So Much Going On!

The last little while has felt like a whirlwind compared to the hermit-like state I’ve been in for most of my sabbatical thus far. Some highlights:

1)Last Friday I attended the Medieval Documents Symposium at Brock. This event was to celebrate the recent discoveries of some medieval documents in our Special Collections as well as some donations of documents to the university. My own area of research is the late 19th C/early 20th C, so it was a real treat to learn about an era so far removed from the one I spend all my time studying. This was a truly fascinating event. First of all, I’m always a little in awe when in the presence of material objects that have survived this long. It kinds of blows my mind! Secondly, the presentations made last Friday really embodied a spirit of interdisciplinary inquiry that I find especially engaging. For example, we heard from some of the folks involved in the DEEDS project at U of T. As I understand it, this is a piece of software that can calculate the approximate age of an undated Medieval charter based on the patterns of language that appear in that document. Very, very cool!

2)The 2010 Niagara Social Justice Forum took place last Saturday. I look forward to this event each year as it brings together faculty, students, staff, community members, activists, etc. for discussions, workshops and a chance to exchange ideas. The food that Strega provided was knock-your-socks-off delicious and it was pretty fantastic to have all that vegan/vegetarian food on campus. I just wish we had these kinds of eats at Brock all the time. Le sigh…

3)This week we had Erika Ritter come to campus to talk about her book, The Dog by the Cradle, The Serpent Beneath: Some Paradoxes of Human-Animal Relationships. This is an amazing book that really delves into the many complexities of human relationships with nonhuman animals, both in our current era and in the past. The event on Tuesday included a lecture but also a discussion where most people in the room had an opportunity to ask questions or offer comments about the multitude of paradoxes that seem to define human-nonhuman relationships. It was a wonderful event, and I left campus that day feeling very energized and couldn’t wait to get back to work on my new research, a topic which is very much related to the themes explored in this book.

4)Tomorrow evening brings another animal-themed event, this time a book launch and fund-raiser. The book being launched is John Sorenson’s book, Ape (from the Reaktion series, Animal), and the funds are being raised for the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary.

All this *AND* talk of a cross-lake ferry service between Toronto and St. Catharines makes it a pretty exciting week to be living in Niagara!

A Piece of History, A Piece of the Future

This week I had the good fortune of participating in a tour of the Canada Hair Cloth Building in downtown St. Catharines. This was a working factory until 2007 and will (hopefully!) be home to the new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts at Brock.

This is an absolutely exquisite building and I look forward to seeing this space transformed over the coming months.

A Very BIG Deal!

Big news at Brock today! Here’s the official scoop from the Brock website. I now am part of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. 🙂

Marilyn I. Walker donates $15 million to Brock University

Nov. 5, 2008

Brock University’s School of Fine and Performing Arts renamed after celebrated artist and philanthropist.

Renowned Canadian fibre artist Marilyn Walker has donated $15 million to Brock University’s School of Fine and Performing Arts — the largest donation the University has ever received. The gift is particularly remarkable as it is made in a climate marked by economic uncertainty and waning support for the arts.

Marilyn Walker is an award-winning fibre artist, author, teacher and philanthropist; she is also an active supporter of the arts and arts education across Canada, and at Brock University in particular. In tribute to the artist, Brock will rename its Arts School the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

The entire $15 million will be endowed in perpetuity to support building the school’s programs, enhancing its facilities and positioning it to be one of the best in North America, if not the world. The school is committed to top-quality learning and research — and toward the creation of a world-class arts facility.

“Marilyn Walker has been instrumental in the cultural revitalization of the Niagara region,” said Jack N. Lightstone, President, Brock University. “Her commitment to improve the quality of life at the school, in the community and across the region is inspiring. The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts will attract the very best to Brock, create positive economic impact for St. Catharines and Niagara and serve as a tribute to a great Canadian artist and arts advocate. We are deeply appreciative of her support and thoughtful consideration.”

Rosemary Hale, Dean, Faculty of Humanities, explained “With this transformational donation, Brock will strengthen its commitment to artistic education and research and engage the community at large by transforming its School of Fine and Performing Arts into a world-class arts centre. Students in theatre, music, movement, fine art, and multimedia across Canada will have a home here that ranks among the best in the world. This gift will allow the School of Fine and Performing Arts, in the Faculty of Humanities, to build intellectual capacity in a permanent home.”

Marilyn Walker is among Canada’s most generous philanthropists. She has dedicated time and resources toward improving the quality of life for the residents of Niagara, most notably in the areas of education, art and health. Marilyn Walker is a recognized authority on Canadian quilts and has lectured widely on the artistic, historic and cultural significance of quilts across Canada and the United States.

Marilyn herself states, “In quilting and in life, people should be allowed freedom of speech and freedom of art.”

Marilyn Walker’s generous gift, made at a time when overall economic health and support for the arts is weakening, demonstrates her life-long commitment to art, education and community, and will encourage both students and faculty to push the boundaries of academic convention at Brock University.

For more information, please contact:

* Jeffrey Sinibaldi, Media Relations Officer, Brock University, 905-688-5550, ext. 4687;

* Liz Armstrong, FLIP PUBLICITY, 416-533-7710, ext. 237;

Annoucement – Dianne Bos Lecture

Interested in Photography? Want to know more about the History of Visual Culture?

Join us for “A brief history of the Camera Obscura, the Pinhole Camera and the
Photobased Work of Dianne Bos.” This is a public lecture by Dianne Bos, presented by the Department of Visual Arts, Brock University

Friday, November 7th
Noon – 1pm (Bring your lunch!)
GLN 162
All are welcome!


Happy New Year!

I rarely make New Year’s resolutions in January, but at the start of Sept. I find myself making lists, getting organized and promising to do (or not do) things I didn’t do last year. The fall brings that feeling of a “new beginning” — a chance to start fresh. Sure, I didn’t get as much as I’d hoped done in the summer, but there’s no point in dwelling on that, right? Time to look forward and to make plans for the coming weeks.

There is a buzz in the air, campuses are starting to get busy once again. It is an exciting time of year and I’m trying to feed off that energy. I’ve made some changes to my courses this year, changes that I hope will improve the courses while at the same time allow me to use my time more efficiently. I’ve got a good teaching schedule this term and will try my best to keep those “research days” free for doing research. I always have the best of intentions, but I have been guilty of letting meetings, errands and other activities encroach on those days in the past. This year I need to make sure I protect those days and use them wisely.

To everyone starting a fresh academic year — Happy New Year! Here’s hoping the 2008/09 academic year will be a happy and productive one.

A Quiet Oasis

Fall term started this week, and the campus has sprung back to life. I love the renewed sense of energy that accompanies the start of the fall term, but after a relatively quiet summer it can take a day or so to adjust to the hustle and bustle that September brings. There are a few spots on campus, however, where it is possible to slip away for a quiet moment of tranquillity. Yesterday I stopped by for a quick visit to a lovely little pond nestled in among the campus buildings. I sat for a moment and watched a frog hopping around along the edge of the water.

As I was sitting at the edge of the pond I recalled a faculty event held in a room overlooking the pond last spring. A number of us (including the president of the university) were fascinated to discover a beaver swimming around in the pond. The event concluded with faculty members from all disciplines and departments pressed up against the glass, straining to get a better look at the beaver. I didn’t see the beaver yesterday, but I did see a structure that looks like it could have that Castor canadensis touch. (The zoom on my camera isn’t great, but you can sort of see it in the middle area of the second photo).

pond inlet