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Down From the Mountain: Capilano University arts grads put on free final show due to cuts

Free all wknd, Opening Friday, May 30: 7 PM to 11 PM at Vancouver's Studio East, 1480 Frances

by M.R. Henderson

Instructor George Rammel's "Blathering On In Kristendom"
Instructor George Rammel's "Blathering On In Kristendom"
Christy Clark's government is forcing all post-secondary institutions to re-direct their budgets to allocate 25 per cent into job training for "high demand" occupations
Christy Clark's government is forcing all post-secondary institutions to re-direct their budgets to allocate 25 per cent into job training for "high demand" occupations

DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN is the coming together of all the artistic disciplines that were recently terminated from Capilano University. This final exhibition by the students is free to the public and takes place this weekend, starting Friday May 29th at Studio East, 1480 Frances St, just off Commercial Drive in Vancouver

The arts programs at Cap are shutting down after 40 years after faculty and students were surprised by budget cuts as they were announced without consultation. Eliminating entire programs in fields such as studio art, textile art, computer science and interactive design, the budget announcement, which sparked protests on campus and even court actions, was approved by the university’s board of governors late in the school year of 2013 -- after nearly all but affected students had left for summer. Administrators announced the end of "Advanced Ceramics courses, Art Institute certificate, Guided Imagery and Music post baccalaureate certificate, Interactive Design diploma, Studio Art diploma, and Textile Arts diploma programs" in June and that there would be no new admissions for any of these programs effective the 2013/2014 school year. Existing students were allowed to finish some two year programs.

Students reacted then by shrouding and even removing art from their year-end shows. More recently Capilano University administration seized a sculpture caricaturing the university president, Kris Bulcroft, on the grounds that it constituted “harassment”. A news report on states that "the Capilano instructor who created the sculpture, George Rammell, said that the artwork, which depicts University President Kris Bulcroft and her poodle as ventriloquist dolls wrapped in an American flag, was removed from the university’s studio art building on the night of May 7 [...] after which he was told by campus security that it had been removed by order of the upper administration.

“The sculpture was really made out of a need to respond to my feeling of being violated,” said Rammell. “In Canada we used to be able to make caricatures of politicians and they would have a good laugh over their morning coffee.” Asked about the board chair’s harassment allegations, Rammell said, “Art doesn’t harass. People harass.”

Staff and students biggest complaint has been the complete lack of transparency and consultation by the board. They also claim that while their programs have been cut, that overall funding has been largely unchanged as administration and budgets for the IT Departments were actually increased. Graduating student Toban Ralston has argued that other avenues for revenue, such as leasing or renting equipment and space, or expanding summer lessons to nadults as they already offer some for youth, were never even considered.

A 2013 news report on student and faculty reactions featuring Rammell reducing art to rubble in protest can be viewed here:

Across the province budget cuts to arts in schools reflect the current government's "cogs in jobs" approach to education in general. B.C. Liberal finance minister Kevin Falcon announced a $70-million reduction in advanced education spending over three years starting in 2012. The government has asked post-secondary institutions to focus their courses on what it calls high-demand occupations and concedes that some courses like arts and philosophy will lose out to business, commerce and sciences. Their lofty claim of one million jobs in the resource extraction sector by 2022 has the government looking to the education system to prepare a workforce of welders, pipefitters and heavy-equipment operators.

Pesident Bulcroft agrees that universities in B.C. are indeed changing. “There’s an increasing emphasis on labour market and skills training,” she said. “It’s less about the credential, and more about making sure that our graduates are job ready. For Cap, our attention and focus is increasingly turning on measuring outcome.” while Mark Battersby, president of the Capilano University Faculty Association said the process behind the decision violated the provincial University Act’s requirements for deliberation and consultation. He said the faculty association is worried the cuts are a consequence of Capilano changing from a college to a university in 2008. Only non-degree programs were cut. “There seems to be a perception that because we’re a university, all our programs should lead to degrees.”

Todd Pettigrew, an Associate Professor of English at Cape Breton University, wrote recently that the Capilano case shows how far administrators have drifted from faculties: "...universities in Canada traditionally function with what is called a bicameral system of governance. The two chambers are the Senate, composed largely of faculty members, and in charge of academic matters, and a Board of Governors, made up of wide range of people—most of whom are not directly connected to the university—that oversees the general administration and finances. Meanwhile, day to day operations of are run by its senior administrators, like the president. The system is meant to ensure that there is financial accountability for institutions that are largely publicly funded (that’s the Board), while the intellectual integrity of university’s programs is preserved (that’s the Senate). In other words, decisions about academics are supposed to be made by the actual academics and not by corporate bookkeepers who fly in a few times a year to vote on budgets and contracts. In fact, so central is this notion of bicameral governance, that the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the closest thing that Canada has to a national accrediting body, lists it as the second criterion for Institutional Membership—after the legal right to operate at all."

And finally Rita Wong, the Faculty Association President of the Emily Carr University of Art and Design found the effective ending of so many university transfer programs so disconcerting that she wrote a personal letter to Bulcroft, urging her to find a way to keep Capilano's Studio Art and Textile Arts Programs running for students: "It was extremely disappointing to hear of the decision to eliminate these programs without consultation, discussion, or option. This goes against the values of access, transparency and fairness that should guide post-secondary education. Specialized facilities such as the bronze foundry and the digital loom are incredibly rare in Canadian post-secondary institutions, and this closure is a loss to artists at a time when the arts and creativity urgently need to be protected and respected. We have heard spokespeople from Capilano state that your art programs are available elsewhere, chiefly at Emily Carr. This is mistaken; we have no textile art program and have been partnering with Capilano for some years to provide our students opportunities in this discipline. Likewise the studio art program with its small size, multidisciplinary focus, and atelier model, has no equivalent in the BC education system. Because the studio art program is only a two year course, we receive some of our best students into third year from Capilano. Elimination of these programs will deal a significant blow to the survival of regional art and culture in BC."

British Columbia’s Supreme Court ruled in April that the Capilano administration had acted contrary to the province’s University Act in making the cuts to courses and programs without seeking the advice of the Capilano Senate. The university's board is reportedly considering an appeal. Meanwhile with no budget for the arts programs allocated, or likely to be anytime in the near future, it would seem that this weekend's show will be the last by the graduating classes, possibly ever.

In it's early years, the arts and crafts at Capilano were made and shown side by side. In recent years, the disciplines were divided in studio and show locations. This weekend recent graduates and emerging artists will pay tribute to their artistic beginnings and come together for the first time in 25 years just to show how much art has come down off that mountain.

Their Facebook invite can be viewed at

The venue this weekend, the newly opened Studio East, is fully independent and focused on enabling all creative and cultural facets of the local community by providing a large rental facility suitable for all manner of use, such as live performances, filming, photography art exhibitions, talks, trade shows, markets and fashion/runway shows. Its aim is to serve as an incubator for the local arts community by offering subsidized rates on creative spaces, grants, education resources and workshops that will allow Vancouver artists to flourish in the creative marketplace. See for more info and upcoming events.


 FRIDAY, MAY 30: 7 PM TO 11 PM

 Gallery Hours:
 Friday, May 30: 11 AM to 3 PM and 7 PM to 11 PM
 Saturday, May 31: 11 AM to 5 PM
 Sunday, June 1: 11 AM to 5 PM

 Cash Bar. Art sales by cash, cheque, or credit.

Featured Artists this weekend are:

 Kotomi Asaoka
 Cole Bazin
 Hayley Bell
 Alison Cheung
 Jo Ann Cook
 Andrea Copp
 Darren Dinh
 Dorothy Doherty
 Phillipe Donati
 Roshanak Ghannadan
 Trish Graham
 Amanda Haw
 Yuki Holland
 Liam Johnstone
 Arha Ko
 Ben Lee
 Jenny Lee
 Roger Luo
 Natalie Mason
 Kazu Matsukura
 Nikki McLaren
 Tessa McLeod
 Miriam Melenson
 Becky Meyer
 Laura Meyers
 Elizabeth Murdoch
 Jennifer O'Keefe
 Toban Ralston
 Megan Rosner
 Channing Ross
 Jay Rudolph
 Wendy Van Reisen
 January Wolodarsky
 Amanda Wood

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