2020 in Review: Fine Arts Stories of the Year

The Fine Arts continued to persevere despite several setbacks this year

Erik Einsiedel - 10 December 2020

In 2020, the pandemic dealt some challenging blows to artists all over the world. Countless plays, concerts and art exhibits — which depend on gatherings of audiences — were forced to close, leaving artists to wonder how their work could be shared.

From these challenging times came newfound resilience, adaptability, and creativity. We now look back on some of your favourite stories from 2020 of our Fine Arts faculty and students, showcasing their passion and dedication to keeping the arts alive.

The resiliency of artists

The world premiere of Studio Theatre’s Chrysothemis was cancelled in March 2020, just weeks away from opening. The play was written by Lee Playwright in Residence, Meg Braem, and was commissioned specifically for the BFA Acting class of 2020. Braem’s original playwright’s notes were shared in April, with a special message of hope from Braem herself about the resiliency of artists.

International artists create music from blended genres

Department of Music professor Michael Frishkopf introduced us to the TranceCultural Orchestra (TCO). The TCO is a group of musicians who began creating music together despite being scattered around the world in places like Kenya, Germany, Iran, USA, and Canada.

U of A researchers work to make COVID-19 recommendations simple and understandable

Art & Design professor Gillian Harvey worked with Alberta Health Services’ harm reduction team to create easy-to-understand COVID-19 information resources for substance users, an especially vulnerable group during the pandemic.

Performing with holograms

The Department of Drama announced it had secured $98,000 in funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, which would help launch a special project involving projection technology. Drama instructor Jeff Osterlin shared his vision for how this new technology will change the way UAlberta theatre productions can be performed.

New sound laboratory to be the first of its kind at UAlberta

Scott Smallwood, music professor and director of the Sound Studies Institute, shared details about the new Sound3 Lab that is scheduled to begin construction in 2021. This cutting edge recording studio promises new opportunities in acoustic research, from virtual reality to video games to interactive sound archives, to name just a few.

From building aircrafts to creating art from solid steel

Selene Huff was originally a journeyman welder, building aircraft mufflers and exhaust systems, before becoming an MFA candidate in the Department of Art & Design. In this story, Huff shares how she created the intricate metal sculptures in her FAB Gallery exhibit, Formed.

Drama alumna Beth Graham named new Lee Playwright in Residence

BFA Acting alumna Beth Graham (‘95 BA, ‘98 BFA) returned to the Department of Drama to become the sixth Lee Playwright in Residence. The award-winning playwright and performer began her three-year residency in September, which will culminate in an original play commissioned for the BFA Acting class of 2023.

University of Alberta Choral Director Timothy Shantz (VIDEO)

Recently appointed UAlberta Choral Director Timothy Shantz talks about continuing the outstanding legacy of Leonard Ratzlaff who retired this year. In this video interview, Shantz introduces the different UAlberta choral groups, and explains how he helps the students build their own voices.

FAB Gallery exhibit Patterns Within challenges how we interpret nature

Alumna Kathleen Murray’s (‘20 MFA) FAB Gallery exhibit, Patterns Within, blends acrylic painting and woodcarving inspired by the landscapes of Algoma, Ontario. In this artist profile, Murray shares how the Faculty of Arts helped her grow as an artist by giving her access to many interdisciplinary resources.

Leveraging artistic methods with interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle social and climate justice

Art & Design associate professor Natalie Loveless was named a Member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists by the Royal Society of Canada. Loveless discusses the value of research-creation — the importance of interdisciplinary minds collaborating with the Fine Arts to make meaningful impacts on global issues.

Chrysothemis publicity photos by Ian Jackson/EPIC Photography.