In the Media

  • Acclaim keeps coming for design of Marilyn I. Walker School

    (Source: The Brock NewsWednesday, November 30, 2016 | by )

    An American design journal is the latest admirer to bestow an architecture award on Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines.

    Designed by world-renowned Diamond Schmitt Architects, the Walker School’s striking blend of new construction and restored 19th-century industrial buildings has been turning heads and spurring acclaim — from juries and from area residents — since the $45-million complex opened just over a year ago.

    Last month the Walker School project won a national Cornerstone Award from the National Trust for Canada, which recognizes extraordinary restoration projects.  Earlier in the year it received the Niagara Community Design Award in the adaptive re-use category.

    Now the Walker School has received a silver medal in the 2016 Reconstruction Awards from Building Design and Construction Magazine. For more than three decades, the Chicago-based magazine has given annual awards to honour leading North American projects in terms of renovation, adaptive re-use and preservation work.

    The challenging Walker School project included the restoration of an old textile mill into a beautifully repurposed complex of teaching and learning spaces for disciplines from fine art to photography, music and dramatic arts.

    “The five-story brick-and-beam structure is an adaptive reuse of the Canada Hair Cloth Building, where coat linings and parachute silks were once made,” states the magazine’s announcement. “Diamond Schmitt Architects led the repurposing of the original 1888 structure and the design of a 35,000-sf addition that supports a new 280-seat studio theatre.

    “The project consolidates the university’s fine and performing arts facilities in a single downtown location for 500 students. All work had to meet the university’s strict Facility Accessibility Design Standards. A former raceway water channel for the looms was preserved as a pedestrian path. The contractor (the aptly named Bird Construction) even made sure not to disturb the chimney swifts that were nesting in the old factory.”

    The Walker School shares the silver designation with other marquee projects including Lovejoy Wharf in Boston, the Bay Area Metro Center in San Francisco and the structural refitting of New York’s famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

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  • Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts wins National Trust Award

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts was honoured with one of five National Trust for Canada national Cornerstone Awards for building restoration! Read more about it at Niagara This Week.

    Excerpt:

    The National Trust noted the Marilyn I. Walker centre’s transformation of the old hair cloth factory dating back to 1888 — along with a 35,000 square-foot addition — is a “key element” of the broader downtown revitalization plan and was done while retaining many elements of the historic building’s interior such as wooden floor beams, metal columns and stone and masonry walls.

    Scott Roper, project manager for Brock, said in the university’s Brock Press publication that Brock had “utter success” in creating a stand-out academic entity while being a trigger for the social, economic and urban revitalization of downtown St. Catharines.

    “While Brock has constructed several substantial buildings over the past two decades, the creation of the Marilyn Walker School represented a bold step into the downtown, integration with the surrounding community, and into the unfamiliar area of adaptive re-use,” Roper said.

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  • MIWSFPA in “Heart of the City” at the St. Catharines Standard

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts was mentioned today in the St. Catharines Standard as part of a five-part series entitled “Heart of the City”. Click here to read the article. (Photo credit: St. Catharines Standard.)

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  • MIWSFPA honoured with heritage award

    (Source: The Brock News, Monday, October 24, 2016. Photo caption: The former Canada Hair Cloth Building in downtown St. Catharines has been transformed into the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts – a building blending old with new.)

    Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts has received the National Trust for Canada’s 2016 Ecclesiastical Insurance Cornerstone Award for Building Heritage.

    The independent awards jury was unanimous in its decision to honour the project.

    “While Brock has constructed several substantial buildings over the past two decades, the creation of the Marilyn Walker School represented a bold step into the downtown, integration with the surrounding community, and into the unfamiliar area of adaptive re-use,” said Project Manager Scott Roper. “Brock met utter success in creating a stand-out academic entity as well as being the trigger for the social, economic and urban revitalization of downtown St. Catharines.”

    He said the National Trust’s recognition confirms that Brock’s initiative improves quality of life and contributes to our collective national identity.

    Established in 2013 with the sponsorship of Ecclesiastical Insurance, the award honours exemplary commercial, institutional or mixed use projects to recognize the people who have contributed to the successful regeneration of heritage buildings and sites.

    The MIWSFPA was completed in 2015, a $45.5-million redevelopment of the former Canada Hair Cloth Building, an iconic structure in downtown St. Catharines which has been transformed and expanded to include a 35,000-square-foot addition.

    The facility is the result of nearly a decade of hard work and commitment from hundreds of people.

    The awards ceremony took take place Friday, Oct. 21 in Hamilton.

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  • Brock thanks Rotary Club of St. Catharines with new Reflecting Pool at downtown Walker School

    (Source: The Brock News, Thursday, October 20, 2016 | by )

    The bond between Brock University and the Rotary Club of St. Catharines became a bit tighter today when Brock formally dedicated the Rotary Reflecting Pool at its Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines.

    Under a drizzly fall sky, representatives from Rotary, the University and the City joined students and local residents for the first look at the new artistic water feature as it was unveiled during a midday ceremony.

    The University dedicated the pool to recognize St. Catharines Rotary’s support in helping Brock locate its arts school into a restored industrial heritage site. In doing so, the Walker School became a key factor in the city centre’s economic and cultural revival, alongside other major downtown projects the Meridian Centre and FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, which also received support from the Rotary Club of St. Catharines.

    In 2011, as Brock was seeking government and community help to relocate the MIWSFPA from its main campus into the city’s core, the Rotary Club of St. Catharines announced it would donate $100,000 to the cause, the club’s largest single gift in its nearly-100-year history.

    Over the next four years the school took shape in an award-winning project that integrated new construction with a carefully refurbished textile mill dating to the 19th century. The project — made possible by a $26-million investment from the Province of Ontario, and provision of the former industrial site from the City of St. Catharines — was opened in the fall of 2015.

    Set amidst modernist sculptures in a greenspace beside the Walker School, the Rotary Reflecting Pool’s gently flowing current echoes the tranquility of a semi-private space that can be used by students and by members of the public.

    Brock’s Interim President Tom Traves said the University is very pleased to partner with an organization like Rotary on an investment that will benefit not just students but citizens all across Niagara.

    “Just as the Welland Canal contributed to the life of the City many years ago, the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts and the Performing Arts Centre are contributing to its revitalization,” said Traves. “As we stand in this space, we further transform this area and we thank Rotary for its support of Brock.”

    Rotary Club of St. Catharines President George Darte said the club agreed to contribute such a large sum because the Brock project represented a historic opportunity that the community could not afford to miss out on.

    “Our members are dedicated to the vitality and the prosperity of the community,” said Darte. “Through our support to the Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, we are delighted to be nurturing the next generation of artists and performers here in St. Catharines, while at the same time contributing to the revitalization of our downtown core.”

    Liz Palmieri, the Rotary Club of St. Catharines past president, who was chair of the club’s Major Grants Committee at the time of the gift, said club members knew what they had to do.

    “We felt strongly about our commitment to the arts in our community,” said Palmieri, “and we are proud to be major supporters of an institution that embodies the vision of Marilyn I Walker, one of our community’s finest citizens, artists and philanthropists.  It is a fitting tribute to her memory.”

    Like the Walker School project itself, the pool’s actual creation is the result of many parties working together.

    It was designed in a collaboration between Scott Roper, of Brock Campus Planning, Design and Construction; David Vivian, Director of the MIWSFPA; Arie Shipper of Merit Contractors; and Wally Healey and Brian McLeod of Stevensville Lawn Service, with artist Elizabeth Chitty who consulted on details of local history and geography.

    The project’s strong focal point occurs where the water flows through a metal grate fashioned by Fenwick blacksmith Ken Robertson. The grate consists of a series of panels set at different angles, representing the hillsides of the Walker School’s valley setting, as well as iron cutouts to portray Twelve Mile Creek, the Niagara River, the Welland Canal and the Raceway which used to course through the property on which the Walker School now stands.

    The following message is on a plaque beside the new water feature:

    The Rotary Reflecting Pool is dedicated to the Rotary Club of St. Catharines and to the historical significance of the original Welland Canal which was located nearby. Rotary’s support for this place of tranquility and creative reflection for students and the community is an investment in arts and culture that celebrates the revitalization of the St. Catharines downtown core.

    There are over 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide whose motto is “Service Above Self.” Rotarians are dedicated to important global causes including the quest to eradicate polio, education, clean drinking water, assistance for mothers and children, and numerous other initiatives. 

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts occupies the historic 1880’s Canada Haircloth Building and 1940’s storage shed near what was once the third lock of the first Welland Canal. Water was diverted from the canal along the north side of the building to provide electrical power to the mill. The Welland Canal transformed the local economy and navigation of the entire region.

     

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  • Top Canadian authors coming to Niagara for Two Days of Canada conference

    (Source: The Brock News, Tuesday, October 11, 2016 | by )

    Award-winning authors from across Canada will be in downtown St. Catharines this week for the annual Two Days of Canada conference and the new Festival of Readers.

    Two Days of Canada is an annual conference hosted by Brock University’s Centre for Canadian Studies. The conference turns 30 this year, making it the longest-running Canadian Studies conference series in the country.

    This year’s theme is Concepts of Vancouver, which looks at Vancouver’s “unique confluence of art, politics, and cultural policy,” says Brock English professor Gregory Betts, who is a conference co-organizer. Brock PhD students Julia Polyck-O’Neill and Andrew McEwan, whose dissertations examine Vancouver’s arts and authors, are assisting in organizing the conference.

    More than 100 delegates from across Canada and around the world will listen to 40 presenters explore such topics as Indigenous rights in Vancouver and its region, that area’s unique openness to experimentation in the arts, and how Vancouver uses its class-consciousness to build inclusive urban communities.

    The conference and accompanying festival will feature authors who have won such prestigious awards as the Governor-General’s Award, the Griffin Prize and the Trillium Prize. Two poet laureates will also be in attendance.

    The keynote speaker for the event is George Bowering, the former Niagara resident who was Canada’s first Parliamentary Poet Laureate, and a two-time Governor-General’s Award winner. Since leaving Niagara, Bowering has lived mostly in Vancouver, where he has cultivated a world-class literary culture and become, as Betts says, “one of the giants of Canadian literature.”

    Authors Richard Cavell, Roy Miki, Lisa Robertson, Michael Turner and Rita Wong will also deliver plenary addresses.

    This year also sees the addition of the Festival of Readers to the conference, where award-winning authors will present their academic scholarship during conference sessions and share their literary work in the evenings.

    Festival of Readers events run from Thursday, Oct. 13 to Saturday, Oct. 15 and include a public lecture by Bowering, a poetry reading and poetry slam, and a story illustration workshop by Rodman Hall.

    Gary Barwin, who is on the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist, will be speaking at St. Catharines Public Library as part of the festival.

    There will also be a special screening of “Hard Core logo” at The Film House, with an introduction by the author Michael Turner.

    A complete guide can be found at http://www.festivalofreaders.com/the-festival-of-readers.

    Festival of Readers events are free and open to the public.

    Two Days of Canada: The Concept of Vancouver is being held at Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts and the nearby Niagara Artists Centre. Visit the conference website for more information.

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  • Brock participating in Culture Days with events at Rodman Hall and MIWSFPA

    (Source: The Brock News, Wednesday, September 28, 2016 | by . Photo: Rodman Hall.)

    Brock University will be joining local artists and culture workers in a country-wide celebration of arts and culture this weekend.

    More than 900 communities across Canada are participating in Culture Days, a three-day celebration of arts and culture Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

    Rodman Hall Art Centre is offering free family-friendly art activities all weekend. There will be a drop-in puppet workshop in collaboration with Carousel Players, tours of the historic house and a look at the new exhibition “Houses and Whispers,” by Gunilla Josephson. Rodman Hall will be open Friday from 5-8 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

    The Marilyn I. Walker School for Fine and Performing Arts is also participating in Culture Days. Guests are welcome to tour the facility, view poster presentations of research from the Faculty of Humanities, and take in the exhibition of contemporary art in the MIWSFPA Art Gallery. MIWSFPA is open Sept. 30- Oct. 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The art gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m.

    Percussionist Devon Fornelli will perform citySounds in the walkway between the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and MIWSFPA on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. In case of rain, the performance will take place in the main lobby of MIWSFPA.

    Other venues participating in this year’s Culture Days include the St. Catharines Kiwanis Aquatics Centre, 4Cats Arts Studio, Silver Spire United Church, Odd Fellows Hall, Mahtay Café, and the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.

    Founded in 2009, Culture Days is a Canada-wide event held the last Friday of September. Hundreds of artists, cultural workers, and arts-related groups mobilize to offer free, hands-on activities that encourage art appreciation.

    Visit http://www.stcatharines.ca/en/experiencein/Culture-Days.asp to view the full list of local participants and to plan your culture days experience.

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  • International philosophers coming to Brock

    (Source: The Brock NewsWednesday, September 21, 2016 | by )

    There will be some deep thinking coming to Niagara this week.

    From Thursday through Saturday, a prestigious international conference taking place at Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts will draw up to 60 of the world’s leading philosophers to downtown St. Catharines.

    The 41st edition of the annual Merleau-Ponty Circle, considered one of the most significant gatherings in Continental European thought, is being hosted by Brock’s Department of Philosophy. The conference director is associate professor Rajiv Kaushik, whose research on conference namesake Maurice Merleau-Ponty includes the 2011 book Art and Institution: Aesthetics in the Late Works of Merleau-Ponty and the 2013 book Art, Language and Figure in Merleau-Ponty: Excursions in Hyper-Dialectic.

    Brock had presented a proposal to host the annual conference when the 2014 event was held in Geneva. This week, scholars from as far away as China and Australia will be in Niagara for the 2016 Merleau-Ponty Circle.

    The conference theme this year is “Merleau-Ponty: Doing Philosophy from the Outside,” and seeks to open up the meaning of philosophy to other disciplines. The theme is a play on a series of 1948 radio lectures given by Merleau-Ponty titled “Man Seen from the Outside.” Merleau-Ponty was deeply engaged with a variety of fields apart from philosophy, and the conference aims to continue this approach to philosophy by encouraging connections between philosophy and other academic disciplines.

    The conference is scheduled in a way that allows all participants to attend all presentations. This, says Kaushik, gives scholars “the rare opportunity to engage in a deep and sustained way with the research of other presenters, who are generally internationally well-regarded scholars.”

    This year’s keynote speakers include:

    Rudolf Bernet, from the University of Leuven, Belgium, who has published hundreds of articles in psychoanalysis and phenomenology, and authored a number of widely-acclaimed books.

    Veronique Foti, a Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Penn State University. She is a leading researcher in Merleau-Ponty scholarship and works in the areas of European, Continental and Ancient philosophies, as well as philosophy of art and literary theory.

    Edward S. Casey, from Stony Brook University in New York, was the president of the American Philosophical Association (Easter Division) 2009-2010 and works in the areas of phenomenology, aesthetics, philosophy of space and time, ethic, perception and psychoanalytic theory. His research investigates place and space, including landscape paintings and maps.

    The entire conference takes place at the Marilyn I. Walker School for Fine and Performing Arts and First Ontario Performing Arts Centre.

    More information can be found on the conference website.

    The public is welcome to view the conference art work in the MIWSFPA Visual Art Gallery during regular gallery hours.

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  • Vivian named director of Brock arts school

    (Source: Niagara Falls Review, Wednesday, May 11, 2016 | By John Law)

    The new director of Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts enjoys a “pinch me” moment every now and then.

    When David Vivian arrived in Niagara in 2004, culture was struggling and downtown St. Catharines felt stagnant. Now, both are generating national attention. “It’s a fantastic progression since 2004,” he says. “I can’t believe that we have both a new (Marilyn I. Walker) school facility and new performing arts centre downtown here.

    “That’s a huge jump in capacity for this city, to both hear the stories of others and to tell its own stories.”

    Vivian, currently chairman of Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts, begins a three-year term at the school July 1. The school opened in its new downtown location last September in a former 19th century textile factory at 15 Artists’ Common. With about 500 students, the $45 million building houses Brock’s visual arts, music, drama and culture programs.

    Vivian replaces Derek Knight, who helped oversee the new school’s construction and implementation through its first year of classes. Knight will be taking a oneyear sabbatical from Brock. With the building’s first year winding down, Vivian says there’s a “great foundation” to build on in Year Two.

    “We’ve got some excellent, first rate programs,” he says. “First on my list is to communicate these opportunities to future students here in the Niagara region, the GTA and internationally.”

    He will also strengthen the already crucial link with the nearby FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, and increase the school’s role in the evolving downtown.

    “It’s about finding the right place for the school in the heart of the city,” he says. “We understand ourselves to be part of a larger project of the downtown revitalization. We’re all terribly proud of St. Catharines.”

    Vivian was recognized with the Humanities Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2009, and recognized by the city, province and country for his work as chairman of the St. Catharines Culture Committee in 2011. He studied art and art history at the University of Toronto and Sheridan College, and has an MA in fine arts from the University of British Columbia.

    Vivian is eager to import new students to help become the “cultural fabric” of the region.

    But he also wants to keep the school part of the Brock community, despite the space between them now.

    “We have a lot of relationship building to do with the rest of the university,” he says. “Bringing us from the main campus has broken an immediacy and a knowledge of each other.”

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  • Brock prof gets funding for project profiling women animal rights activists

    (Source: The Brock News, Monday, March 7, 2016 | by )

    While researching the history of animal rights, Brock visual arts professor Keri Cronin realized that women did much of the advocacy work in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    She also noticed that, quite often, there was little information about these women. For example, it was common for a woman’s first name to be omitted from the record, with only her married name – Mrs. Smith, for example – being listed.

    That got Cronin and her friend, award-winning photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, thinking.

    “What we’ve noticed again and again is that it’s always women on the ground, raising the money, holding the bake sales, protesting, and it’s usually men at the head of the organizations,” says Cronin. “This is true today and obviously in the 19th century, too.”

    “We thought, ‘all these women are doing amazing work and they’re not getting credit, they’re not being celebrated.’ We want to change that.”

    So Cronin and McArthur created The Unbound Project: Women on the Front Lines of Animal Advocacy, to “recognize and celebrate women at the forefront of animal advocacy, in both a contemporary and historical context.”

    To help make it happen, the UK-based cosmetics company Lush recently granted the pair $20,000 from the company’s North American Charitable Giving Program. Cronin and McArthur have also received funding from the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, the Culture & Animals Foundation, and A Well-Fed World.

    To put together the multi-media and book project, Cronin and McArthur are travelling around the world interviewing, photographing and filming some 200 women in a wide range of professions and walks of life.

    We want to talk about how people in all kinds of careers are making a difference and that activism doesn’t just take one form.

    British primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, with a long history of conducting pioneering chimpanzee research in Tanzania, is among the higher-profile women being featured.

    But Cronin and McArthur’s main focus is on “local grassroots women, unsung heroes who make the world a kinder, gentler place for animals,” says Cronin.

    “When people think of activism, they imagine a certain thing: they imagine someone out there protesting or chaining themselves to a fence,” says Cronin. “We actually want to change a bit of that story. We want to talk about how people in all kinds of careers are making a difference and that activism doesn’t just take one form.”

    Unbound has its roots in a long-term project, We Animals, that McArthur created to expose animal abuses around the world. As she did this, McArthur came across women working passionately and unceasingly to end such cruelty.

    “Sharing stories of inspiration and change not only gets people excited about taking part but gives them hope, something to hold onto, whereas my work on the brutal treatment of animals and factory farming can leave someone with a sense of paralysis,” says McArthur.

    “This project about women is going to do the opposite: it’s going to say, ‘here’s the problem, here are the wonderful people working on this problem, here’s how you can do this kind of thing as well.’”

    The duo is into the second year of their project, having already traveled to several continents and connecting with networks in North America and abroad.

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