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    Making themselves the subjects

    Bertha May Ingle, Self-Portrait, around 1902, oil on canvas.

    When The Artist Herself: Self-Portraits by Canadian Historical Women Artists opens at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (the Agnes) on May 8, it will not only showcase the art of 42 women artists who produced work from the late 18th century through until the mid-1960s – it will also pay tribute to an exhibition that made history 40 years ago.

    With The Artist Herself, co-curators Alicia Boutilier, Curator of Canadian Historical Art at the Agnes, and Tobi Bruce of the Art Gallery of Hamiltion set out to mark the anniversary of From Women’s Eyes: Women Painters in Canada, an exhibition unveiled at the Agnes in 1975.

    “It was really the first exhibition to look at the history of women’s art production in Canada,” says Ms. Boutilier, “and it’s now recognized as a landmark exhibition for Canadian feminist art history.”

    Paraskeva Clark, Myself, 1933, oil on canvas.

    Rather than merely mounting a broad follow-up exhibit on women’s art, however, Ms. Boutilier and Ms. Bruce chose to refine their focus on looking exclusively at women’s self-portraits.

    “There have been many international exhibitions on the subject, but there has never been a project to focus on women’s self-portraits in Canada,” explains Ms. Boutilier.

    Instead of just assembling a collection of self-portraits, the curators decided to expand their definition of what it means for an artist to depict herself in her work. While the exhibition includes more traditional self-portraits, including the 1933 painting Myself, in which the artist, Paraskeva Clark, leans jauntily in a door frame, it also includes less conventional depictions, including an early self-portrait by Emily Carr, in which she depicts herself standing at an easel from the back, and a mid-1930s painting by Pegi Nicol MacLeod in which only the artist’s torso and hand are visible.

    The exhibition includes needlework ‘samplers’ that would have been created by young colonial women who were honing their domestic skills, because, as Ms. Boutilier explains, each one includes an element of individuality and tells you something about the woman who created it. It also includes two costumes – an “Indian princess” costume and a Victorian-era dress worn by Pauline Johnson, a 19th-century poet of Mohawk and British heritage, when she was performing her poetry for settler audiences.

    Bobs Cogill Haworth, Self Portrait, 1936, oil on linen.

    “She would perform her dual identity,” says Ms. Boutilier. “She used the performances as a way to educate her audiences on the atrocities indigenous people were facing.”

    The exhibition is designed to take the visitor on a meandering path designed to elicit questions. “It is not intended to be a comprehensive history or retrospective,” she explains. “We really are proposing possibilities. We want people to think ‘what makes this a self-portrait’?”

    The exhibition concludes with a portrait by Inuit artist Pitseolak Ashoona, in which the artist is depicted with a friend, both women holding up drawings.

    “It is a clear depiction of the artist as an artist,” says Ms. Boutilier. “Women in art history have so often been the object with the male artist as the subject. For a woman to depict herself as the artist is a powerful assertion of her own identity."

    The Artist Herself: Self-Portraits by Canadian Historical Women Artists runs from May 2 – August 9, 2015 at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Also on-view is I’m Not Myself At All: Deirdre Logue and Allyson Mitchell, an exploration of sexual identity and domesticity curated by Sarah E. K. Smith, and Vanitas: Margaret Lock, an exhibition of prints by the long-time Kingston artist, curated by Sunny Kerr

    For more information, visit the Agnes Etherington Art Centre's website

    Conference looks at creativity and mental illness

    [Dr. William Kenny]
    William Kenny (Psychiatry) is hosting Creativity and the Mind, a conference looking at mental illness and creativity, at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on Friday. (University Communications)

    As a professor at Queen’s and counsellor for the past four years at Health, Counselling and Disability Services, William Kenny (Psychiatry) has been immersed in the workings of the mind, including when it comes to mental health and creativity.

    On Friday, Dr. Kenny is hosting the academic conference Creativity and the Mind, the first of its kind at the university, which will take a closer look at mental health from a spectrum of approaches.

    The conference is inspired by similar events Dr. Kenny has attended in the United States that offered a view of mental health and treatment at odds with the mainstream approach where a patient is assessed and often treated with a pill.

    This will be the focus of Creativity and the Mind, Dr. Kenny says.

    “The conference is an attempt to bring together mental health people, artists, scientists, people who look at this from a different management (perspective), as well as the general public, and then try to come to grips with ‘What do we mean? How do people think?’ this sense of ‘What are we understanding, what are we labelling?’ and trying to broaden the dialogue, really, about mental illness both from a scientific standpoint and a humanistic standpoint within the general public.”

    A conference he attended in Syracuse, NY, brought together mental health professionals and creative people, including a poet and a professor in fashion. It changed not only the way Dr. Kenny viewed mental health treatment but the links with creativity as well.

    “Whenever I visit an art museum, especially modern art, which really deconstructs the mind actually, I come away a better therapist, with a better way of approaching people,” he says.

    The Queen’s event, held at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC), will follow a similar path and offer a broad range of discussions connected to mental health and creativity.

    One example is Anne Koval, a professor of art history at Mount Allison University and a poet herself. Her discussion will be on ekphrastic poetry, a form where the writer focuses on a visual work of art.

    During the interactive sessions following her talk, Dr. Koval will lead a group to different paintings within the AEAC and encourage them to write their own poetry.

    The key for the day, Dr. Kenny says, will be for participants to be willing to explore a wide range of ideas.

    “They should come with an open mind, hopefully, and also a hopeful one,” he says. “Instead of seeing mental illness as a dead end, they’re seeing that it can open a doorway to understanding ourselves better, not just people who have an emotional illness.”

    Creativity and mental illness have long been linked. Dr. Kenny explains there is a theory that the link is genetic but that the gene can affect members of the same family very differently.

    “Creativity is usually the product of off-the-wall thinking, asynchronous thinking, for creative people.  Whether it is an artist or Steve Jobs, they think out of the box, so they are (considered) a genius,” he says. “Well that same out-of the-box thinking in another member of the family, they are overwhelmed, they can’t deal with it and therefore they develop an  illness as opposed to their brother, sister or cousin who becomes a very creative force.”

    The all-day conference starts at 8 am and will conclude around 5:30 pm. Registration is required for the conference. Fees are: $140 - Mental Health Professionals/Family Physicians; $90 - General Public; $70 - Students/Residents

    Beginnings and endings

    • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
      Francesca Pang and her painting "Apertures of Interest".
    • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
      Emily Gong creates a meditative sand mandala.
    • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
      Jonas Azeredo Lobo, "Eu Tembem Era Grande".
    • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
      Iris Fryer, "Untitled".
    • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
      Lauren Rosentzveig, "Standoff", "Withhold", "Conceal".

    The culmination of four years of study, creativity and hard work is on display this week as the graduating class from the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program hosts their annual year-end exhibition.

    Begin Anywhere has transformed Ontario Hall into an art gallery featuring the work of 20 fourth-year students. There is an impressive range and depth to the artworks, from delicate fabrics and multi-layered print to paintings that take up an entire wall and a massive male form created out of layer upon layer of wood.

    According to Otis Tamasauskas, a professor in the BFA program, the exhibition marks a transition point in the students’ lives and potential careers.

    “This is their moment, where they get to participate as professionals,” he says. “This is what the program has been culminating to: to get them to be professionals. That’s the end result.”

    He adds that the exhibition also offers an “oasis,” where students, staff and faculty, as well as the public, can step away from the status quo and absorb the creative works.

    Paintings, sculpture, prints and mixed-media installations “physically and intellectually illuminate” the halls and rooms of the building.

    Reflecting on the graduating class, Professor Tamasauskas says they are a “good group,” adding that a number of students will be moving on to post-graduate studies in Saskatchewan, Calgary, Montreal and New Zealand.

    “They sort of live through the credence of creativity. You have to be independent, and individual, you have to think outside of the box. Well, they certainly do,” he says. “They have maintained their individuality after the four years. It shows. They definitely are more sophisticated and mature in their interpretations of aesthetics now.”

    For Francesca Pang (BFA’15), the exhibition not only marks the end of her studies at Queen’s but a new beginning as an artist on her own. She says she has learned a lot about herself through the process as well.

    “It’s very rewarding I think. It really helps me figure out how I see my art and how people are going to be able to view it. I think setting something up like this it becomes very professional,” she says. “I think for myself, seeing my work up like this in relation to each other, I’m seeing the original intent of my work and then, as a series, how they are coming together.”

    Begin Anywhere continues through to Saturday, April 25 at Ontario Hall 9 am-4 pm daily. A closing reception will be held on Saturday from 7-10pm. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

    What's old is new again

    More than 400 students have graduated from Queen’ University’s Master in Art Conservation (MAC) program and founder Ian Hodkinson has proudly kept track of many of them. For 40 years, graduates of MAC - the only program like it in Canada - have gone on to important positions at museums all over the world.

    “We have students in key museum positions all over,” says Mr. Hodkinson with a smile. “I’m just over the moon with how this program has turned out thanks largely to the talented colleagues who helped get it started and have improved it over the years.”

    Mr. Hodkinson felt there was a better way to train conservators than he had experienced and realized that Queen’s had all the ingredients necessary for an integrated interdisciplinary conservator training program within the Department of Art. In 1970 he met with Duncan Sinclair- then Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, who encouraged him to approach then Principal John Deutsch with his proposal

    Second year students Laura Hashimoto (l) and Lauren Buttle discuss a painting with Ian Hodkinson during a visit last week.

    “He was enthusiastic about the idea so we continued the process of approval,” says Mr. Hodkinson. “I presented the proposal within Queen’s and to various organizations and levels of government – 28 times in all – until it was approved.”

    However it was not until 1972 with the announcement of a new National Museums Policy and the creation of the Museums Assistance Program that funding became available to realize the dream

    The first intake of 12 students was in 1974 and the first cohort graduated in 1976. The students spent the first year in the basement of Gordon Hall before the program moved to its current location on Bader Lane, behind the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

    Rona Rustige, Curator of Cultural Property at the Glanmore National Historic Site in Belleville, has worked with Queen’s MAC students for more than 25 years. She has first-hand knowledge of the skill and dedication of the students as they have worked on a wide range of Glanmore pieces.

    “When Queen’s works on our pieces, I always put them proudly on display, they never go back into storage,” says Ms. Rustige.  “Queen’s has worked on about 100 of our pieces. It’s expensive to get conservation work done so we are fortunate Queen’s has such an exemplary program. Museums just don’t have a lot of money to spend on conservation.”

    Ms. Rustige said it’s also a benefit Queen’s has three streams of conservation – fine art, paper and objects. Glanmore currently has nine pieces undergoing conservation at Queen’s.

    On a recent visit to the MAC labs, Mr. Hodkinson took a number of opportunities to interact with students and ask questions about their work. The professor emeritus says his favourite memories are summers spent with his students, doing internship work in the field. Two project highlights include the conservation of The Croscup Room, a group of scenic wall murals in Nova Scotia, now in the National Gallery of Canada, and the Church of Our Lady of Good Hope in the Northwest Territories. The church is now a national historic site.

    “Those are special memories. They were wonderful experiences for the students,” says Mr. Hodkinson, “and an important extension of their studies in the labs at Queen’s to help them achieve the success that they have.”

    The public is welcome to visit the MAC labs and interact with staff and students during the open house Saturday, April 25 from 12:30-2 pm.

    Queen's University offers the only Master of Art Conservation program in Canada. Students specialize in the conservation of paintings, artifacts or paper objects or carry out research, for example in conservation science.

    A hidden gem

    • Masters of Art Conservation students work to prepare a mural by Kenneth Hensley Holmden (1893-1963) for removal from 16 Bath Rd.
      Master of Art Conservation students work to prepare a mural by Kenneth Hensley Holmden (1893-1963) for removal from 16 Bath Rd.
    • The image of a Mediterranean port is 3.4 by 1.8 metres and was created using oil paint on a canvas which was then affixed to a plaster wall.
      The image of a Mediterranean port is 3.4 by 1.8 metres and was created using oil paint on a canvas which was then affixed to a plaster wall.
    • A Master of Art Conservation student prepares the mural for removal from the wall.
      A Master of Art Conservation student prepares the mural for removal from the wall.
    • Mural being removed.
      The mural was slowly removed from the wall and wrapped around a large cardboard cylinder for transportation.
    • Mural is tied up
      After the mural was wrapped around the cylinder, it was secured to prepare for transportation.
    • Removing the mural from 16 Bath Rd.
      Removing the mural from 16 Bath Rd. took about three hours in total, which included two hours of preparation and one hour of removal.
    • Group shot
      Seven Master of Art Conservation students will have the opportunity to restore the painting under the supervision of an art conservation professor.

    It came as a surprise to renovators when, on a wintry day in Kingston, they uncovered a Mediterranean port hidden behind a false wall.

    The Mediterranean port makes up the scene on a long-forgotten, 3.4 by 1.8 metre oil on canvas mural that had hung hidden behind the wall at 16 Bath Rd. for approximately 40 years. Queen’s students will have the opportunity to give the painting a new lease on life by the Springer Group of Companies, the property owner which has donated the mural to the Master of Art Conservation Program.

    “Restoring this painting is a perfect degree of complexity for a beginner’s project,” says Michael O’Malley, a professor of painting conservation. Restoration is expected to take about 100 hours or more.

    Kenneth Hensley Holmden (1893-1963) is the artist behind the mural. Born in Ottawa to British parents, Mr. Holmden is credited for his decorative murals in Montreal and in the original Ruby Foos Restaurant, the now demolished York Cinema, and the Imperial Bank of Canada building on St. Jacques Street. One of his works is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

    “The painting is not in great condition. It has a very yellowed varnish, some tears and flaking paint, and a small missing section of the canvas in the lower left corner,” says Amandina Anastassiades, assistant professor of art conservation (artifacts) at Queen’s. “However, in its present condition the mural is of great value to the Art Conservation Program. It will provide a wonderful opportunity for Queen’s University and the students of its Art Conservation Program to be involved in preserving a piece of Kingston and Canadian heritage through the rescue and conservation of a large painted mural by a well-known Canadian artist.”

    Removing the mural from 16 Bath Rd. took about three hours, which included two hours of preparation and one hour of physically removing the canvas from the plaster that had been its home since the building housed the attached diner for the then-Kingston Bus Terminal.

    “I remember visiting the diner with my grandfather when I was younger and now we’re happy to be able to donate the mural to the Master of Art Conservation Program,” says Bryon Springer of the Springer Group of Companies.

    For now, the mural will be restored in the labs of the Master of Art Conservation Program on campus, where a team of seven students under the supervision of the incoming professor of paintings conservation will restore the mural to its former glory.

    Upon further investigation, the mural was found to be based on an image originally created by artist William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854) entitled Fish Market, Toronto.

    Queen's University offers the only Master of Art Conservation program in Canada. Students specialize in the conservation of paintings, artifacts or paper objects or carry out research in conservation science. 

    Setting the stage for a second season

    Pianist Angela Hewitt is among those performing as part of the Isabel's second season.

    Grammy-winning American pianist Emanuel Ax, dynamic jazz artist Jane Bunnett and the internationally beloved classical music ensemble the Gryphon Trio will be among those gracing the stage at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts as part of the 2015-2016 musical season.

    The season includes a piano series and an ensemble series, as well as a new global salon series and one devoted to jazz artists. 2015-2016 will mark the Isabel’s second performance season. 

    “Some of the most inspiring creativity of our time happens when disciplines intersect,” says Tricia Baldwin, Director at the Isabel, “and the Isabel reflects this by presenting arts that push beyond our Western traditions, offering a broader international experience for the students and audiences at large.”

    The Isabel, which was designed to nurture creative work across artistic disciplines, showcases this emphasis with programming that straddles genres and art forms. The 2015-2016 season includes Tafelmusik’s aural and visual extravaganza House of Dreams, created with the Banff Centre and five European partners including Handel House in London, UK, and the Toronto Consort’s time-travelling Silk Road adventure, The Marco Polo Project, with members of Sampradaya Dance and Autorickshaw.

    The Dover Quartet is included in the Isabel's Ensemble Series.

    World-renowned pianist Angela Hewitt, virtuoso-organist Cameron Carpenter, and the 15-piece Lemon Bucket Orkestra, the “jazz-balkan-klezmer-gypsy-party-super-band,” will all perform as part of the season, along with the Dover Quartet, winners of the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition.

    The season’s theatrical offerings include the smash hit musical 2 Pianos, 4 Hands, Soulpepper Theatre’s Frankly, Sinatra, and the world premiere of Judith Thompson’s play The Convict Lover, produced by Theatre Kingston. The season also features several co-productions, including a lecture/performance by renowned Aboriginal writer, playwright and musician Tomson Highway with the Kingston WritersFest, and two yet-to-be-announced pop concerts, for which the Isabel will partner with the AMS.

    Additional offerings for the 2015-2016 season will include three programmes as part of the Queen’s School of Music Faculty Artists Series, as well as concerts by School of Music student ensembles.

    Subscription packages for the 2015-2016 are now on sale at the Isabel’s Box Office, or by calling 613-533-2424 (M-F, 12:30-4:30pm). Subscriptions will be available for purchase online beginning May 18, 2015. Single tickets will be available for purchase on September 1, 2015. 

    For more information visit the Isabel’s website.



    Sharing ideas worth spreading

    With nothing but a few slides to back them up, 15 members of the Queen’s community will take to the stage this Sunday to share some ideas worth spreading. These presenters are taking part in the fifth annual TEDxQueensU conference, an event dedicated to talks about technology, entertainment and design.

    Last year's TEDx conference featured a talk by Rachel Wayne, a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology. (Photo Supplied)

    “This is a community event that builds a platform for people to share ideas, create and innovate together,” says Tom Edgerton (Artsci’15), Director of TEDxQueensU. “It’s a great chance to highlight Queen’s and Kingston’s talent, and there’s a lot of real-time collaboration that happens here.”

    Mr. Edgerton, who’s been involved with TEDx since his first year of study, says this year’s conference is set to be the biggest and best one yet. While there have been TEDx conferences happening at Queen’s for five years now, the event has undergone massive growth this year, nearly quadrupling in size. Held for the first time in the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, the event is still dedicated to encouraging curiosity, inspiring the exchange of ideas and celebrating dynamic thinking.

    The event is comprised of brief talks, usually between 15 and 20 minutes, delivered by students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the Queen’s community. The talks are followed by opportunities for the audience to meet and speak with one another as well as the presenters.

    To better reach those who aren’t able to make it to campus, the conference will also be live-streamed through the TEDxQueensU website.

    “This is a student event, but this is also one of the greatest vehicles we have to show campus, our school and the research and innovation happening here to people around the world,” says Mr. Edgerton.

    The speakers at this year’s event come from a diverse array of backgrounds that includes people like Afraj Gill (Comm’15) and Beverly Thomson. Mr. Gill is a technology entrepreneur who’s co-founded two tech companies and written for the Globe and Mail and Business Insider, while Ms. Thomson is a broadcast journalist, philanthropist, and co-host of Canada AM, CTV’s national morning news show.

    “It doesn’t matter who you are,” says Mr. Edgerton. “If you have an idea worth spreading, we want you on the stage to share it with us, why we should care and how it will work.”

    TEDxQueensU will be held on SundayMarch 29 at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

    More information and a schedule of the day’s events can be found on their website.

    Tickets can be purchased through an online vendor

    Celebrating Indigenous arts and culture

    •  Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance
      The Tyendinaga Singers lead the opening dance of the Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance at the Tett Centre on Saturday.
    •  Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance
      The Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance held at the Tett Centre on Saturday capped Aboriginal Awareness Week at Queen's.
    •  Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance
      A women's traditional dancer performs at the Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance at the Tett Centre on Saturday.
    •  Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance
      It was a day of colour, music and dance at the Tett Centre during the Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance.
    •  Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance
      A men's traditional dancer performs at the Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance at the Tett Centre on Saturday.
    •  Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance
      One of the dance forms performed at the Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance was the Prairie Chicken Dance.

    It was a day of dancing, music and colour as the Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance was held Saturday at the newly-opened Tett Centre.

    Queen's University marked Aboriginal Awareness Week from March 16-21, which was organized by the Queen's Native Students' Association.

    Along with crafts and traditional food vendors, the celebration offered up performances – including traditional, fancy and jingle forms – from Haudenosaunee and Anishnabe groups.

    When research goes pop

    Dr. Robert Morrison

    At the intersection of academic research and popular culture comes the resurrection of a long dead opium eater.

    The opium eater in question is the 19th century English essayist Thomas De Quincey, known for his autobiography Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. De Quincey also happens to be Queen’s professor Robert Morrison’s academic raison d’être and the subject of novelist David Morrell’s two latest books.

    Dr. Morrell, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Iowa, turns back the clock to Victorian England in his book Murder as a Fine Art (2013) to write about De Quincey as the suspect in a gruesome murder case. In his newest book, Inspector of the Dead (2015), Morrell follows De Quincey as he races to halt an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria.

    The timing was perfect as when Dr. Morrell was beginning research for his De Quincey-inspired novel, Dr. Morrison was releasing his biography of De Quincey, The English Opium-Eater.

    After Dr. Morrison offered his research expertise to Dr. Morrell to ensure the historical accuracy of the novels, both of Dr. Morrell’s books were co-dedicated to Dr. Morrison. Now, the burgeoning interest in De Quincey as a result of the novels means Dr. Morrison’s research, his biography and a new edition of De Quincey’s finest essays forthcoming with Oxford University Press, are reaching an ever-widening audience.  

    “The relationship between my scholarship and David’s fiction is a very good example of the ways in which academic research can reach out to and eventually shape popular culture,” says Dr. Morrison, a professor in the Department of English. “Research in the humanities matters because it deepens our understanding of the past, and often triggers imaginative and fictive engagements that inform the present and future. Society, for example, has been struggling for a long time with the issue of addiction. From different angles, David and I try to reveal the history and impact of that struggle.”

    While the two have never actually met in person, emails back and forth for the last four years have kept their academic affiliation a prime example of how scholarly research can aid in the development of pop culture, and how pop culture frequently capitalizes on information and insights brought forward by scholarly research in the Humanities.

    “When I was researching for these novels I had access to a variety of materials, but nothing compares to the kind of information Robert was able to provide me with,” says Dr. Morrell, whose debut novel First Blood saw the introduction of the action hero John Rambo. “To me, Rob comes across as the kind of professor that every student should want to spend hours with.”

    Both Dr. Morrison and Dr. Morrell are big proponents when it comes to the importance of an education in the humanities or liberal arts.

    “A humanities or liberal arts education is something of an education in cultural survival. We’re teaching an open, creative and vital approach to culture so that we’re not sleepwalking through life but instead engaging with the world around us and moving forward,” says Dr. Morrell.

    Inspector of the Dead will be released on March 24, 2015. For more information on Robert Morrison’s research, please follow this link.

    Giller Prize winner visits campus

    Equipped with his whirring theremin, the winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Sean Michaels, visited campus on Friday.

    Sean Michaels performs a short song on his theremin. (University Communications)

    Mr. Michaels, whose debut novel Us Conductors received one of Canada’s top literary prizes, kept an audience at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre riveted with a lecture, reading and question and answer period. He even gave a brief performance on his theremin, an instrument that plays a central role in Us Conductors.

    The novel tells the mostly true story of Lev Termen, the Russian scientist, inventor and spy who created the theremin, as he rises to prominence in the Soviet Union and moves to the United States to promote his new electronic instrument and perform espionage for the Russian government.

    Though not a musician himself, music has been important to Mr. Michaels’ career. He created one of the internet’s first mp3 music blogs, Said the Gramophone, and the creation and performance of music runs throughout Us Conductors.

    “I guess I took the easier path, in that I wasn’t particularly gifted in performing music and I didn’t take that much pleasure from it,” Mr. Michaels says. “Playing music never clicked that strongly, whereas writing does … To me [making music] is less fun than being alone with my adjectives.”

    That preference for writing has served him well, making him only the second debut novelist ever to win the Giller Prize, something he’s still in disbelief about.

    “The Giller feels like something that happened to me, rather than something I actually did,” he says. “I’ve always wanted three things from my writing career: to produce work which I feel is good, to connect through my writing to other people, and to be able to have enough of a readership that I can support myself to write. The Giller’s made the third one that much easier.”

    Mr. Michaels’ visit was facilitated by the Department of English Language and Literature, which has hosted the recipient of the Giller Prize annually for eight years. 


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