Climate Disaster Project wins national award

UVic’s Climate Disaster Project has been named the winner of a Special Recognition Citation at the National Newspaper Awards—Canada’s top journalism awards.

Announced at a gala event in Toronto on April 26, the award is designed to recognize exceptional journalism that doesn’t fit into existing categories and to open the door to experimentation in journalism. This is only the second time the National Newspaper Awards have bestowed the honour.

“We are entering a new era of disaster, where our seasons will become increasingly defined by the traumatic events they bring, and we need to learn how journalism can help us survive those traumas together,” says Sean Holman, UVic’s Wayne Crookes Professor of Environmental and Climate Journalism, who founded the project in 2021. “We are so honoured the National Newspaper Awards have recognized our efforts to empower disaster-affected communities inside and outside Canada.”

About the Climate Disaster Project

The Climate Disaster Project is an international teaching newsroom whichtrains students to work on the frontlines of humanitarian crises and create an extensive archive of eyewitness accounts. To date, 219 students in 13 post-secondary institutions have been trained in trauma-informed interviewing skills and co-created 288 disaster-survivor testimonies, many of which have appeared in local, national and international publications.

Their work has also been featured in national radio and television broadcasts, and at the Royal BC Museum. “Each semester, educators at post-secondary institutions across Canada and around the world spend hundreds of hours teaching students how to compassionately help survivors share their stories,” says Holman. “Our students then take that knowledge into the community to co-create a people’s history of climate change that honours the human dignity of their experiences.

Our partners 

Institutional partners for this award include Carleton University, the Campus Journalism Lab (Philippines), First Nations University of Canada, Humber College, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langara College, MacEwan University, Mount Royal University, Simon Fraser University, Toronto Metropolitan University, and the University of British Columbia, the University of the Fraser Valley and the University of Stirling.

Media partners include the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Asparagus magazine, Canada’s National Observer, The Fraser Valley Current, Megaphone street news and The Tyee, plus Neworld Theatre, the Reach Gallery and Royal BC Museum.

The Climate Disaster Project aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of good health and wellbeing, quality education, sustainable cities and communities, climate action and life on land, and demonstrates how UVic is powered by climate traction.

More for the CDP

The Climate Disaster Project, in partnership with The Tyee, is also currently nominated for awards with the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Canadian Journalism Foundation.

Brazil’s largest newspaper will soon publish testimonies co-created by students at the Federal University of São Paulo. A live theatre project from Neworld Theatre featuring verbatim testimonials will be making its debut at UVic in fall 2024, and an anthology of survivor testimonies from Purich Books is forthcoming in 2025.

Coming up next, the Climate Disaster Project will be hosting the two-day workshop Stories on Fire: Sharing Lived Experiences with Climate Change as part of the Legacy Gallery’s new exhibit, Fire Season.

In this two-day workshop (running 9am-5pm Sat-Sun May 11-12), CDP editors will teach you the trauma-informed process to create powerful first-person testimonies from fellow participants’ experiences of climate change. Past testimonies have been published by Reader’s Digest, the Royal BC Museum and The Tyee, and interviews from this workshop may be shared by similar publications and organizations. Register online for this free event.

Through learning how to compassionately listen to other people’s stories and telling them, you can help show the world that climate change isn’t something that’s far away. Instead, it’s something close at hand that’s affecting each of us in countless ways: from the smoke that keeps us indoors during the summer to the floods and droughts that affect so many communities in so many ways.

Submission call for Student Impact Awards!

Are you a current (or graduating) Fine Arts undergraduate student who’s been involved with a community-engaged creative project in Greater Victoria between Jan 1/23 & May 31/24? If so, you could qualify for $1,000 via our annual Fine Arts Student Community Impact Awards! Since 2021, we have awarded over $8,000 to 8 different students! (Read about our 2023 winners here.)

Arts activities may include (but are not limited to) any exhibit, performance, workshop, publication, curatorial, educational, digital, production and/or administrative role within the regional boundaries of Greater Victoria (Sidney to Sooke). This award is open to any current or graduating undergraduate student in Art History & Visual Studies, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts or Writing.

This year’s Impact Awards will be presented in Fall 2024 to 1 or more undergrads who’ve demonstrated an outstanding effort in community-engaged creative activity that went over & above their academic studies. Good news: if you’ve applied before but didn’t get an award, you can apply again (as long as the project falls into the current timeframe).

A completed submission package—including the submission form and all supporting materials—must be received by 5:00pm Friday, May 31, 2024. Full details & application criteria can be found here: https://finearts.uvic.ca/forms/award/

Questions? Contact fineartsawards@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

Fine Arts in the news: media roundup

When it comes to announcements, publications and media appearances, there’s never really a slow time for Fine Arts faculty, alumni and students — and the past couple of months have been no exception. Here’s a quick roundup of who’s been speaking with the media lately.

 

Art History & Visual Studies

In this December article for Forbes magazine, professor Catherine Harding comments on the use of AI in identifying another artist involved in a 16th century painting by Raphael. “It is wonderful if we can use AI in this way,” Harding said. “It won’t be irrefutable. It will depend entirely on the expertise of the people doing the programming, but if they can write the right kind of algorithm, it will be very useful.”

As part of the new Jeffrey Rubinoff Nexus for Art as a Source of Knowledge, professor Allan Antliff has been selected as the inaugural Rubinoff Legacy Professor. This named professorship is just one facet of $230,000 in new funding from the Rubinoff Foundation, which also includes 15 annual graduate student scholarships and the expansion of experiential learning initiatives at Hornby Island’s Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park. Read more in this announcement.

Professor Carolyn Butler Palmer and Visual Arts professor emeritus Lynda Gammon were interviewed on this Jan 6 segment of CBC Radio’s North By Northwest in support of Gammon’s Latent exhibit at Legacy downtown, which is curated by Butler Palmer. There is also an accompanying short visual story with pictures in this issue of the NXNW newsletter.

Adjunct professor Martin Segger recently wrote this fantastic Times Colonist piece about the history of not only Centennial Square but the overall planned design of Victoria’s downtown district.

Adjunct professor Grace Wong Sneddon co-curated the recent exhibit The Magic of Tony Eng (with local historian John Adams) for the Chinese Canadian Museum in Fan Tan Alley. A goal for this museum is to recognize Victoria’s Chinese Canadians and, as such, Eng is an ideal subject: a vibrant and active member of the city, many remember him as a charismatic stage magician, teacher and mentor to generations of local magicians. In other news, Wong Sneddon recently co-authored two chapters in a new book, Diversity Leadership in Education: Embedding Practices of Social Justice (2024, edited by UVic’s Catherine McGregor & Shailoo Bedi): “Unpacking the Equity Myth: Diversity & Leadership Deficit” (with Reeta Chowdhari Tremblay) and “Race and Gender: Chinese Canadian Women and Leadership” (with Lokpriy Shrma & Tremblay).

Alum India Young is cited in this Vancouver Sun article about a career retrospective exhibit by Nuu-chah-nulth artist George Clutes at Vancouver’s Bill Reid Gallery; the exhibit was created by Young plus UVic’s Andrea Walsh and Jennifer Robinson.

School of Music

Marking their official retirement from performing, the “trailblazing” Lafayette String Quartet were recently profiled in this feature article from Strings Magazine. “I hope we’ve instilled a deep love of chamber music in our audiences and students,” said Ann Elliott-Goldschmid. Our students benefited enormously from observing four musicians who respect each other and worked together, unified, in overseeing their studies and musical growth.”

Ahead of his final concert featuring live piano accompaniment to a silent film, professor Bruce Vogt was interviewed by CBC Radio’s All Points West (not archived) and in this Times Colonist story. “I’m certainly not retiring from playing,” said Vogt. “I just won’t be teaching any more. I’ll still be around, until I hear the chimes at midnight.”

January’s masterclass with guest mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy got a shout-out in this Times Colonist roundup.

Professor Benjamin Butterfield plus alumni Isaiah Bell and Timothy Carter all appeared on this segment of CBC Radio’s On The Island talking about their recent concert, Banned from the Concert Hall. Butterfield was also interviewed for this Times Colonist story about the same event. “I’m not sure everyone goes around talking about their arse all day in Baroque circles,” Butterfield said with a laugh. “But this type of thing has been around a long time.”

As the new leader of the annual TubaChristmas fundraiser, instructor Scott MacInnes was featured in this December Times Colonist article. “It’s awesome that such a lowly instrument can provide so much happiness,” said MacInnes, who will be conducting the festive ensemble for the first time.

Arbutus Middle School’s music program was recently announced as the winners—again—of CBC’s annual national Music Class Challenge. While not named in the article, Arbutus’s music program is led by alumni Jennifer Hill & sessional Michael Mazza.

Theatre

As co-author, professor Yasmine Kandil was recently announced as one of the winners of 2023’s Wayman Mullins Award for Best Journal Article, as awarded by the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology Board of Directors. This award is given for the best scientific article as published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology. Kandil, along with co-authors Jennifer A. A. Lavoie & Natalie Alvarez, picked up the award for their article “Developing Community Co-designed Scenario-Based Training for Police Mental Health Crisis Response: A Relational Policing Approach to De-escalation”.

Alum Jena Mailloux (MA Interdisciplinary Studies: Applied Theatre/Curriculum & Instruction) recently published the article “Elevating Critical Pedagogy Through Dramatic Principles: A Comparative Framework Analysis of Anti-Bullying Drama Education and Theatre Research Initiatives” in the Drama Australia Journal.

Alum Alynne Sinnema (MA Applied Theatre) was recently awarded the Canadian Association for Theatre Research Robert G. Lawrence Scholarship for her for the project “Coming to her Senses: Women’s Sexual Empowerment Through Applied Theatre”, which the adjudicating committee found “inventive and insightful in the ways it aims to combine applied theatre, specifically physical theatre, and feminist theory as a way to support women’s voices, embodied and scholarly considerations of women’s pleasure and sexual agency, and mental health.”

Alum Narges Montakhabi was awarded the Canadian Association for Theatre Research (CATR) Heather McCallum Scholarship for her project “Politics and Poethics of Precarity in Contemporary Middle Eastern Canadian Theatre.” Describing her project as “ambitious”, the committee found her work “amplified the voices of less-heard and younger generations of underrepresented Middle Eastern Canadian playwrights, focusing on contemporary (mostly 21st century) plays and playwrights from Iran, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq.”

Visual Arts

Recent MFA alum Maryam (whose last name is not being used in the media due to safety concerns) was quoted in this Times Colonist story about her work in the latest Victoria Arts Council exhibit, You Are Welcome. “I’m still very impressed,” she said of the protests in Iran, where most of her friends and family reside. “The metal [in my piece] represents the strength and power of the women in my country when they were killed and shot in the streets.”

While the late-’90s children’s TV show Nanalan is currently going viral on TikTok, none of the coverage mentions the fact that professor Kelly Richardson worked on the show in between her BFA and MFA degrees. She worked on 71 episodes, making the set & greenery but also puppeteering; this allowed her to buy her first computer which entirely changed her art practice. “I’ve never really stopped making plants and animating bugs in my work,” she says. You can see some behind-the-scene photos Kelly has posted on her Instagram feed.

UVic Impact Chair Carey Newman was involved in the first fully bilingual colloquium of the New Uses of Collections in Art Museums Partnership  at the National Gallery of Canada in December. The conference outlined some of the innovative practices changing the standards and practices of art acquisition. This colloquium was jointly produced by the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) and the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) as part of the CIÉCO Research and Inquiry Group’s Partnership New Uses of Collections in Art Museums.

In other news Carey Newman news, this Vancouver Sun article notes that the traveling exhibition of his Witness Blanket will be on display in the West Vancouver public library from Jan 26-March 8. This touring version is a detailed photographic replica of the original 13-panel sculptural installation, which is now permanently housed in Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Following this stop, the current 17-city tour next comes to the Saanich School Division (March 25–May 10) before moving on to Nelson and Nova Scotia, with more dates booking into 2025.  

Work by current MFA candidate Eeman Masood was featured in Frozen Forest, the recent curated exhibition at Abu Dhabi Art, and will also be displayed at the India Art Fair exhibition in New Dehli via her gallery representative Galerie ISA, from Feb 1- 4. 

 

Writing

Recent Writing grad and Climate Disaster Project managing editor Aldyn Chwelos was recently featured on this story for CBC Radio’s All Points West, speaking about their work documenting testimonials from survivors of severe wildfires and floods—some of which are getting a reprint in the December/January issue of Readers Digest. Chwelos was also featured in a separate interview with CBC Kelowna’s Radio West (not archived).

Teaching professor Marita Dachsel’s new essay collection Sharp Notions: Essays from the Stitching Life was mentioned in the Globe and Mail’s book gift guide for “The Mindful Maven” this year. “As the editors [Marita Dachsel and Nancy Lee] point out, in the 21st century we don’t need to knit, embroider, weave, bead, make lace or spin yarn. But what these essays by crafters get at, instead, is the nourishment found in the meditative (rather than productive) solace of fibre-arts handiwork.” Dachsel was also interviewed for this Vancouver Sun article exploring two new books with Vancouver Island fibre connections. Sharp Notions was also recently positively reviewed for The British Columbia Review, and it was included inAll Lit Up’s “Refresh Your Shelf: New Non-Fiction” list, which included five notable nonfiction reads for 2024.

Professor David Leach spoke with residents at two Isralei kibbutzim for this story for Jewish Renaissance Magazine. “In 2010, I completed a circuit around Israel to research a book about the founding ideals, hundred-year history and slow decline of the kibbutz movement,” writes Leach. “These 270 or so rural communes, dreamed into reality by young Jewish pioneers as a fusion of socialism and Zionism, had marked the borders of the future state and shaped many of its leaders and artists.”

Crookes Professor Sean Holman announced in December that Rappler — the Philippines’ leading digital media company — has published five students stories as part of the Climate Disaster Project Philippines, appearing just in time for COP28. As part of the CDP’s international outreach, UVic’s Division of Continuing Studies provides certificates to the Philippines students for their work in trauma-informed environmental journalism. All five harrowing stories can be read here, here, here, here and here.

MFA Sam Shelstad’s novel The Cobra and The Key was recently included on CBC Book’s list of “30 books to read this winter”. Things are getting meta with this new satirical novel, which is centred on the life of a writer (also named Sam Shelstad) who is busy working on a book about his failed relationship, while he awaits word from a publisher about the manuscript he’s sure will make him a star—a how-to book for aspiring fiction writers detailing the finer points of the craft.

MFA alum Kyeren Regehr has been named the new director of Victoria’s venerable Planet Earth Poetry Reading Series—which, at 28 years, is surely the city’s longest-running continuous literary series. PEP runs weekly, 7-9pm Fridays at Russell Books on Fort Street.

Fine Arts

UVic’s Fine Arts + Grants & Awards Librarian Christine Walde recently presented her book-themed art exhibit Salvage at the Bruce Hutchinson public library branch, in conjunction withthe Victoria Arts Council. Salvage is a collection of driftwood books salvaged from the beaches of Vancouver Island and the Cascadia bioregion of the Pacific Northwest over a ten-year period.

Did you know Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren hosts the pre-show talks for the DanceVictoria series? A dance historian herself, Lindgren speaks ahead of each show in the performance series.

Finally, the winners of our 2023 Student Community Impact Awards were mentioned in Monday Magazine’s coverage of the Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards.

Giving Tuesday in Fine Arts: Climate Disaster Project

November 28 is Giving Tuesday, a day when the entire UVic community will unite around a common cause — supporting the students and programs that make this university the very special place it is.

This year, UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts is raising funds to help create the world’s largest living library of climate disaster experiences, which will help connect climate disaster survivors around the word, and spark urgent action on climate change.

We hope you’ll join together with our entire Fine Arts community and make a donation to the Climate Disaster Project. Your gift will support UVic journalism students in their field work and interviews as they collect these climate disaster stories for an anthology that will be published in Fall 2025 by Purich Books (UBC Press). 

Climate disaster survivors Patsy Gessey & Owen Collins look towards Lytton, where they lost their home
during the 2021 Lytton Creek Fire. The next year, they faced fires again. (CDP/Jen Osborne)

 

Hope through community

Climate disasters — like forest fires, floods and extreme drought — are becoming more and more common. In the coming decades, these disasters could divide us, as walls are built around the world to protect those with the most and keep out those with the least.

But these disasters could also unite us if we see the commonalities in one another’s experiences.

With your support, the Climate Disaster Project, which is based in UVic’s Department of Writing, is creating a massive archive of eyewitness climate disaster accounts. The Climate Disaster Project trains students to work on the frontlines of climate change — a skill that will only become more necessary as time goes on.

To date, 194 students have been trained in trauma-informed interviewing skills, and students have interviewed 128 survivors of climate disasters about their experience. The Climate Disaster Project has already published 44 testimonies in The Tyee, the Fraser Valley Current, Asparagus and Megaphone magazines, partnered with APTN Investigates and the Royal BC Museum’s Community Gallery, had two students interviewed on CBC Radio’s national climate-change show What On Earth, and is about to be featured in the December/January issue of Reader’s Digest — Canada’s most-read magazine.

Donor created, donor supported

The Climate Disaster Project’s work covering the humanitarian crisis of climate change was founded in 2021 thanks to a generous donation from philanthropist and businessman Wayne Crookes. Our work is inspired by his deep concern for preserving our planet.

Your gift today will help create the world’s largest living library of climate disaster experiences, and will support UVic journalism students in their field work and interviews.

We hope you’ll consider joining the Giving Tuesday movement with a gift to the Climate Disaster Project.