Issue No. 1, Creative & Performing Arts, September 2022
Dr. Cheryl Collier, Dean, Faculty of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Welcome to the inaugural issue of The FAHSS View!
In this first edition, we provide a glimpse into the new, exciting, and ongoing research activities, performances, and immersive learning opportunities in the Creative and Performing Arts inside of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Windsor.
Since I assumed the role of Dean of FAHSS in July 2021, I have been so very impressed and inspired by the fabulous creative work of our amazing students, faculty, and staff in our Schools of Creative and Dramatic Arts. This work did not slow down despite the pandemic and as we return to in-person learning and creative performances we invite our campus and Windsor Essex community members and alumni to join us in experiencing and celebrating the exceptional creative activity inside of the Arts in FAHSS.
Please check out our events calendars in SoCA and University Players at the end of this newsletter. I hope to see many of you at one of our upcoming events this Fall!
Watch for our next editions of FAHSS View featuring our other core areas in FAHSS to come including the Humanities and Culture and the Social Sciences and Professional Studies. We have so much to share with you in FAHSS!
Dr. Cheryl Collier
Emma Chenier, Honours Bachelor of Music (Music Education), with distinction
GEM Recipient Creative and Performing Arts
This spring the FAHSS LEAD Scholars program awarded “Going the Extra Mile” or GEM awards to one student from each of FAHSS’s three academic pillars: “Creative & Performing Arts,” “Humanities & Culture,” and Social Sciences & Professional Studies” in recognition of their academic standing and leadership activities.
The LEAD Medallion Scholars program recognizes undergraduate students in good standing who have excelled within and beyond the classroom. To earn a medallion, recipients will have demonstrated Leadership, Engagement, Application and Discovery during their time as an undergrad student in FAHSS.
Emma Chenier is fond of a quote from US President John F. Kennedy, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
Chenier graduated in June from the honours program, Bachelor of Music, Performance (BMus-performance) with a minor in History and has been accepted into UWindsor’s Faculty of Education starting in the fall in the primary junior (JK/Grade 6) program.
“I've always loved music,” says Chenier. “I've been playing piano since I was four, but the [music] program really showed me that there was an opportunity to have a career in music rather than just see it as a hobby or pastime.
As a high school student Chenier played baritone saxophone in UWindsor’s Honour Jazz Band. The band was directed by Robert “Bob” Fazecash.
“It was fun, a great program. I think it was the deciding factor for me for going into jazz,” says Chenier.
Her main goal entering university was to be part of the UWindsor community, not just as a musician, but also as someone in academics and extracurricular activities.
“For the past four years, I've been involved in the Outstanding Scholars (OS) program. I just finished off my position as Communications Officer External, which was super exciting,” she explains. “I got to engage with a lot of students as well as Dr. Simon Du Toit and Dr. Tim Brunet, both fantastic people. They both provided me with opportunities outside the program as well, so that was great to engage with them in a different light.
"I worked with the Student Success and Leadership Centre and helped with different events on campus like UWill Discover. For example, I played for the closing ceremony this year,” Chenier says. “I've also had opportunities to work with the social media team on Student Success. I was also a student representative on the School of Creative Arts (SoCA) faculty council. I've been on a renewal, tenure, and promotions committee, which was enjoyable. I didn't think I'd ever see myself sitting in either of these roles, but because of the small class sizes and the smaller SoCA community, it's been a really great way to connect with my professors.”
As a music student, Chenier enjoyed hanging out with friends, jamming with them, and performing in concerts.
As an Outstanding Scholar, Chenier was a peer mentor to five students (2019-2022), and Communication Officer External on the OS Student Council (2021-2022); she held the role of VP Promotions for Crafting for a Cure UWindsor (2021-2022); was a member of Lancer Band and the band’s librarian until activities ended due to COVID; took the Mentorship and Learning course (GART 4000) in fall 2020, and then returned as an undergraduate teaching assistant in fall 2021; and played in a variety of SoCA’s performance ensembles: University Jazz Ensemble (baritone saxophone, piano, 2018-2022), University Wind Ensemble (baritone saxophone, 2018-2019), New Music Workshop Creative Performances (alto saxophone, voice, intersession 2019), and University Singers (alto I, 2022).
“In my opinion, each activity, whether it be academic or not, has allowed me to develop skills that I did not have previously,” says Chenier. “I believe that leadership is not something that one person can obtain without the guidance and mentorship of others. It is impossible to be a leader without lifting those around you.”
Chenier is also an entrepreneur.
“The year after COVID started, I opened a piano studio out of my [parents'] house. I only did it because of the skills I have learned through the program,” says Chenier. “By teaching, I learned that I don't want to teach high school. I've gone from this idea of wanting to teach advanced junior band and helping kids get into university, to wanting to teach primary junior grades. I prefer working with younger students.”
Through her teaching and mentoring experiences in and out of the classroom Chenier realized how much she relied on the skills she had learned. Those secondary soft skills, and the technical skills as well.
“Then in fall 2021, I was a senior mentor (teaching assistant), for the mentorship course, which was in person. So that was an invaluable experience,” says Chenier. “I made a lot of friends there, but I also learned a lot about how to connect with people in a kind and empathetic way.”
Chenier topped off her undergraduate experience as a research assistant with music educators Dr. Janice Waldron and Dr. Danielle Sirek. Sirek and Chenier presented their paper Hands Off! Teacher Stories of Online Elementary Music Education during COVID-19 at the MayDay Group’s International Music Education Conference, Colloquium 33 which was held at the SoCA Armouries June 8-11, 2022.
MFA, Film & Media Arts student Olivier Balmokune: A passion for creating virtual reality
When MFA film and media arts student Olivier Tristan Balmokune defended his thesis on August 29th he broke new ground. Balmokune hasn’t created a film, he has created a virtual reality (VR) experience.
This project incorporated several of his skills and interests – storytelling, learning new software platforms and virtual reality.
“I was always interested in virtual reality, and I've always been doing research on it. So, when it came to doing my master’s thesis, I had a big discussion with my thesis supervisor, Professor Nick Hector,” says Balmokune. “We discussed my desire to take a different angle as opposed to making a short animation or a short film. I decided to go in a different direction and explore immersive narration. Prof. Hector was very encouraging and very supportive. He’s made my MFA experience amazing!”
Then Balmokune started watching a lot of YouTube videos to learn how to do it.
“I have been trained as a creative. So, I have done visual effects before and movie editing, of course,” says Balmokune. “So, this project takes all those skills that I had and morphed to build the virtual reality environment. I've been telling stories since I was a kid. This is going to sound super geeky, but I've been role-playing in Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) games since I was young.“
Pre-pandemic Balmokune planned to shoot live action segments and incorporate that into the animation and into the actual VR experience, melded together. Like an immersive live action experience. But when COVID-19 caused everyone to isolate, he decided to go completely virtual.
“Everything you see has been done virtually,” he explains. “Even the voice acting is done through artificial intelligence (AI). It's not an actual person talking. My project is completely digital, completely virtual, and pretty much everything was done remotely from my house, from my home computer. Everything from the facial expressions, to building the environment, to the talking, to the lip syncing -- that's where you match the lips to the speaking. All that stuff was done on my computer at home.”
The creation process took time because Balmokune was learning as he was making it.
If you compare creating a film to creating virtual reality, when you film something, you might have to build the set, but everything is there. The person is there, their voice exists, when you close the door, the sound of the door closing is there. Everything can be recorded,” he explains. “However, when you're creating VR, all that stuff must be made. So, I must create the character. I must create the voices. I must create even the sound of somebody walking. I must create the sound of the footsteps. Nothing exists on your set until you make it.”
The time it takes to complete Balmokune’s VR experience depends on the person, because it depends on how long a person explores the environment.
“Overall, it's only about three to four minutes long to go through the whole thing” he says. “There are only two puzzles. You listen to some of the characters talking, you're able to explore some stuff and you figure out some puzzles -- about four minutes. And that's been a year's work.
"There is the code that goes behind it. Everything else has code in there, especially if you are going to make things interactive. To be able to have responsive elements there must be enough code behind it to be able to have characters respond to what somebody's doing.”
Researching and creating this thesis project helped Balmokune land a job with Hitachi.
“I'm now a XR developer, so a mixed reality developer. That incorporates virtual reality, augmented reality, that sort of thing, he explains. “I am on the innovation teams right now and I’m working on developing interfaces and applications for wider use. I want to continue exploring the narrative side of immersive narratives.”
Due to current health and safety restrictions, people weren't able to put on VR headsets at Balmokune’s thesis defense.
“I've recorded some friends of mine going through the experience,” says Balmokune. “And then I made a video of myself going through the experience and then talking about what people are doing.”
His support document goes into more technical detail regarding how the virtual experience was created and tested.
Watch a snippet from Olivier Balmokune's VR video
FAHSS film students develop visual, technical, storytelling, and professional workplace skills. They study all aspects of filmmaking in scripted and documentary film, pre-production planning, budget planning, concept development, screenwriting, and screen adaptations; production related directing, cinematography, set design, lighting, sound, and post-production including sound design and editing. They also learn narrative, non-narrative, documentary, and experimental filmmaking traditions and create films based on experimentation with narrative and formal expression.
The university offers both undergraduate and graduate film programs. More information available on these websites:
Did you know UWindsor has an architecture program?
It’s called Visual Art & the Built Environment (VABE) and it is offered as a joint program with the University of Windsor, School of Creative Arts and the University of Detroit Mercy, School of Architecture + Community Development (SACD). Students take classes at both schools and receive a visual arts degree from UWindsor, and a BSc in Architecture from UDM in this combined program.
Courses are taught by architects in this close-knit, niche program. Students have lots of hands-on learning opportunities through co-op, internships, and projects for non-profit groups. Then there’s the option to get your master’s degree from UDM in just one additional year. You must be a Canadian citizen to take part in this program. Visit the VABE website
Alexane Chiasson - talks about the VABE program
Alexane Chiasson talks about the Visual Arts & the Built Environment or VABE program, and the unique opportunities it offers students who have an interest in both art, and architecture.
Art and science collide in microbial exhibition
Dr. Jennifer Willet, Director of the INCUBATOR Art Lab, and professor in the School of Creative Arts (SoCA), has a solo exhibition at Ectopia Gallery in Lisbon, Portugal. "When Microbes Dream" opened September 11, 2022, in partnership with IOTA Institute Gallery.
The exhibition introduces audiences to allegorical visions of biotechnology as a technology of abundance, rooted in interspecies collaboration and bespoke ecologies. Dr. Willet's work reimagines laboratory aesthetics as bountiful, feminine, and gaudy in direct contradiction to scientific norms. Several works will be presented including live specimens in conjunction with performative sculpture, large-scale installations, and a series of digital prints.
This project gratefully acknowledges the support of the University of Windsor, Canada Research Chair Program, Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Trade Commissioners at the Embassy of Canada to Portugal, and the Province of Nova Scotia’s Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
Dr. Willet extends special thanks to INCUBATOR Art Lab team members Billie Mclaughlin, Domenica Mediati, Angela Awada, Jude Abu Zaineh, Lisha Laing, Aleeza Tariq, Kadila Adili, Phil Habashy, Justin Elliott, Michael Lucenkiw, Gillian Hughes, Luke Maddiford, Ashley Hemmings, Megan Andrews, Hadia Nadeem and Lyndsay Mckay for their work on this project.
Camille Armour joined the University of Windsor Advancement Team in the role of Philanthropy & Outreach Coordinator, and Major Gift Officer for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (FAHSS) in April 2021.
Camille joins UWindsor with over twenty years' combined experience in sales, financial services, and philanthropy. She has experience developing and implementing capital campaigns, working with senior level volunteers, and has led and participated in fundraising committees on a vast array of efforts including major gifts, annual appeals, grants, and tribute fundraising.
Camille views herself as an ambassador to the community and is enthusiastic about the opportunity to share news about the great things happening within FAHSS and support the faculty in achieving its fundraising goals.
For more information on how you may support the fundraising efforts of FAHSS, please write to Camille at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Exciting News! Ideas and plans surrounding the future creation of a FAHSS student lounge/hub have begun. Watch for opportunities to share your thoughts on what it should look like.
Creative and Performing Arts
Faculty, staff and students in the Schools of Dramatic Art, and Creative Arts (Visual Arts, Film & Music) have exhibited incredible creativity and resilience in developing and producing curricula and projects in a pandemic environment when in-person, group performances and exhibitions are foundation for their expression. Both departments are benefactors of very generous donations, most of which will be allocated to support students in recognition of academic performance, as well as financial assistance in defraying costs of completing degree requirements.
News from the School of Creative Arts (SoCA includes Visual Arts, Architecture, Film, and Music)
A very generous donation from the Estate of Teresa D. Sheehan has been used to create an endowed academic scholarship, as well as several smaller scholarships to help defray the costs of developing projects and other scholarships to create access (attendance and participation) to curricular and extracurricular activities.
News from the School of Dramatic Art (SoDA)
A generous donation from the Jackman Foundation will be used to create an endowed academic scholarship, scholarships for experiential learning, and various upgrades to Essex Hall, and the Jackman and Essex Theatres.
University Players News
For the past two years, University Players produced digital theatre productions, showcasing the exceptional talents of our students, faculty, and staff. These innovative works introduced us to new technology, connected us with inspiring Canadian artists, and allowed us to give our students unique and challenging opportunities to work in a new medium. We are thrilled to be transitioning back to live theatre with a season filled with Drama and Delight! Join us for contemporary works, family friendly fun, and a classic Shakespeare comedy -- stories that are sure to inspire deep conversations, heartfelt emotion, and much-needed laughter. Visit the University Players’ website to purchase tickets www.universityplayers.com/
Michelle MacArthur- Representation of millennials in arts and culture
A new book edited by School of Dramatic Art professor Michelle MacArthur brings together three Canadian plays that crack open millennial stereotypes and reveal a generation’s varied experiences.
Voices of a Generation got its start through support from the Humanities Research Group (HRG) and recently took centre stage at spring launches presented by Playwrights Canada Press, both on the virtual platform Kumospace and in Lethbridge, Alberta as part of the Canadian Association of Theatre Research conference. “The pandemic may have delayed the publication of this book, but it was worth the wait to share it with colleagues and friends from across the country,” says Dr. MacArthur.
While definitions vary, millennials are generally understood as those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s. As a self-proclaimed “geriatric millennial,” Dr. MacArthur has an intimate understanding of the stereotypes of this generation, from avocado toast to phone addiction.
“There’s a lot of research on millennials in fields like business and sociology, but a dearth of work in the humanities, and specifically in my discipline of theatre and performance studies,” she says. “I’m interested in how plays and performances can complicate our understandings of generations and generational divides.”
MacArthur was inspired to create the collection after seeing TheMillennial Malcontent by Governor General Award-winning playwright Erin Shields at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre in 2017. After successfully pitching her idea for the book to Playwrights Canada Press, she applied for the HRG fellowship in 2019-20 to develop the project, which included a staged reading of Shields’s play during Humanities Week.
The Millennial Malcontent is one of three plays included in the book, which also features works by Anishinaabe playwright Frances Koncan and Alberta-based writer and performer Elena Belyea, critical introductions to each play, and MacArthur’s general introduction about millennials in drama.
Since publishing the anthology, MacArthur has continued her work on millennials in drama, publishing an article on Shields’ The Millennial Malcontent in the spring 2022 issue of the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism and giving a conference paper on millennial adaptations in June. She sees this research as expanding the bourgeoning interest in ageing and age studies within her discipline, which has tended to focus on either theatre for young audiences or performances by seniors but paid little attention to the “middle” generations.
“In addition to laying the groundwork for further research on theatrical representations of millennials, I’m excited by the roles for young people offered in these plays,” she adds. “So often my students have trouble finding scenes and plays with characters close to their age. This book gives them some great options.”
Mia Diciocco, Drama and Education Student
Mia talks about the unique blend of drama and education she’s experienced at UWindsor and the skills she has learned.
Jeremiah McEachrane, BFA Acting Student
BFA Acting student Jeremiah McEachrane completed first year in April 2022. Here he talks about returning to the studio and his favourite memory.
Pandemic recording project "Marimba Collage"
Dr. Nicholas Papador has released several commercial recordings since joining the School of Creative Arts' music faculty, but this release is particularly notable in that all performance and production stages of the project were completed by SoCA students, alumni, and faculty. Visual Arts Professor Catherine Heard created the album cover images. Sample tracks and more details on the Redshift website