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By Linda Rogers, December 2011

By blending international and local jazz artists in just the right mix, Darryl Mar keeps Victoria’s Jazz scene healthy and interesting.

Where does his passion come from? What made Darryl Mar dedicate his life to jazz, specifically the Victoria Jazz Festival and its musical offspring, the Blues Bash? This is my first question to the executive and artistic director of the Victoria Jazz Society.

Mar spreads his hands over his busy (polite word) office desktop, as if apologizing to his mother for a messy room full of music projects, and explains his provenance.

“My parents loved Big Band music and they danced with one another.” Those were the foot-tapping sounds of his early childhood, memories he transposed to his discovery of jazz in his teenage years under the tutelage of an uncle who introduced him to the sounds of Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis.

By Linda Rogers, November 2011

Young librarians with fresh ideas are creating a new kind of library.

In dreamtime, a movie plays on the library walls. Someone is riding a magic book-cycle in and out its windows. Even though the downtown building still presents like a prison—brick walls, fenestration squinting into a dark courtyard—new energy shakes its sullen facade. The main branch is waking up to the fresh reality: social media, electronic borrowing, wired librarians, art partnerships, and community outreach. 

If this isn’t cool enough they also have Avi Silberstein, the resident philosopher-fool thinking up ways to engage kids and adults in book-loving behaviour, and riding his bookmobiles, sometimes dressed as a carrot offering vitamin P (poetry).

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

By Linda Rogers, October 2011

The founder of Theatre Inconnu is known for his innovative productions.

Clayton Jevne, Theatre Inconnu co-founder and artistic director, has weathered as many storms as the average four-masted sailing ship. Somehow he has survived, in a small city with several theatre companies, through government apathy and demographic fluctuation. Besides running Theatre Inconnu for three decades and 100 productions, Jevne was the artistic director at Victoria’s summer Shakespeare Festival for over 10 years.

Richard Olafson, Ekstasis Editions publisher and Theatre Inconnu board member says, “Clayton is one of the most committed artists in Victoria. He has been struggling and enduring many hardships and triumphs over the course of decades in the arts with consistency and vision.” 

By Linda Rogers, July 2011

Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s founder explains why the show must go on.

The Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s tiny office next door to the Conservatory of Music is, apart from a few other necessities, almost entirely furnished with gnawed pens and pencils

“Do you have rats?” 

“No,” Darcy, Blue Bridge’s Girl Friday laughs, “It’s Brian!”

Some of us smoke, some bite our nails, but Brian Richmond, whose long life in Canadian theatre includes chewing up a lot of scenery, also chews pencils. His mile-long resume includes many acting credits, his recent chairmanship of the UVic Theatre department, founding artistic director of Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre, artistic director of Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille, Thunder Bay’s Magnus Theatre and Montreal’s Playwright’s Workshop. He has directed over 100 productions. 

By Christine Clark, June 2011

Marlene Jess’ maps and performance pieces draw attention to the natural, under-appreciated luxury of our lives.

Marlene Jess makes art that is about luxury; not the kind of luxury that involves vast garden estates, fast cars, and endless purchasing power, but a kind of relative luxury; something as simple as fresh, drinkable water gushing from the faucet each time a hand turns the tap.

What we now know as Ecological Art has been evolving as a genre since the early ’60s, when artists like Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson began using the Earth as the medium. Although their work was exciting and new, and tended to revolve around concepts related to decay and reclamation, the message was essentially in keeping with traditional values, with the dominion of humans over the Earth largely accepted. 

By Christine Clark, May 2011

Boldy coloured and sculpturally complex, Jeff Molloy’s new work comments on Cuban realities.

It’s a grey, misty afternoon and I’m standing with a small group of foot passengers, all of us with either backpacks or duffel bags, waiting for the boat to dock at Gabriola and bracing ourselves for the inevitable bump against the pilings.

I’m here to meet Jeff Molloy, to visit his studio and to talk about his recent paintings, a series he calls Fachada Cubano (The Cuban Façade). He’s been working hard in preparation for his upcoming show at Winchester Galleries, which runs from May 7 to 28, and although the studio has (as he told me) been recently swept, there are the tell-tale signs of creativity everywhere, and especially on the walls. 

By Linda Rogers, April 2011

Running a library is a lot like conducting an orchestra.

Former Ontarian Maureen Sawa may have visualized a flood of books swimming across the Saanich farmlands when she flew into the Victoria airport prior to her first interview for the top job at the Greater Victoria Public Library. Did she see the potential for harnessing the force of a paper tsunami, the ultimate transformation? Like the great Mogul generals, Sawa has campaign history and a bird’s eye view of Constantinople and Samarkand, cities built on cultural excellence. She must have been considering what it would take to shape the random energy of our notably literate population into a Victorian Golden Age. 

By Linda Rogers, March 2011

How a Polish construction engineer transformed herself into a Victoria painter.

Slowly, during an extended conversation in her recently renovated house with a view not only of the Chinese cemetery but, on a fine day, all the way to China, Elka Nowicka reveals the title for her show at the West End Gallery. But not yet. English is not her first language and she chooses her words carefully; “I loved to read when I was a child.”

By Linda Rogers, February 2011

Early music is enjoying a renaissance in Victoria.

What is more appropriate to the season of lengthening days than the word enlightenment? If winter is our Dark Age, the annual Pacific Baroque Festival, which has brought the sound of light to Victoria for a decade of Februarys, strikes promising notes for the gardening seasons.

This year’s festival is designated Stylus Fantasticus: Music for Bishops and Emperors, after the baroque flowering in Austrian music that followed the Thirty Years War, a shadow time for artists. The play of light and darkness, chiaroscuro, which gives an intense vitality to music of the Baroque period, is a metaphor that appears to reinvent itself at appropriate times.

By Linda Rogers, January 2011

150 films bring the world to Victoria.

It’s a wet Victoria morning and Victoria Film Festival manager Kathy Kay immediately offers tea. This is auspicious. It is the attention to detail and small graces that help events create community, which is what has happened for the festival, now in its tenth year. In a small city that hugs hard when it is properly embraced and discards when it isn’t, this is telling. The good times keep on rolling when Victorians feel the respect. After events like the Film Festival and the Fringe there is as much buzz about meeting people as there is about the onstage and screen performances. We are not a gaggle of spectators. The key to success is having Victoria feel the experience.

By Linda Rogers, December 2010

An art exhibit shows globalism at its best.

In ocean separates yet unites three artists now showing in the Pacific Currents show at the Alcheringa Gallery: Claytus Yambon, a senior master carver from the Sepik River in New Guinea; Ake Lianga from the Solomon Islands, now of Victoria; and John Marston from the Cowichan Nation. Their collaborative friendship is a bridge across the Pacific that not only speaks for the value of intercultural influence but also for the strength of collaboration in resolving the issues that face aboriginal peoples, the ocean itself, and ultimately all people.

Water is the dominant element in the exhibition, which includes Marston’s bentwood boxes and paddles, and paintings and prints by Lianga—both recognized worldwide for their technical mastery and interpretive genius—along with one very special canoe. 

by Linda Rogers, November 2010

In her performance art, painter Sheila Norgate pokes fun at both the constraints of women and the realities of the artistic process.

In one of this year’s Fringe Festival shows, an actor sat naked onstage, allowing her audience the opportunity to interact, bringing their own expectations to the blank canvas she offered. The shape of every show depended on the connectivity of artist and theatre patron, a dynamic that gave everyone who participated in the exchange a heightened sense of the courage it takes to be an artist.

by Linda Rogers, October 2010

A show of this master artist’s work will raise funds for the disease that claimed his wife.

In the First Nations belief system, there are four stages of human existence: birth, reproduction, death, and the spirit life. The final stage is a natural transition, just as rotting trees become a nursery for seedlings. While all of us die, some get to live on in constructive ways. 

That is the legacy of artist Herbert Siebner—we won’t say painter because that is too narrow a definition of his fluency which included pottery, lithography, silkscreen, woodcut, encaustic, and sculpture as well. Siebner’s overflowing exuberance extends past the boundaries of his life, which ended in 2003, to include a posthumous generosity.

by Linda Rogers, September 2010

Nick Fairbank’s heart belongs to Cassie.

On a recent summer evening I met Nick Fairbank—composer, choir leader and pianist—to discuss his life in music over a scotch (maybe two) at Spinnakers. The eldest of four siblings, Nick went to Shawnigan Lake School when it was most famous for its Olympic medal-winning rowers. There he was encouraged to play the pipe organ in the school chapel by his music teacher. That, as we shall see, began an addiction.

He started his music education early. After being caught sneaking out of bed to hear his parents play chamber music with friends, he was offered piano lessons. The love of classical music stayed with him even though he has dabbled in other genres and played instruments as diverse as guitar, penny whistle, banjo, harpsichord, clavichord, ukulele and oh, I hate to say it of such a personable man, accordion.

by linda rogers, August 2010

Like his father and grandfather before him, Tony Hunt has distinguished himself and his culture by giving his life to his art.

It was hard to believe I wasn’t hallucinating when I saw a canoe floating in the duck pond at Government House yesterday afternoon. The ducks didn’t seem to mind at all, so this must be their new normal. I have been following the progress of the new cultural industry at the vice-regal residence and I was waiting for Spain to score that one semi-final goal so that Chief Tony Hunt would return to the carving shed at Government House and I could continue the longest interview in history (about 25 years).

Story by Linda Rogers. Photo by Tony Bounsall. July 2010

Just into year number two on the job at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Jon Tupper discusses his challenges and the new Carr exhibit.

When I heard the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria was mounting On the Edge of Nowhere, a major Carr installation, I called Executive Director Jon Tupper and asked if we could have lunch at JJ’s Wonton House, a short walk from the gallery.