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:
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
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
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
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.
The late award-winning poet and novelist Patrick Lane will receive one final honour when he is posthumously presented with the European Medal for Poetry and Art on June 7. Beijing-based poet Dr. Zhao Si Fang, vice-president of the award, will make the presentation at a small private gathering of poets. Lane’s wife, Department of Writing Professor Emeritus Lorna Crozier, will receive the award in the garden of their North Saanich home.
Commonly referred to as the Homer Prize, there has only been one other Canadian recipient in the award’s short history: UVic Writing professor Tim Lilburn, in 2017.
“This is a significant honour,” says Lilburn. “Patrick’s stature as a poet is international as well as national. His work has long been of interest to translators in China and a large ‘selected poems’ collection is now being prepared for release in Beijing in 2020, as a result of the Homer Prize.”
Initiated in 2015, the Homer Prize is a relatively new international award administered by an international chamber with representatives from Poland, China, North Africa and elsewhere. Previous laureates include Ataol Berghamoglu (Turkey), Tomas Venclova (Lituania), Juan Carlos Mestre (Spain) and Tim Lilburn (Canada). Plans to present Lane with the Homer Prize had been underway prior to his passing on March 7.
It was a full house for Patrick Lane’s memorial on April 20
Lane was also posthumously honoured with the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award on April 20 at his memorial service at UVic. With nearly 300 people gathered at the memorial event, Howard White—president of the Pacific BookWorld News Society and a longtime friend of Lane—presented Crozier with the award, a $5,000 cheque and a civic proclamation in honour of Lane. Crozier received the same award the previous year.
“Although our timing with this presentation was just a little too slow, I was able to deliver the news to Patrick while he was still with us,” said White at the event. “I remember his first response: ‘Are you sure you haven’t given me that one already?’ He was really very moved, however, and wrote [the following email] the prize administrator Alan Twigg.”
“It is nice to be associated with George [Woodcock],” noted Lane. “He wrote a chapbook summary of my poetry back in mid-career and compared my verse to poets such as Yeats, which, God knows, was excessive in the extreme, but still nice to imagine it might echo some small qualities of such a master, a poet I admired when I was young and still do . . . . Thank you for this award. It is most kind.”
Described as “one of Canada’s most renowned writers,” Lane’s death made headlines in media outlets nationwide. His distinguished career spanned 50 years and 25 volumes of poetry, as well as award-winning books of fiction and non-fiction, published in over a dozen countries. Winner of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence, the Canadian Authors Association Award, among others, he was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2014. Lane with a long association with UVic and received a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) in November 2013 in recognition of his service to Canadian literature.
“Patrick has been celebrated in this country for many decades,” says Lilburn. “Soon a full range of poetry lovers in China will be able to feast on the brilliance and compassion of this extraordinary writer.”
Whether it’s jellyfish in space, sloths in the water, hidden Hawaiian birds’ nests, shell money in Papua New Guinea, or a catch-and-release community aquarium on Vancouver Island, the world of water conjured up by Hakai Magazine is rich, complex and highly readable.
The online magazine is dedicated to exploring science, the environment and society from a uniquely coastal perspective—and it’s powered by an energetic team of UVic alumni, including a computer engineer, a marine biologist, an anthropologist, a historian, a composer and a writer.
Hakai Magazine was started up by two UVic grads and launched in April 2015. “Nobody else was doing this, focusing on an ecosystem that ties half the world’s population together,” says editor-in-chief Jude Isabella (MA ’13).
Part of the Tula Foundation—which also finances the Hakai Institute, a scientific research centre based out of a former fishing lodge on Calvert Island (about 400 kilometers north of Vancouver)—Hakai Magazine remains editorially independent. Both the magazine and the institute are named for the Hakai Pass, located within the Hakai Lúxvbálís Conservancy, one of the largest protected marine areas on Canada’s west coast, and made possible by BC tech entrepreneur, multimillionaire and Tula founder Eric Peterson and his wife. Dr. Christina Munck—who received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from UVic in 2017.
The ad-free online magazine mixes long-form, science-based journalism aimed at a general readership with news and video features into one glorious digital package that is updated weekly, filling a gap for readers—and writers—left in the cold.
But it’s not like Isabella simply stepped into her job as Hakai’s editor-in-chief. She was managing editor of the popular Canadian children’s science magazine YES Mag before it was unexpectedly shut down in 2012. Indeed, prior to a prescient conversation between Isabella and Tula’s Peterson, Hakai Magazine didn’t even exist.
“I was working on my book [and UVic thesis] Salmon: A Scientific Memoir during the first few years of the Hakai Institute, and I kept crossing paths with Eric and Christina,” recalls Isabella. “We had zeroed in on the same scientists who were doing really great work on the coastal margin, and they liked what I’d been writing for The Tyee. But it was getting hard to get your story told when there are fewer outlets to tell it.”
In 2014, Isabella was visiting the Hakai Institute while writing a story for the UK’s New Scientist magazine and was talking to Peterson about the number of media outlets that were shutting down. “Most of my own freelancing was for American and British publications at the time,” she says. And although the Tula Foundation had supported other writing initiatives in the past (“they believe in journalism as a cornerstone of democracy”), it was still a surprise to Isabella when Peterson proposed a new venture. “He said, ‘Let’s start our own mag’—or something like that—so I said, ‘Sure, if you’re serious, I’ll get a proposal to you’.”
Who ya gonna call?
Her first call was to long-time colleague Dave Garrison, publisher of YES and KNOW for over 16 years. “Who else was I going to go to?” she chuckles. “He’s a great organizer and a great publisher; you really need someone who’s good at the process side of things to get a magazine off the ground.” They quickly put together a pitch “and pretty much the day after they read it, [Peterson and Munck] said, ‘Let’s do it!’”
Garrison—who started his publishing career as a Martlet co-editor in 1994—was working for the Victoria-based activity-listing site, Chatterblock, at the time, but didn’t hesitate at the idea of starting up another magazine. “It’s rare to have the opportunity to start something from nothing,” he says.
With Garrison and Isabella filling out the slots of publisher and editor-in-chief, they quickly recruited Shanna Baker (BA ’06) as senior editor, Adrienne Mason (BSc ’88) as managing editor, Tobin Stokes (BMus ’89) as manager of social media and marketing, plus Shannon Hunt (BA ’90, MA ’93) as proof-reader—meaning half of the current Hakai editorial team are UVic alumni.
Garrison and Hunt had already enjoyed success starting up the children’s science publications YES and KNOW together—and received UVic Distinguished Alumni Awards in 2006 to recognize their achievements. Mason had been managing editor of KNOW (aimed at younger children), so along with Isabella, much of the new team already had years of experience in producing science news together.
History inside and out
Hakai’s “Death of a Modern Wolf”, written by former UVic student JB MacKinnon, won a National Magazine Award
Based out of an open-concept office on the ground floor of Victoria’s historic Customs House overlooking the Inner Harbour, the Hakai team exemplify both the ethos and concept of the magazine itself: passionate, coastal people who are working together to tell important stories that could potentially change the world.
“Christina and Eric believe in journalism, so we were given a job to do and we’ve done it well,” says Isabella. “We aim high . . . if you don’t have to worry about constantly fundraising, you can put all your efforts into making excellent product.”
Excellent is right: over the past four years, Hakai Magazinehas won over 25 Canadian and international awards not only for what they publish (including two prestigious National Magazine Awards) but also for their chosen medium (17 online and digital publishing awards).
Now on his third magazine start-up, Garrison clearly feels Hakai offers something special. “Hakai is more of a calling, almost a creative pursuit,” he says. “Anything can be called a business, in the sense of pulling people together and getting things done, but we’re not trying to make money; we’re just trying to put our stories in front of as many readers as possible.”
And it seems to be working. Freed from the limitations—and expenses—of a traditional print product, Hakai Magazine is attracting a global readership: 2018 saw a monthly average of 95,000 visitors, up from 39,000 per month when they launched in 2015. Seventy percent of their readers hail from Canada and the US, with the UK and Australia the next biggest audience, followed by India, Germany, France, Philippines, New Zealand and the Netherlands. “In fact, Google Analytics reports at least one visitor from 237 different countries in 2018,” says Garrison, “so arguably we had a visit from every single country in the world.”
The magazine has also earned fame for their puns, with headlines like “Hey, Beacher, Leave Those Fish Alone,” about reckless beachgoers in California who disturb little fish called grunion—because who says getting informed can’t be fun? Readers can also expect professional-quality videos and comics on subjects like a “Cuttlefish Brawl.”
As sea levels and temperatures continue to rise, the idea of creating an accessible, sustainable, paper-free magazine dedicated to coastal peoples and science worldwide seems less of a risky idea and more like a necessity. No surprise, then, that Hakai Magazine was the brainchild of two UVic graduates—and that the magazine regularly features UVic research.
“All you can do is put the stories out there,” says Garrison. “Raising awareness makes a difference.”
UVic’s Writing department does a brisk trade in filmmakers, thanks to an award-winning range of alumni directors, producers and screenwriters. But while most focus on creating dramas, thrillers and rom-coms, long-time collaborators Jeremy Lutter (BA ’05) and Ben Rollo (BA ‘10) are drawn to the darker side of life.
Broken Mirror Films duo Jeremy Lutter (left) and Ben Rollo
Consider The Hollow Child, a 90-minute horror movie directed by Lutter and written by Rollo about children who go missing and then come back . . . changed. It’s captivating, it looks great and, most importantly, it’s downright creepy.
“Genre filmmaking is kind of a dirty word in Canada but The Hollow Child was easy to pitch because people understood it,” says Lutter (which rhymes with “butter”). “Horror has a certain kind of language that’s easier to explain.”
Rollo suggests their film appeals on the same level as a dark fairy or folk tale. “Jeremy and I have always been attracted to the fantastic, and we liked the idea of marrying that to horror,” says Rollo. “The story had its genesis in a conversation about how spooky it would be if someone you knew well disappeared and then returned different.”
Citing early influences like The X-Files, Edward Scissorhands and filmmakers David Lynch and David Fincher, Lutter says it was a short hop from “the idea of imposters and foster kids and people who were self-destructive” to an “under- utilized monster” like a changeling. “You need to know enough about the genre to know what people are expecting and then not deliver that,” explains Lutter.
Conceived over the course of three years and shot on the Lower Mainland in four weeks back in 2015, The Hollow Child was funded through Telefilm Canada’s competitive “Talent to Watch” program for first-time feature directors and made for “somewhere south of a quarter-million,” says Lutter.
Hannah Cheramy as the girl who disappears in the woods and returns changed in “The Hollow Child”
The film was produced by UVic Gustavson School of Business alumna Jocelyn Russell (BC0m ’12), a friend of the director and writer since they all attended Cedar Hill Middle School, then Mount Douglas Secondary together. Lutter says while there’s camaraderie, there’s little glamour in the life of an indie filmmaker. “It means being a constant entrepreneur; I thought at some point it would get easier, but it always stays exactly the same level of hardness.”
After having its world premiere at the 2017 Victoria Film Festival, The Hollow Child went on to earn five nominations and one win in BC’s annual Leo Awards, as well as picking up an award at its European premiere in Portugal, before earning the grand prize at Mexico’s Feratum Film Festival, both in 2018. And it’s still on the festival circuit, playing across the US and (aptly) appeared at the Vancouver Badass Film Festival in March 2019. “It amazes me that it’s still screening two years later,” laughs Lutter.
Tellingly, Lutter’s production company is called Broken Mirror Films. “Art is never a perfect reflection of life, it’s always a distortion,” he says. “There’s something about broken characters that interest me. I don’t think I’ve ever told a story that wasn’t about someone who is broken; we’re all broken in some ways—that’s what makes us interesting.”
Lutter’s own near-death experience in a horrific 2008 car accident skewed his perspective toward the unseen world. “It was a completely transforming experience,” he says. “Once you go through something like that, it’s hard to forget that some random happenstance can end your life at any moment. I was making films before, but I got way more serious about it afterwards.”
As for why UVic’s Writing program keeps turning out successful filmmakers, he says it comes down to the script. “Story structure and storytelling are universal skills that last longer than current technology,” says Lutter.
For Rollo, filmmaking adds an essential collaborative element that’s missing from traditional prose writing: “You start with a germ of an idea, but then everyone else on the project brings their own vision to it, which adds to it in unexpected and wonderful ways,” he says. “I love being on set; it’s a frustrating, exciting, tumultuous experience that’s really like nothing else.”
When Theatre alum Charles Ross (BFA ’98) debuted his One-Man Star Wars Trilogy back in 2002, the cultural landscape was quite different: audiences were already becoming jaded by the new prequels, spin-offs like Rogue One, The Clone Wars and Solo were as yet unimaginable, and Disney ownership of the series seemed an Imperial ploy at best.
But where Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones fell flat with most viewers, Ross’s high-speed paean to the original trilogy found a ready audience, thanks to his remarkable mimicry, boundless on-stage enthusiasm and sincere love for the series. Now, 17 years and literally thousands of performances later, the 44-year-old Ross is still up to his Jedi mind tricks and happily reports that none of it feels forced.
“I’m certainly not sick of it,” he admits. “I still love it as much as I did when I was a kid, because love doesn’t diminish. Every time I do the show, there’s something about that feeling I’m trying to share — a simple early love for the story — and that’s what people recognize in themselves.“
Starting at 7:30pm, the evening will open with a short discussion panel featuring Writing professor and filmmaker Maureen Bradley, Art History & Visual Studies PhD candidate and recent Star Wars elective instructor David Christopher, Sociology instructor Edwin Hodge (who recently taught a Star Trek elective at UVic) and current UVic student Monica Ogden, hosted by Fine Arts communications jedi John Threlfall.
What started out as a niche play for sci-fi nerds has since grown alongside the franchise itself: now 10 films in and, with the “Skywalker Saga” coming to a finale in 2019’s Episode IX, Ross has seen his own solo show go global as well. “There isn’t a part of the planet Star Wars hasn’t touched,” he says. “It’s become much more homogenous, more a part of popular culture: you can just be a normal person and get the references—it doesn’t qualify you as a nerd anymore, just as a human being who’s seen the movies.” (Indeed, UVic even offers a Star Wars elective now.)
Officially endorsed by Lucasfilm, Ross’s 75-minute show has been performed for over a million people worldwide, including extended runs off-Broadway, in London’s West End and at the Sydney Opera House, as well as appearances on the likes of Late Night with Conan O’Brien and the popular How Stuff Works podcast.
The latest parody by Ross
And it shows no sign of slowing down: regular North American dates aside, since 2006 Ross has toured to Australia eight times, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival nine times, the UK 12 times, and has performed to audiences in Malaysia, Singapore and China. In 2017 alone, he spent 175 days on the road with it.
“Star Wars has a huge reach,” he says. “My name doesn’t mean much to many people, but the concept certainly does. There are housewives in the American Midwest who still know my work from seeing me on TheToday Show a decade ago.”
“You never know where things are going to go, but it exciting to imagine where things could go,” he says. “If you can look back and say you made one little bit of difference — a blip in the history of Star Wars, or a footnote in the history of solo shows — that would be the most amazing thing in the world.”
It’s definitely a time of change in UVic’s celebrated Department of Writing, due in large part to this year’s retirement of both award-winning novelist Bill Gaston and acclaimed playwright Joan MacLeod. But with change comes opportunity, as seen by the hiring of not one but two noted writers as incoming faculty members: new associate professor Gregory Scofield and new assistant professor Danielle Geller.
Scofield is a Red River Metis of Cree, Scottish and European descent whose ancestry can be traced to the fur trade and to Metis community of Kinosota, Manitoba. Geller is is a member of the Navajo Nation: born to the Tsi’naajinii, born for the bilagaana.
“Gregory and Danielle are transformational hires who will help the department build on nearly 50 years of literary excellence and lead the university into a future of new and diverse creative possibilities,” says department chair David Leach. “Both will expand the national reputation of our creative writing program and establish the University of Victoria as an international centre of excellence for Indigenous writing and writers.”
Meet Gregory Scofield
One of the most important poets and memoirists writing today, Scofield bridges several generations of Indigenous authors, with an extensive publishing history across multiple genres and years of mentoring and editing young writers—not to mention two new books coming out shortly: a re-release of his first memoir, Thunder Through My Veins (Doubeday Canada/Anchor Books) coming fall 2019, and his second memoir, Sitting with Charlotte: Stitching my History Bead by Bead (Doubleday Canada) due to be published in 2021.
“âcimowina. Stories. The power of stories. The spirit of stories. The bones of stories that need to be sung and invited to dance. I am so very excited to bring my stories and energy to the Writing department at the University of Victoria, to work with the students and the university community to Indigenize the creative writing curriculum,” says Scofield. “I am deeply honoured to be welcomed in the territories of the Lkwungen peoples, and to listen to their stories while sharing my own. âcimowina. Stories. There will be such a good feast.”
An award-winning poet with eight volumes published, Scofield has been an associate professor in the Department of English at Laurentian University for the past five years, and has taught creative writing and First Nations and Metis literature at Brandon University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and the Alberta University of the Arts. He has also served as writer-in residence at the universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, and Newfoundland’s Memorial University. He is the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), and the Writers’ Trust of Canada Latner Poetry Prize (2016); he is also a skilled bead-worker and creates in the medium of traditional Metis arts. He continues to assemble a collection of mid to late 19th century Cree-Metis artifacts, which are used as learning and teaching pieces.
“Gregory brings academic leadership, versatility as a literary artist and innovative ways of learning and teaching to our department,” says Leach. “He will lead writing workshops and teach courses in Indigenous storytelling based on Cree traditions, and Indigenous women’s resistance writing through the practice of Métis beadwork.”
Introducing Danielle Geller
Danielle Geller is a writer of memoir and personal essays; her debut memoir, Dog Flowers, is forthcoming from One World/Random House in 2020. She received her MFA in creative writing (nonfiction) at the University of Arizona, and is a recipient of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Writers’ Awards. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Brevity, and Arizona Highways Magazine and has been anthologized in This Is the Place (Seal Press, 2017).
“I am delighted to be joining the talented community of writers, storytellers, and artists in UVic’s Writing Department,” says Geller. “I hope to enhance Indigenous perspectives and voices in the curriculum and pedagogy . . . [and] I am looking forward to sharing my enthusiasm and commitment to the craft of writing and art-making with the students.”
Geller writes and teaches across multiple genres with interests and expertise in contemporary forms such as slipstream fiction, Indigenous futurism and video games. Along with her MFA, she has an MS in Library and Information Science and experience as an archivist, which will deepen our students’ research skills and the Writing department’s connection to the many resources of UVic’s library.
“We can’t wait for Danielle to meet our students—and vice versa,” says Leach. “When Random House releases her debut memoir about rediscovering the diaspora of her Navajo family, the rest of the world will also discover one of the most exciting new voices in literary prose.”
Both positions will begin in July 2019.
A commitment to reconciliation
“UVic recognizes that colonization and associated attitudes, policies and institutions have significantly changed Indigenous peoples’ relationship with this land. And for many years those same things served to exclude Indigenous students from higher education. We’re committed to redressing those historical and continued barriers,” says university president Jamie Cassels.
“As part of our commitment to reconciliation we’re building better and meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities, developing new programs, and working to bring our university into better harmony with Indigenous cultures, beliefs and ways of being. Indigenous people and communities are an important part of building our university for the future.”
We acknowledge with respect the Lkwungen-speaking peoples on whose traditional territory the University of Victoria stands, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.