Faculty & Instructors

  • Brock mourns loss of champion of Dramatic Arts

    Mary-Jane Miller (right) with her late husband Jack Miller shortly before her retirement in June 2004.


    Originally published in The Brock News FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2022 | by 

    The Brock community is deeply saddened by the recent passing of Mary-Jane Miller, who spent 36 years with the Department of Dramatic Arts (DART).

    Miller, who began teaching at Brock in 1968 and served as both Associate Professor and Chair of the department during her tenure, passed away peacefully at home on June 22.

    A crucial member of the DART program, she was part of the early academic cohorts at Brock.

    Miller’s level of dedication and commitment over her 36 years with the University still resonates with many.

    DART Associate Professor Gyllian Raby has many fond memories of Miller, who impacted not only the department, but also its students.

    “MJ set an example, consciously; she was a teacher in her every move. Her profound sense of duty made her step up for several years after her migraines undermined her desire to Chair the Department of Dramatic Arts,” Raby says. “She didn’t want to retire until she felt our fledgling department was stable and had found its identity; she cared so very deeply.”

    DART Professor David Fancy says Miller “left a very strong legacy of commitment to theatre and dramatic arts in the Humanities and at Brock.”

    “She was a key architect to the development of the Department of Dramatic Arts in the 1960s and ’70s,” he says.

    After retiring in 2004, Miller went on to become Professor Emerita, maintaining strong ties to the Brock Dramatic Arts community.

    Miller and her late husband, Jack Miller, who passed away in 2016 and also had a significant impact on the University, are remembered for their lasting contributions.

    “Their combined generosity to the department was legion and they led forward with a most steady and loving personal relationship that taught me about the beauty of being quietly grand in later years,” says David Vivian, Professor and Chair of the Studies in Arts and Culture.

    Miller’s family will receive friends on Friday, July 1 from 11 a.m. to noon at Patrick J. Darte Funeral Chapel, 39 Court St., St. Catharines, with a memorial service to follow in the chapel.

    Memorial donations to either the Stephen Lewis Foundation or the Brock University Scholarship Fund would be appreciated by the family.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Department/Centre News, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, In the Media, Media Releases, News

  • Visual Arts grad finds passion through experiential learning

    Jessie Richard looks through archival material in Brock’s Archives and Special Collections.


    Originally published in The Brock News FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2022 | by 

    When Jessie Richard enrolled as a Brock University Visual Arts student, she never dreamed it would lead to a career in the world of museums.

    Her time studying at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts opened her eyes to opportunities she had never given thought to before, an experience that has now inspired her future path.

    Richard received her Bachelor of Arts during Brock’s Spring Convocation Friday, June 17, after deferring her graduation a year in hopes of attending an in-person celebration.

    “My entire experience at the Marilyn was amazing,” she said, while looking back on her studies. “The faculty really made you feel like they were taking care of you every step of the way.”

    In addition to her Visual Arts courses, Richard took drama classes and spent time in the wardrobe and lighting departments.

    “It’s nice that when you were in the Marilyn, you were able to really scatter yourself around all the different departments,” she said. “I had a really fantastic time in that way. I really got to expand my horizon.”

    As Richard continued her education, she was drawn to courses taught by Keri Cronin, Associate Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture.

    “I had been taking many of Keri’s classes because I really loved her platform, the way she taught, the integration of collaboration and in-person work, and the research,” Richard said.

    Through the courses taught by Cronin, Richard discovered a way to get closer to the in-class material through an experiential learning opportunity. She applied to become a research assistant under the supervision of Cronin and soon found herself mesmerized by archival artifacts.

    “When Keri and I were at the Archives at Brock, I was able to take a quick peek in the back area,” she said. “Going through these newspapers and handwritten letters, there’s just something special about being able to touch a piece of history.”

    Cronin was thrilled to see Richard’s love for history and research grow.

    “What makes her story kind of cool is that she found her passion through this backdoor,” Cronin said. “It was through this opportunity with me that she really discovered where she wants to be, and she is really just running with it.”

    Since completing her studies, Richard has gone on to work as the Collections Assistant at the St. Catharines Museum and the Museum of Industry in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. She currently works as an Archivist at the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre in Stratton, Ont.

    As she reminisced about her experience at Brock and the excitement of Convocation, Richard provided one last piece of advice for current students.

    “I took classes I thought I would never like, and I loved them,” she said. “I didn’t go into this thinking I would work in museums, but because I didn’t turn any opportunity down, I found my passion and a career path that speaks to my soul.”

    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Department/Centre News, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, In the Media, Media Releases, News

  • Brock’s Niagara Choral Workshop open to community


    Originally published in The Brock News MONDAY, APRIL 18, 2022 | by 

    A three-day workshop this summer is inviting the community to learn the ins and outs of choral singing at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    Led by Associate Professor Rachel Rensink-Hoff, the Niagara Choral Workshop is designed for choral conductors, teachers, song leaders and those with a general interest in the topic. The workshop, for which applications are now open, will be taught through engaging and interactive sessions on sound exploration, rehearsal strategies, conducting techniques and repertoire perspectives.

    Alongside Rensink-Hoff, the learning experience will also feature guest speakers Karen Burke, Associate Professor at York University School of the Arts, Performance, Media and Design, and Elroy Friesen, Professor and Director of Choral Studies at the University of Manitoba.

    The workshop will run from Aug. 24 to 27 at the MIWSFPA. Each day will comprise of hands-on masterclasses, group discussions and group sessions with choral colleagues on current topics in choral singing.

    “Our three-day choral workshop is designed to inspire and equip choral educators and conductors of all levels of experience with hands-on workshops and discussion-based explorations of relevant topics, including the joy of singing with others,” Rensink-Hoff says.

    Registration for the workshop is open to professionals and students, as well as the general public. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, June 15. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. To apply or for more information, please visit the Brock Music web page.

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    Categories: Faculty & Instructors, News

  • Roberta Doylend to retire after over a decade as Head of Wardrobe

    Image: Roberta Doylend and the late Marilyn Walker working on the Tree of Learning, a nine-foot-tall quilt that incorporates uncommon fabrics and techniques from textile and fibre art to depict a dream about studying the arts, now displayed in the MIWSFPA. Credit: Norris Walker 


    Roberta Doylend looks to exit stage left, as she sets to retire on May 31, 2022.

    Doylend is Head of Wardrobe at the Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), in addition to running the costume shop and storage for the Department of Dramatic Arts (DART).

    She has over a decade of fond memories to look back on, as well as a storage room full of breathtaking costumes to show for her passion and devotion. From day one, she has committed all her time to the DART program and its students.

    “I arrived at the Thistle side of the department with my suitcase and my dog in the morning after a red-eye flight from Victoria,” she says reflecting on her first day at Brock. “It has been a whirlwind of teaching, creating theatre and supporting the next generation of theatre creators,” she adds.

    She’s found joy in every aspect of her position and beyond the love of teaching, there are certain moments that stand out for her.

    “For my first several years at Brock, I designed and dressed students for the Annual General Brock’s Soiree. Over the years, the Soiree was the event to attend, dress up and meet The General (Sir Isaac Brock). Dressing students in period clothing from 1812, to the final celebration of Brock’s 50th Anniversary with original ’60s clothing on 30 plus student interpreters. Lots of work, but so much fun,” she says.

    “The transformative announcement by Marilyn and Norris Walker to create a School for Artists was a significant milestone. Being able to design the Costume Shop and Storage and having several years to teach students in our stunning new facility is a dream realized,” she says.

    Over the years, Doylend has contributed to the evolution of the department. Developing many production courses with students, for mainstage and festival performances on both the Brock Main Campus and the Downtown Campus.

    Doylend may be leaving the school, but it seems her journey in the Dramatic Arts doesn’t end here. With all her experiences and passion in hand, she sets her eyes on a long-awaited homecoming.

    “I am returning to my roots as a Costume Designer and business owner on Vancouver Island. I look forward to designing costumes for live theatre and working at my new company that will facilitate the re-creation of vintage products, techniques and repair over purchasing new,” said Doylend.

    She sees this new opportunity to not only continue teaching and inspiring young theatre costumers, but also as a way she can continue to do something she loves.

    “I will offer drafting, stitching, specialty craft workshops and mentor theatre costumers in an atelier in Chemainus, BC.”

    Doylend has been and will always remain a beloved faculty member. While she will be missed by faculty, staff, and students at the Marilyn, we know she will bring the same spirit of enjoyment to her amazing new journey.

    There is a celebration in the works for May 31 starting at 4:00 pm in the Wardrobe Shop where students, alumni and colleagues are welcome.

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  • Brock to partner with Suitcase in Point on youth theatre program

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, located in the heart of downtown St. Catharines, will host an intensive two-week theatre program for youth this summer.


    This summer, Brock University will welcome creative youth for an electrifying experience at its downtown arts school.

    Electric Innovations, a two-week intensive theatre program, will be hosted at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) and presented by celebrated local multi-arts company Suitcase in Point in partnership with the National Theatre School of Canada.

    Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) will join the initiative as a community partner, offering studio and performance space in the University’s state-of-the-art facilities.

    Held July 11 to 23, Electric Innovations begins with a week of presentations and workshops led by some of the finest theatre artists in Canada, including Miriam Fernandes, Cole Alvis, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster and Joanna Yu. In week two, participants will devise an original piece of work under the mentorship of the program’s Lead Artists Marcel Stewart and Michelle Mohammed (BA ’18).

    Mohammed, Artistic Associate at Suitcase in Point and a Brock DART graduate, is pleased the groundbreaking program will run in person this year after taking place virtually in 2021.

    “We believe in investing in the training and development of young artists and providing a space for new talent to emerge, create, play and find their artistic voices,” she said.

    Co-ordinating the program alongside Mohammed is fellow DART grad and Suitcase in Point Artistic Associate Kaylyn Valdez-Scott (BA ’18), who acknowledged the challenges that existed in finding motivation in the arts during the pandemic.

    “Electric Innovations will provide a brave space where young artists can breathe and laugh with like-minded souls, while creating meaningful work that expresses our current state of being with each other and ourselves,” Valdez-Scott said.

    DART Chair Jennifer Roberts-Smith said she is thrilled to welcome young artists and their mentors into the MIWSFPA spaces and introduce them to faculty and staff.

    “Dramatic Arts is so pleased to support this new way of mentoring young artists,” she said. “We have a lot to learn from the participant-centred approach, and we are very excited to see what the young artists will bring to the program.”

    Applications are now open to youth 15 to 18 years of age in the Niagara or Greater Toronto-Hamilton regions. Eight participants will be selected for the program.

    The deadline to apply is Monday, June 13. For application details, please visit the Electric Innovations website.

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  • Dramatic Arts criticism course returning to in-person theatre

    Image caption: Students in DART 3P94 Theatre Criticism will be experiencing a variety of live productions this summer after two years of digital offerings.

    Originally published in The Brock News | MONDAY, APRIL 18, 2022 | by 

    After two years of viewing performances online, Brock University students learning the art of theatre criticism will experience indoor, in-person theatre at the celebrated Stratford Festival and Shaw Festival Theatre.

    DART 3P94 Theatre Criticism is an online intensive Summer Term course run between July 11 and 22, bolstered by field trips to see live productions at Canada’s leading theatre companies.

    Taught by Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts and theatre critic for The Toronto Star, the course introduces students to the practical craft of theatre criticism and dives into the theoretical background of the discipline.

    Fricker said that after two years of running the course during the pandemic and having students review digital theatre exclusively, it will be thrilling to view live productions again.

    “Both the Shaw and Stratford Festivals have full indoor seasons this year and I’m looking forward to bringing the course to shows there,” she said. “We’re setting up some post-show talks so that students will be able to ask questions about the productions they’ve seen with the artists who made them.”

    Stratford Festival is welcoming back audiences beginning in May with a season theme of ‘New Beginnings’ and featuring plays such as Hamlet and Little Women and the musical Chicago. The largest classical repertory theatre in North America celebrates a its milestone 70th year in 2022.

    Shaw Festival Theatre, in its 60th season, will feature 13 plays across three stages in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Productions include The Importance of Being EarnestEverybody and The Doctor’s Dilemma.

    After seeing productions, students will write and discuss responses to them and learn about alternative, digital, performative and visual forms of critical response, while engaging with theatre culture.

    Registration for Spring/Summer courses is now open through the Admissions website. Students interested in learning more about the course are encouraged to contact Fricker at kfricker@brocku.ca

    Learn more about the 2022 seasons at Stratford Festival and Shaw Festival Theatre online.

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    Categories: Announcements, Current Students, Department/Centre News, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, News, Uncategorised

  • Student-run podcast provides guidance, inspiration for future artists

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines is home to the student-run podcast, Dear Marilyn, named in honour of the late textile artist and philanthropist.

    Originally published in The Brock News | TUESDAY, APRIL 12, 2022 | by 

    What started as a passion project for two Brock University students in search of career tips has become a robust podcast series providing invaluable insight to the next generation of creators.

    Produced for students by students, the popular podcast Dear Marilyn is now in its second season of connecting the student community with professional artists, with plans to continue production on an ongoing basis.

    Created in 2021 by Dramatic Arts (DART) students Danielle Letourneau and Luca D’Amico, the podcast name honours celebrated textile artist, philanthropist and arts advocate Marilyn I. Walker. In 2008, Walker made a historic donation to Brock that led to the creation of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA).

    Letourneau, the podcast’s producer who is now in her fourth year of study with a concentration in Drama and Education and minor in History, says that she has often felt anxiety about entering theatre as a profession.

    “I started this podcast to give students like myself a resource for practical job advice,” Letourneau said. “The arts industry is not always considered the most conventional career path, but we do it because this is what we love; the arts nurture our souls.”

    Supported by Dean Carol Merriam of the Faculty of Humanities through the Dean’s Discretionary Fund in 2021, the Associate Dean of Fine and Performing Arts and MIWSFPA department Chairs, the Dear Marilyn team invites local and surrounding artists from a range of artistic disciplines to share their stories.

    Co-hosts Hayley Bando, a second-year Dramatic Arts major with a concentration in Production and Design, and Chloe Racho, a third-year Music major with a minor in French Studies, are thrilled to be part of the project.

    “We are honoured to help bring these diverse perspectives about professional journeys in the arts to the Brock community,” Bando said.

    Recent podcast guests include actor, writer and producer Thet Win, voice actor Keegan Vaillancourt and singer-songwriter Glenn Marais.

    MIWSFPA faculty have been supportive since day one, with Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, championing the podcast idea in its early stages.

    “I was happy to support Dear Marilyn initially because it’s a great idea, and a positive student-led project during the hard time of the pandemic,” she said. “I looked forward to each episode and was entertained and educated by the hosts’ sparky exchanges with guests.”

    DART Associate Professor Gyllian Raby guided the grant proposal for Dear Marilyn resulting in the expansion of the podcast to include all four departments at the downtown arts campus (Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts and Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture).

    “What’s not to like about Dear Marilyn? It relates directly to our mission to create experiential, professionalized learning for students producing, hosting, editing and broadcasting,” Raby said. “And, it’s entertaining and insightful.”

    DART Associate Professor Danielle Wilson has been working with the team on the second season. Episodes are edited by Alex Sykes, a fourth-year DART student with a concentration in Production and Design.

    Available on Spotify, the next episode goes live this week. For the latest news, follow Dear Marilyn on Instagram.

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    Categories: Announcements, Current Students, Department/Centre News, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, News, Uncategorised

  • Graduating art students mount Honours Thesis exhibition

    Pictured above: “Grand-Maman,” a Polaroid emulsion on mylar image by student artist Charelle St-Aubin will be included in the upcoming exhibition “Resurfacing.”

    Originally published in The Brock News |WEDNESDAY, APRIL 06, 2022 | by 

    An upcoming exhibition will showcase the artwork of seven graduating Brock University students, marking a significant milestone in their artistic careers.

    The Visual Arts (VISA) 4F06 Honours Thesis Exhibition, “Resurfacing,” will take place simultaneously at the Visual Arts Gallery and Student Exhibition Space at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) and Niagara Artists Centre in downtown St. Catharines from April 12 to May 12.

    “Resurfacing” explores diverse themes, including issues of identity and resiliency, expressed through various materials and approaches that comprise painting, photography, mixed media and sculpture.

    Taught by Assistant Professor of Visual Arts Troy David Ouellette, with guest curator and writer Shannon Anderson, the fourth-year course is the culmination of two semesters of creative and academic work for students. Participating artists include Rabia Choudhary, Naomi Egbunike, Sarah Formosa, Julie Luth, Kimberley Rogers, Cherilynn Tilley and Charelle St-Aubin.

    The public is invited to attend the opening reception at both gallery locations on Tuesday, April 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. with opening remarks at the MIWSFPA beginning at 5 p.m.

    For more information, please visit the VISA 4F06 Current Exhibit web page.

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  • Visual Arts Department creates perfect pairing with local winery, gallery

    Image caption: A new partnership between Brock University and 13th Street Gallery (pictured above) will see Brock Visual Arts students showcasing their work in an upcoming exhibition beginning Saturday, April 2.

    Originally published in The Brock News |  TUESDAY, MARCH 29, 2022 | by 

    A new partnership between Brock’s Department of Visual Arts and 13th Street Winery and Gallery is creating new scholarship and exhibition opportunities for students.

    The pairing’s first collaborative event is set to kick off this weekend, with a selection of work from Visual Arts (VISA) students graduating this spring on show at the 13th Street Gallery, 1776 Fourth Ave. in St. Catharines. The exhibition will run from April 2 to 30, with an artists’ reception taking place Saturday, April 16 between 2 and 5 p.m. that will allow the public to meet the artists and view their work.

    Additionally, 13th Street Winery and Gallery has announced it will provide an annual scholarship to a Visual Arts student to further their artistic practice. The first 13th Street Gallery and Winery Scholarship award winner will be announced at the April 16 reception.

    The gallery specializes in Canadian historical and contemporary fine art. Experiencing compelling art in a gallery setting has always been part of the vision for the premier local winery, which produces premium VQA wines.

    As galleries across the province open their doors after closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, exhibiting work in a professional setting presents an exciting opportunity for students to broaden their audiences and gain hands-on exposure to the arts industry.

    Amy Friend, Chair and Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, said she’s pleased to begin this collaboration with 13th Street Gallery.

    “Having the work students are doing here at the Marilyn out in the community is wonderful,” she said.

    “We are thrilled to have this growing partnership with Brock University and glad to be able to provide the space for the students,” said John Mann, owner and director of 13th Street Gallery.

    In May, VISA faculty members and alumni have been invited to exhibit their work at the gallery.

    The 13th Street Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment. For more gallery information and upcoming exhibition details, please visit the 13th Street Gallery website.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Department/Centre News, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, In the Media, Media Releases, News, Uncategorised

  • Visual Arts prof commissioned for New York Times Magazine

    Image caption: A process image by Amy Friend, part of her body of work commissioned by The New York Times Magazine in 2021.

    Originally published in The Brock News | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23, 2022 | by 

    When artist and Brock University Professor Amy Friend was contacted by the deputy art director for The New York Times Magazine inviting her to collaborate on an article, she was immediately intrigued.

    Friend, Chair and Associate Professor of Visual Arts (VISA), was struck by the enduring nature of the theme of the piece — focused on loss — written by author Meg Bernhard, and was thrilled to be commissioned for her photography by the weekly publication boasting 4.4 million print readers and a digital readership of 7.7 million. 

    The article “What if There’s No Such Thing as Closure” discusses the work of social scientist and academic Pauline Boss surrounding various types of loss. Specifically, the 87-year-old scholar is well known for her theory of ‘ambiguous loss’ developed in the 1970s with roots in family psychology.

    Boss’s academic research on the subject has seen a resurgence in relevance and popularity given the world events of the past few years, most notably the COVID-19 global pandemic and associated trauma and loss experienced by many, often without the ability to grieve and mourn as was previously done in many cultures. 

    Friend said the framework of ‘ambiguous loss’ resonated with her because of her recent inability to communicate with her father after he had a stroke.

    A slightly blurred photograph with a man lifting a young child wearing swim trunks up in the air while the child waves his right arm. They are standing against a backdrop of trees and dramatic white lines strike through the image from top to bottom.

    A process image by Amy Friend, part of her body of work
    commissioned by The New York Times Magazine in 2021.

    “This commission bridged with my personal experience given that loss is not necessarily death-specific,” she said.

    Friend worked with the art director in a collaborative manner and greatly enjoyed the creative editorial process.

    “This was particularly engaging for me, as creating art can sometimes be a solitary process,” she said. “I thought through the conversations and responded to the feedback from the NYT Magazine team.”

    Engaging with this type of professional process relates back to the classroom for Friend, as such collaborations introduce students to the possibilities of how fine arts practice integrates with mainstream media. It also demonstrates to aspiring student artists the importance of being paid for the creative work they do.

    “Creative practice enters the world through multiple avenues. It folds into the cultural sector, holds a place in the economy and is a vital component of societal interaction,” said Friend.

    In addition to The New York Times Magazine, Friend recently had her work featured in Aesthetica Magazine from her bodies of work “Tiny Tears Fill An Ocean and Multi-verse,” and Musee Magazine, a photography magazine with a section focusing on women in photography.

    Friend has international exhibitions coming up this spring in Paris at In Camera Gallery and at Bildhalle Gallery in Amsterdam. In June (pending travel restrictions), her work will be shown Ricami Gallery in Trapani, Sicily, where she has been invited to give an artist’s talk to local communities. This would not be her first introduction to the Sicilian culture; she has artwork in the permanent collection in the Foundation Orestiadi in Gibellina.

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