woman in labAustralian artist Ionat Zurr participated in an online “hangout” as one of the BioArt Kitchen events in October 2020.

Researcher exploring arts audience engagement in pandemic age

Arts organizations across Canada and internationally are reeling with the complex impact the COVID 19 pandemic has on production, live performance, audience engagement, marketing, and sales.

Artists have risen to the challenge, using their creativity, research, and experimentation to engage audiences virtually.

For UWindsor professor Jennifer Willet, it’s an opportunity for new research through a Partnership Engage Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

“The arts have played a massive role during the pandemic engaging people online and helping to keep morale up during this time of isolation,” says Dr. Willet, director of Incubator Art Lab and a Canada Research Chair in Art, Science, and Ecology. Her specialty is BioArt, which uses living biological material as its media.

Engage grants support projects pairing post-secondary researchers with non-academic organizations to share expertise. Willet’s grant is a partnership between Incubator Art Lab and Mireille Bourgeois’ Halifax creative agency and gallery, Iota Institute.

“As an industry partner, Mireille has a dilemma. She has this schedule and these artists are booked,” says Willet. “How does she go virtual? This is a partnership. We’ve come together to research and expand Iota’s series into a cutting-edge engagement. These are enlivened by our practices through virtual means.”

To help both Incubator and Iota innovate during the pandemic, Willet has been experimenting with online workshops and creative presentations.

“We are doing lots of virtual workshops,” she says. “We made a mini paper laboratory. It’s a replica of the lab downtown (in the SoCA Armouries) and we did an online workshop with Science Gallery Detroit where people could download the plans and build a mini lab in their home.”

Willet made a video for the participants.

“I go over the piece and how we made it and how to put it together. I explain how to interact with your paper lab as a weirdo BioArtist. In mine, I’m pouring yogurt into the paper lab, leaving it outside for the critters to get,” laughs Willet. “Doing things like that to it. If we can’t go to the art, we’ll bringing the art to you.”

BioArt has always had workshops to teach techniques; now they have moved online. Some use things you can find in your refrigerator and others mail participants a kit of materials in advance.

The new funding will enable the research group to work with Iota to create a longer and more in-depth series, called “The BioArt Kitchen Hang Out.” Student employees paid from the $24,953 grant funding are conducting focus testing of the workshops.

Willet believes that future workshops and exhibitions will take a hybrid form with in-person and online elements.

“Maybe you ask people to watch a video that you’ve produced ahead of time and then they show up live,” she suggests. “Perhaps you incorporate artists from say, Copenhagen, online with live artists locally. There are layers of engagement. I think post-pandemic I’ll teach my BioArt class as a hybrid with in-person and online elements.”

—Susan McKee

computer screen displaying virtual Relay for LifeThe University of Windsor’s first-ever virtual Relay for Life event raised $18,288 — and counting — for cancer research.

Virtual Relay for Life raises more than $18,000 for cancer research

The University of Windsor’s first-ever virtual Relay for Life event, March 26, raised $18,288 — and counting — for cancer research.

The annual effort engages the campus community to raise funds in support of the Canadian Cancer Society. Fundraising efforts take place throughout the year leading up to the actual event each year in March.

After the 2020 Relay for Life final event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, co-chairs Sarah Columbus and Carley Elder and the Relay for Life committee made the decision to host the event virtually.

“We had an all-star committee,” says Cindy Crump, director of the Student Success and Leadership Centre. “They worked tirelessly over the last several months to get to this point, adapting and adjusting to constantly changing restrictions, and I had no doubt that they would be able to put together a wonderful event.”

With more than 100 registered participants, the virtual event took place over Zoom and included a survivor ceremony, meditation, yoga, Zumba, musical performances, a luminary ceremony, and more.

Special guests included UWindsor student Erica Bailey, a Relay for Life committee member and childhood cancer survivor, and Chantelle Bacon, co-founder and co-owner of the Fight Like Mason Foundation.

During the event, Concurrent for the Cure was crowned the top fundraising team for raising more than $2,200, with Ed Socs Out Cancer, representing the Education Society, close behind with a total of $2,030 raised.

The top individual fundraiser was Lauren Keller, who brought in almost $1,500.

To date, the University of Windsor Relay for Life has raised more than $118,000 towards cancer research, but the event goes beyond just the fundraising, says Columbus.

“It is an event that unites a collective of Canadians who are a force for life in the face of cancer, allowing participants of all ages to come together and celebrate the survivors in our communities, who send a powerful message of hope for those living with the disease, while also honouring and remembering those we’ve lost to cancer,” she says.

Donations to this year's Relay for Life program are still accepted at relayforlife.ca/uwindsor.

Interested in getting involved with next year’s Relay for Life? Email relayforlife@uwindsor.ca.

—Sarah Hébert

new moon in sky over mosqueThe Muslim Chaplaincy is launching programs to support students during the month of Ramadan, which begins this week.

Muslim chaplaincy preparing Ramadan programming

The Muslim Chaplaincy is launching programs to support students during the month of Ramadan, which begins this week.

Chaplain Yousef Wahb will share short reflections on “The Mysteries of Fasting” over Instagram Live each Wednesday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tune in at instagram.com/mcuwindsor.

The chaplaincy is also working with the Muslim Students Association and community organizations to provide UWindsor students with iftar, the evening meal to break the fast. Find details and an application at bit.ly/iftarsuwindsor.

More information on these Ramadan observances is available on the program website.

photo of Dillon HallThe deadline to apply for a $10,000 Anti-Black Racism Student Leadership Experience Grant is May 2.

Committee extends deadline to apply for Anti-Black Racism Student Leadership Experience Grant

Organizers of the Anti-Black Racism Student Leadership Experience Grants have extended the application deadline for its five $10,000 awards to Sunday, May 2.

“We are mindful of the pressure placed on members of our campus community, especially this time of year due to exams and end-of-semester details to adhere to,” says Marium Tolson-Murtty, strategic planning officer for anti-Black racism initiatives. “In addition, the new COVID lockdown restrictions are taking a toll on all of us.”

The program is intended to foster student-led research and leadership skills, enhance student engagement and the student experience, and assist in the training of highly creative and motivated students.

Applicants must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Student at the University of Windsor
  • Black-led community organization
  • UWindsor faculty or student service

Review the full details, eligibility, and application procedures online.

New dean to head engineering in September

Bill Van Heyst will take up the office of dean of the UWindsor Faculty of Engineering effective Sept. 1, provost Douglas Kneale announced Monday.

Dr. Van Heyst is currently a professor in the School of Engineering and associate dean for external relations in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Guelph.

Dr. Kneale described Van Heyst as an experienced administrator and recognized educator.

“His vision for the faculty — improving the world through engineering to be a better planet for our children — illustrates his desire for ensuring long-term sustainability for the Faculty of Engineering and for the benefit of the University and the greater community,” Kneale wrote in a message to the campus community.

He plans a follow-up announcement soon about an acting dean for the months of July and August.

pancakes shaped like Mickey MouseA tip from Human Resources suggests ways to become a mindful eater.

Message offers tips for mindful eating

When we feel anxious, angry, sad, or lonely, we may turn to food for comfort, but that can provide only temporary relief, advises Human Resources in a message sent Monday to UWindsor staff and faculty.

It suggests tips from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada to help refocus your eating patterns and become a mindful eater:

  • Write it down. Start a food and mood journal to keep track of what and how much you eat, and how you are feeling when you eat.
  • Break the cycle. If you identify a negative pattern, take steps to change it.
  • Ditch the distractions. When you are eating, turn off all screens and focus on your food to enjoy every bite.
  • Rate then bite. Are you really hungry or just bored?
  • Go slow. Changing longstanding habits takes time and commitment.

Learn how to break the habit of stress-eating in the Wellness Tip of the Week.