bradavkova (Music) plus Charles Amartey, Ryland Fortie, Sina Khatami and Parvin Hasanibesheli (Visual Arts).

Not able to join us were fellow recipients Jaiya Gray (AHVS), Jamie Davis (Music) plus Liz Bently, Eeman Masood and Rainy Huang (Visual Arts).

 

Meet two Rubinoff Scholars

One of our inaugural grad student Rubbing Scholars is award-winning Korean-Canadian filmmaker, producer and photographer Arnold Lim. Currently pursuing his MFA in Writing, Lim was twice selected as a recipient of Telefilm’s Talent to Watch program, is a graduate of the National Screen Institute’s Features First program, has been a juror and programmer for numerous film festivals, and the photography manager for four Olympic Games. “I’m a storyteller at heart, and the opportunity to continue that journey as a grad student has been so much greater than I could have ever imagined,” says Lim.

This year, he was writer/director of the mystery/thriller Whisper, the latest (and most ambitious) short film yet created for Writing’s popular film production class, where local film professionals mentor a student crew. “Writing and directing a film in concert with like-minded, passionate classmates under the tutelage of instructors and a supervisor who has gone above and beyond to tailor the program to our learning outcomes has supported tangible and important growth for me as a screenwriter and filmmaker and is a gift I could never repay,” he says.

International student Stephen Markwei is another our Rubinoff Scholars. Hailing from Ghana, Markwei is continually evolving as a dancer, choreographer and multi-disciplinary artist; his artistic talent, combined with a strong social conscience, demonstrates his commitment to his craft and his devotion to addressing important societal issues. His passion for artistic expression and commitment to enhancing human experience through the arts is evident in his dedication to addressing societal issues related to learning disabilities.

Currently pursuing his MA in Theatre by investigating theatre-based interventions to assist individuals with dyslexia, Markwei aims to understand how incorporating sensory modalities into interventions through theatrical activities can benefit those with learning disabilities. “Utilizing multi-sensory methods, including movement and visual cues, in designing learning experiences for individuals with dyslexia can be valuable,” he explains.

About the Rubinoff Scholarships

The Faculty of Fine Arts has developed a strong relationship with the Jeffrey Rubinoff Foundation since 2016 when the late BC sculptor created the Jeffrey Rubinoff Scholar in Art as a Source of Knowledge Endowment at UVic.

That relationship was further strengthened in December 2023 by the creation of the Jeffrey Rubinoff Nexus for Art as a Source of Knowledge, which includes $230,000 in new funding plus a named professorship, this robust set of graduate student scholarships, and the expansion of experiential learning initiatives at the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park (JRSP) on Hornby Island.

Rubinoff himself understood art to be a source of knowledge because of its capacity to influence the viewer’s perspective by means of original perceptions. Those Fine Arts students who have spent time at the JRSP since 2017 have expressed profound appreciation for their experiences, while their perspectives and ideas have grown.

You can stay up to date on future activity via the new UVic_Rubinoff Instagram account.

Orion Series presents Randi Edmundson & Shizuka Kai

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Randi Edmundson

& Shizuka Kai 

 

Visiting artists & puppeteers, offering a pair of public workshops:

 

  • “That Elusive Life: Searching for ‘Canadian’ Puppetry” 

    9:30-10:30am Wed, March 20

     

  • “The Making of Otosan: Snapshots of a Japanese-Canadian Puppet Show”:

    9-10am Thur, March 21

UVic’s Roger Bishop Theatre (Phoenix Building)

 Free & open to all

Presented by UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts

For more information on this lecture please email: theatre@uvic.ca

About Randi Edmundson

Driven by curiosity, UVic alumna Randi Edmundson wears many hats in the world of theatre, including producing, directing, performance, and design. Her passion for puppetry has taken her across the country and the globe, including recent research with Papermoon Puppet Theatre in Indonesia.

She has a background in devising new works for a wide range of audiences and has worked as a puppeteer and puppet creator with Chemainus Theatre Festival, Neworld Theatre, Caravan Farm Theatre, the Canadian Academy of Mask and Puppetry, the National Arts Centre, Lunchbox Theatre, and Western Canada Theatre. She has studied under puppet thinkers Peter Balkwill, David Lane, Ronnie Burkett, Mervyn Millar, Clea Minaker, Jeny Cassady, and Ingrid Hansen.

With her Jessie Richardson Award-winning company Little Onion Puppet Co., Randi has toured several original puppet works across Western Canada. She holds a BFA in Performance from UVic and an MFA in Directing from the University of Calgary.

Randi is grateful to create as a freelance artist and as Interim Artistic Producer of Carousel Theatre for Young People on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territory in Vancouver and as the Artistic Producer of Project X Theatre in unceded Secwepeme territory in Kamloops.

About Shizuka Kai

Shizuka is a multidisciplinary artist who has been working professionally in puppetry and set design for over 12 years. She also delves in TV/film puppetry, extends her design into illustration and graphics, and is  emerging in directing. Shiz is a five-time Jessie Richardson Award winner with multiple nominations; an Ovation Award winner; the recipient of the Earl Klein Memorial Scholarship and Steven B Jung Award; and a graduate of Studio 58.

She has trained with many incredible artists such as Wendy Gorling, Jeny Cassady, Peter Balkwill, Clea Minaker, Juanita Dawn, and the folks at Marionetas de la Esquina. Recent puppetry credits in theatre: Division Infinity Saves the World! (Neworld), Le merveilleux voyage d’Ines de l’Ouest (Théâtre la Seizième), and Yellow Objects (rice & beans). Recent TV/Film: London Drugs – To Do Hissss (Rethink), FortisBC – Energy is Awesome (Media Button), and Lost Ollie (Netflix). Next up for Shiz: Otosan (Little Onion Puppet Co), a table-top puppet show based on her childhood growing up with a wildlife cinematographer father.

She is also currently working as a set design instructor and (newly appointed) production program coordinator at Vancouver’s Studio 58.

 

About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Visit our online events calendar at www.events.uvic.ca

$1500 student mural call

All current UVic Visual Arts students are invited to submit a proposal by March 26 for a new $1,500 mural project in the lobby of UVic’s Island Medical Program. This uplifting & welcoming mural should reflect any of the following themes: health & wellness, happiness, pursuit/enjoyment of good health, Indigenous health & wellness (etc).

What to submit

Student artists or teams should submit a proposed design in a 2D medium (including, but not limited, to painting, prints, photography or drawing) plus a short proposal outlining how their design would be suitable for this project. The selected student(s) will then design & create the mural on the designated stand-alone wall in the IMP lobby.

The mural will be located on a 14 x 6 foot standalone wall, which will have the current plaques removed & will be prepared prior to project start date. An honourarium of $1,500 will be paid to the artist(s) once the project is completed (or split evenly between a team), with up to $500 in additional material fees.

About materials

Art must not have any sharp or harmful elements, and all paint and adhesives must be water based (no spray paint or spray adhesives).  All materials proposed to be used must be described in full in your proposal. The curved wall must be able to support the art without triggering structural design concerns.

Deadlines

Deadline for concept submissions is March 26 and the mural must be completed sometime between April 22 and May 30. The artist(s) must be currently enrolled in UVic’s Visual Arts department. Artist(s) will be chosen by a selection committee. This project is part of the new Fine Arts creative partnership with IMP that is also seeing an AHVS grad student curating a new collection of art for their lobby.

Please visit UVic’s IMP building (between MacLaurin A-wing & Cunningham building) prior to submission to get a sense of the wall & surrounding environment.

For more info or to submit a proposal to finecomm@uvic.ca

Comics as a path to resistance

Kwakwaka’wakw author, artist & activist Gord Hill is the 2024 Lehan Lecturer with UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts. His free public talk ran on Thursday, March 7 in room A110 of UVic’s Turpin building. You can watch his talk in this video: 

An artist, author, political activist & member of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation, Hill is the author of The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book, The Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book and The Antifa Comic Book and has been involved in Indigenous peoples’ and anti-globalization movements since 1990.

The annual Lehan Family Activism & the Arts Lecture Series features a distinguished guest presenting ideas on how the arts are a catalyst for change in advancing the understanding and goals of various social justice topics.

And that’s certainly how it worked for Gord Hill, who combined a passion for social justice with his artistic interests to create an accessible learning tool rooted in his own cultural traditions.

“The arts have always been a highly respected craft on the West Coast,” he explains. “Artists were tasked with recreating ancestors in a graphic form — like carvings and paintings in the big houses — so in our culture, there’s a lot of visual reaffirmation of our ancestors in everyday life. For me as an artist, graphic novels are a way of maintaining our history and making it accessible to people.”

From comics to ’zines

Like many of us, Hill says he read comics as a kid — mostly Marvel, but also surprisingly Conan (“I actually thought he was like a native, because he was a nomadic Sumerian warrior with long black hair who was always engaging with different people”) — but it was his teenage involvement in political social movements and the ‘zine culture of the ’90s that really sparked his interest in becoming a comic artist and author himself.

“As an artist, I always wanted to draw comics . . . but I’m not really into making up fictional characters and developing their background and all that,” he explains. “So when I was working with the native youth movement in the late ’90s, I decided I was going to try doing some historical comics — because the story is already kind of written, right? I just had to reinterpret it for a graphic format.”

Given his own activity, some of Hill’s early work focused on crises of the day. “I found that even with our most recent acts of resistance — like the 1990 Oka crisis — there wasn’t really that much information out there, as this was before the Internet was really widespread. So one of the first comics I did was an eight-page comic about Oka, and then I did one about the 1995 Ts’Peten [Gustafsen Lake] standoff in the interior of BC.”

Learning from history

Before long he had created a number of these short educational comics, and a friend suggested doing a larger work looking at 500 years of Indigenous resistance — which, an assist from friend and Art History & Visual Studies professor Alan Antliff, was then published by Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press.

Three books later, Hill’s work is just as relevant today as when he started. “Graphic novels are really accessible, especially today in our era of memes and videos on Facebook and TikTok,” he says.

He also feels historically-based comic books can be a great teaching tool.

“History can help you understand your present situation: you can learn from what resistance movements have done in the past and apply that to today,” he says.

“Historically, we’re taught that Indigenous peoples were just helpless victims while European colonizers conquered the land and committed genocide. But if you actually look into it, there’s a really strong history of resistance — there are areas where it took Europeans centuries to conquer Indigenous peoples — and I think that’s really inspiring.”

“Resistance movements can inspire and empower us, show us that we’re not helpless victims,” he continues. “It can contribute to a fighting spirit to know the oppressor isn’t omnipotent, that they have actually suffered defeat. I hope my work contributes to resistance movements today, so they’re able to learn from the history of resistance, which is an important part of maintaining a culture of resistance.”

NEW DATE & TIME: Due to a weather-related incident, we have now rescheduled this talk. All are welcome to hear Gord Hill’s free public talk as the 2024 Lehan Family Activism & the Arts guest lecturer, from 5-6:30pm Thursday, March 7, in room A110 of UVic’s Turpin building