Tag Archives: University of Lethbridge

Fear, fighting and freedom: meet Ryan

My name is Ryan Gerstenbuhler and I have an anxiety disorder, which leaves me terrified sometimes.

In the first part of this series, we introduced Ryan and he talked about growing up in Picture Butte and how his illness has prevented him from living his life the way he has wanted too.

Growing up in a small town, Ryan had little choice but to try and be normal, as normal as he could be. Ryan is now 36 years old, and has suffered from spastic cerebral palsy most of his life. Despite consistent threats of fear and panic attacks overcoming him, his hometown surroundings kept him subdued, and restricted him from exploring the extent of his illness.

Upon high school graduation, Ryan moved out of his family’s house and into an apartment in Lethbridge. Ryan suffered a crippling panic attack upon this change, and throughout much of the 1990’s Ryan became increasingly more fearful, even to the point where he was afraid of his own wheelchair. As he describes, “I felt like my life was over, I was waiting to expire.”

However, things are now very different for Ryan, he has begun to take steps to push himself out of the cocoon of fear he has been so long wrapped up in. “Over the past ten years, I have been trying to make use of the present, and the future and learn from the past, without living in the past,” explains Ryan. “The message is, if there’s anything you want to do for yourself, if there’s anything you want to achieve, you have to do it now, because time is running out. It seems like opportunities are still there, but things are being taken away, not granted.”

If Ryan looks familiar to you in the halls, or in the streets of Lethbridge, it is because of his advocacy work on behalf of the physically challenged in Lethbridge. “I’ve been very good about fighting for what I thought I needed. If I need a higher standard of home care, and if the powers that be didn’t want to corporate for whatever reason, budget constraints or standards or what have you… I’ve been very good at beating through opposition and getting what I need that way.”

Outside of fighting for his own personal needs, Ryan has also taken on the city regarding Access – A – Ride and its lack of comprehensive service. Ryan admits the gains he has made have been small due to the bureaucracy of local government.

Despite Ryan’s success in meeting his physical needs and advocating for greater services for all challenged individuals in Southern Alberta, he has struggled to find the motivation to achieve success in his personal life. Ryan has questioned his ability to make friends, and find personal fulfillment both on a friendship and on a romantic level. His only answer is that he has had to deal with crippling self-esteem and self-worth, which has only served to aggravate his agoraphobia.

Throughout his childhood, Ryan was made to feel as if fear is controllable, and to show fear is a sign of weakness, and because of his disability, weakness will only make his situation worse.

“I was taught that I had to be better than other people I had to be something other than human. I know that sounds extreme. It sounds unreasonable because it is unreasonable, because of the fact of the matter is, I am a man.”

Throughout his life, Ryan has tried to grapple with how he, as a man who wishes for companionship with a woman, can achieve that given his physical condition and his battle with agoraphobia. Ryan is trying to change that though, “I need to put myself out there, and really advertise myself.” This is something he is actively working on by speaking to The Meliorist, by getting more involved with the University Community.

“It seems to me that this could be a form of catharsis, me saying to people: look here’s my problem, here what might happen, and then I don’t have to worry about hiding it. That’s a real trick with my type of fear. The real trap that someone can fall into when dealing with panic attacks or agoraphobia, in my estimation, is trying to control it.”

Don’t try and control, just let it do what it’s going to do, and eventually the adrenaline will drain out of your system and you will be ok.

This change didn’t happen suddenly, but the catalyst for Ryan was signature for it occurred in little more than a moment. “My life changed on July 23rd, 2001 at about 6:35pm. That was the evening I had to do a presentation before Lethbridge City Council and I was in full panic attack mode. There was so many people there to hear what I had to say about the issue I was going to speak on, I couldn’t let them down and have any kind of credulity left as an advocate, so I had to do this. For the first time since my big collapse in 1992, I controlled the fear, the fear did not control me.”

The road to getting to a place of confidence, where the closing of a classroom door is no longer a threat, and making conversation no longer seems impossible has been difficult. But Ryan has developed his own form of self-esteem therapy.

“I didn’t feel that I could handle life. I wasn’t hiding from other people, or myself, so much as I was hiding from life. What I started doing is, I started using this Stewart Smalley methods. Stewart Smalley was a character on Saturday Night Live played by Al Franken, and he was this over the top personal councilor. The end of every Stuart Smalley bit he would look in the mirror and say something like: I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, something like that. He would do it in a way that everyone would laugh, but I looked at that and I thought to myself while I was laughing, why don’t I do that for myself?

So, Ryan imagined a mirror, and he imagined himself saying: “I’m good enough.” I’m good enough evolved into: “I’m the best.”

Ryan explains, “At first I was faking it, I could act the part but I didn’t really believe it.” However as time passed, and this practice became a fundamental part of his life, Ryan experienced a change. “Then one day it was like a light bulb, from spark to full glow, it blossomed and I realized I honestly and sincerely believed that I was every bit as good as I thought I was.”

Ryan takes issue through the way children take social cues from our environment to form relationships. As he looks back at his past, the word he would use to describe it is “isolated”. Feeling as if he was pushed to the back, and pushed aside, Ryan received very conflicting message from his family where he was told to push himself harder than anyone else while being told he was going to have to be dependent on others for his well being.

This lead to a lot of confusion, and then to the biggest deterrent to getting healthy: Ryan’s self-imposed isolation. Although he recognizes that he is likely not alone in feeling this way, he still asters that, “from a personal perspective, you do feel like you’re the only one. I do feel like I’m the only one who has never had a girlfriend, and if I’m not the only one, what’s our problem?”

Ryan’s experience has led him to question, “How can we keep developing as a species with everyone being so isolated?” His desire for physical social interaction means that new social communication devies hold little appeal for Ryan.

“We have YouTube, and we have FaceBook and we have Twitter, and people think this is social networking. In a way they’re right, your reaching out and you’re communicating, but you’re not communicating. Communication and being social is not interacting with a computer screen, or interacting with a video camera. That isn’t interacting in any kind of intimate or advanced way.”

Throughout this journey, Ryan has discovered something critical, something that every person needs to accept. “I spent a lot of time running from whatever issues I used to put myself into this emotional prison. The truth is, you cannot out run what’s eating it. It will keep up with you no matter how far or how fast you run.”

For more about Ryan, please visit themeliorist.ca and look under the Features section for the full audio of Ryan’s interview.

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Building communities, rebuilding Haiti

It is obvious that when disaster strikes, communities are formed, but when these communities are formed hundreds of thousands of miles away from the disaster, the true power of an old motto, “service above self,” comes to the surface. Canadians have poured out hundreds of thousands of dollars to relief agencies through donations, both large and small. One of these agencies is a relief effort known as ShelterBox. Simply put, Shelterbox is the basic necessities of life provided in a quantity that will house and provide for ten individuals. An amazing way to provide immediate relief, individuals and companies around the world have chosen this as their contribution to the people who have to pick up the pieces and begin anew in Haiti.

The University of Lethbridge Rotaract Club chose to raise funds for ShelterBox as a way to give aid to Haiti. Alix Blackshaw, Rotaract President for the University of Lethbridge commented “We have seen how effective it is and how much it can help. Our district has been a strong supporter for years, and I think that was just a chance thing because somebody knew someone.”

Rebuilding this country is not as simple as hiring the crews and drafting plans. It will take months, even years of intense financial and developmental aid, of providing expertise on proper building methods and ensuring that a government is in place who will lift up the poorest Haitians to a level of basic survival. Yes, this disaster was a magnificent force of nature, and no one could have prevented it from creating havoc. However, when homes are built nearly entirely of mud and tin, and millions live in abject poverty, there is more needed than a simple re-building plan. The entire country needs to be restructured and rebuilt from the ground up.

For this reason immediate aid, and suitable, even if only temporary, shelter, is so absolutely necessary. The basic concept of shelter, of a home, and the psychological desire to have a safe space for yourself and your family is universal. The pictures of the makeshift tent cities, and hundreds thousands of people camped in squalid conditions is enough to provide solid evidence that what Haitians needs right now is a place to sleep at night.

International aid organizations are in the process of setting up three sites that would be safe for the creation of the tent cities that will serve as homes and communities for the people of Haiti during the time it takes to build proper infrastructure. Conditions are bad right now, and as the dead lay decomposing in the street and sanitation systems have been all but eliminated, the basic services a community needs to thrive are stripped away.

Aid organizations are doing everything they can, and the outpour internationally has been immense. For a country whose people have toiled in obscurity for too long, this incredible disaster has finally woken others up to their desperate cries for help.

In Haiti itself, it is the sense of community that constantly astounds those who crowd around their radios, televisions and computer screens to witness what some are calling “disaster porn.” Regular worship is still occurring, whether it is inside the church ruins or outside. Families continue to beg disaster workers to not stop searching for their loved ones, and despite rising tensions and increasing desperation Haiti is not devolving into the violence many were predicting would occur. That is not to say that the worst is over; there is a lack of government presence, a ruthless sense of law and order, and an increasing need for sanitation services, clean drinking water and food. Still, despite this, the Haitian community is still present.

Art continues to reflect the current circumstances, and photos depict children laughing and smiling as their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents wash clothes and cook small, inadequate meals. Here in Canada, that sense of community is not lost on those reaching out to help another country in during these desperate times. Rotary was founded close to the time of our own country and has reached out to its members and its community to raise funds and awareness to help the Haitian people in this current catastrophe. The ShelterBox initiative was started with a Rotarian, Tom Henderson, who had the very simple idea of a kit equipped with everything a family would need to survive for a temporary period of time. From that conception, ShelterBox has gone on to provide basic needs such as blankets, a ten person tent, dishes, tools, water purification tablets and more to families in disaster-affected areas. This kit has been used successfully worldwide to provide basic shelter to families in need. In Haiti, nearly 4,000 Shelter box have been dispatched already, providing hope and security, albeit temporary, to nearly 40 000 people.

Though, helping people is what Rotarians do; their motto, “service above self” is inspiring for anyone. Speaking to Alix Blackshaw, President of the University of Lethbridge Rotaract club, her passion for community service is evident in the way her eyes light up when she speaks about Rotaract’s achievements and activism through volunteer work and the people she has met and the organizations she has served. “First off it just shows you how to be a member of your community,” Blackshaw says, “I’ve volunteered with every non-profit in Lethbridge. It teaches you how to be an international citizen, just the fact that even the smallest things really do help. Even the smallest fundraisers we do can help, in the big picture.”

The personal connection to the organization is shown through the dedication Alix and other club members have for the work they do and the volunteer efforts they undertake. Theirs is a community dedicated to both local and international efforts, teaching students how to be stronger citizens while creating a strong community at home. It is this community that allows Rotaract members to help people in Haiti. It is the Rotarian spirit that gives incentive to those involved in postsecondary education to increase their community visibility and to give back to the community their institutions are situated in. One of the ways Rotaract works in their local community is the annual bowl-a-thon that raises money for the Lethbridge hospital’s “Books for Babies” which provides educational resources to low income families in Lethbridge.

Communities can be created over mediums other than the traditional lunchtime Rotary template, and no one understands that quite like Elsa Cade, a Lethbridge Rotarian. Cade is a member of an American based, Democrat oriented forum/blog, and until the disaster in Haiti used it primarily as a forum to discuss science education and to voice her disapproval of George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education programme.

“I don’t write a lot, I like to read but then once this Haiti thing came out, and I had an opportunity to say look at this, this is a good thing to donate too,” Cade explains. “It’s really desperate in Haiti, and desperation is because they don’t have any place to stay, and I put this thing out there, and before you know it, I was getting all these donations and in my mailbox I’m hearing from the Executive Director of ShelterBox USA, and heard from several ShelterBox rescue teams.”

The thing she is referring too is the ShelterBox initiative, and through her appeal Cade has raised over $122,000.00 for ShelterBox, primarily through American donations. This on-line community has surprised Cade, and she expresses the momentum an on-line community can generate, “It says something about the Internet, that you can connect with people like that. It is such a powerful tool in terms of disseminating information.”

The message most prominent through these examples of humanitarianism is that community both empowers us and can serve others. Whether it be in a traditional format like Rotary, through a University club, or an on-line forum, there is are individuals at the beginning and end of each these connections, and it is people who are making the effort and have the desire to help others.

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Celebrating this decade: ten momentous occasions in University of Lethbridge history

This decade has seen some incredible and historic moments. The Y2K bug/anti climax of 2000, the threat to North American security on September 11th, 2001, the rise of the China’s international political and economic power, the fall of the American economic system, climate change as a ever growing concern, Canada’s lowest voter turnout in 2008, and the political polarization that has occurred in European and South American states.

Living through the events in this past decade, and reflecting on the effect these events have had causes me to pause and marvel at our ability to adapt to new and different surroundings. The world looks very different today than it did in 2000. Old threats have diminished and new ones have emerged. Technology has boldly re-invented itself, and the age of social communication through sites such as Twitter, and Facebook have allowed our personal and professional relationships to draw new boundaries and consider greater fluidity.

The fall of capitalism, the major natural disasters we have witnessed, and the changes in our political and societal landscape are no small thing. This decade has changed the way everyone views the world. When everything can be taken from you in an instance, through no control of your own, suddenly baubles mean less. It is the intangible values, and the moments of happiness that we remember when looking retrospectively, not shiny presents of things.

The University of Lethbridge has undergone some major changes, both physical and psychological. We have grown in prestige and strength as a suburb undergraduate institution, and have expanded our physical presence in the Southern Alberta community tremendously. UofL have expanded their graduate studies programs, more students are enrolling and graduating than ever before from both graduate and undergraduate programs, and UofL is attracting world renowned talent to bestow their knowledge to UofL students, who will one day go on to surpass even the greatest.

In honour of the passing of this glorious decade, a harking back to the years before when “Jenn’s Top Tens” graced these pages; I present a top ten of the most momentous occasions in University of Lethbridge history:

On-Campus Daycare Center (2005 – 2010)

After a long and arduous process of constantly lobbying the administration, the University of Lethbridge reinstated the on-campus day care, promising to have it built as soon as possible. Luckily, this coincided nicely with a boom in our provinces’ resources, and soon the day care plans were under way and a committee was struck to deal with the detailed execution of the building.

This would not have been possible without the persistence of many people, some who are still here to see the fruits of their labours, and some who have since moved on but are no doubt celebrating in spirit. 2005, a rally was held to show support for on-campus day care and those who spoke and attended remember it well. Dr. Harold Jansen of the Political Science department extols as a “Great example of solidarity between undergrad, grad students and faculty.” Together, the entire university came together to show the need for this service on-campus, and the will of the community to make it so.

Fortunate to be able to attend the ground breaking last March, a feeling of overwhelming pride in the community I belong to rose up in me. I am proud of the incredible individuals who attended countless board of governors meetings, who presented solid arguments and who proved to the whole community that there was a need and support for an on-campus childcare center. I am proud to attend a school with lead by members of administration who continue to work to see this plan executed and deliver the tangible outcome of so many people’s hard work.

The day care is set to open officially in January 2010.

Womens Rugby CIS Wins (2007, 2008, 2009)

Our womens rugby team took the CIS National Championships three consecutive years this decade with a lot of hard work and effort. They expended their top notch training with ease and grace and secured this national honour three consecutive years running, the 2nd team in history to earn that title; proving that the pronghorns are indeed the fastest and toughest animal in North America and the University of Lethbridge truly has an athletics programs to shout about. Two time CIS Champion Allie Laurent remembers it is a shining moment in her UofL career, “Winning the universities second CIS national championship since men’s hockey won in 1993 and after only having a women’s rugby team for 7 years…then winning the next two years in a row to start a pronghorn’s rugby dynasty”. This is a feeling every UofL member can hold dear, off and on the field.

Polaris Prize (2009)

They call Dr. Bruce McNaughton the “20 million dollar man” and his decisions to join the University of Lethbridge Neuroscience program, bringing his excellent expertise and experience was very much a win for this university. Of course, the experience and first class facility he gets here was a rather large incentive for him. The Canadian Center for Behavioral Neuroscience welcomed Dr. McNaughton officially in 2008, and celebrated the achievement of securing the AHFMR Polaris Award, a research grant worth $10 million over 10 years, matched by Alberta’s iCORE research grant, giving an addition $10 million over ten years. Dr. McNaughton will be working with University of Lethbridge students on brain behavior, incorporating UofL knowledge into this innovative and groundbreaking research.

WTF?!/First Choice Savings Center – 2006

Yes, not the most glorifying moment in history for either the University of Lethbridge or the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union. After the students passed a referendum to partially, but substantially, fund the new sports and recreation center, the university thought it was fit to allow them to name the building.

Then came the infamous title “Witness the Fitness” or, WTF. Thankfully, the university axed that in favour of naming it after the second largest donor, a bank. Yes, this was the best anyone could come up with, naming the new world-class fitness center either after a bank, or a colloquial term primarily used by 12-17 year olds.

Notwithstanding the naming fiasco, the fitness center has had a major flooding incident, and was partially shut down for a period.

However, overall, with the steam rooms, the rock climbing center and that very sexy track, our First Choice Savings Center – or as it is more commonly know, the PE building, is something to be inspired by. It has aided in attracting many community members from around Southern Alberta to use the facility and interact with the university.

Uleth goes to space (2004 – 2009)

Dr. David Naylor, an astronomy professor has lead a team of both graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Lethbridge to provide a major contribution in the form of the SPIRE instrument, which was used in the Herschel mission, launched May 14th 2009. The Herschel mission is a mission designed to gather information about the universe, the deepest and darkest parts of the universe.

The SPIRE instrument is an infrared camera and spectrometer that can simultaneously look at an entire region in the sky. The UofL delivered the test model and technology to the missions’ headquarters in the UK, and was used for the first time in 2004 to qualify the early version of SPIRE.

Take that NASA, we do not just blow up parts of satellites to see what is going on.

The (new) Library Building (2003)

The building of the new library building was a huge achievement for the University of Lethbridge and allowed not only our holdings to increase, but also future technological changes to be implemented and installed with greater ease. Our library building is fantastic for a school of our size and the decisions to place it in the center of campus completes the student hub between the Students’ Union building, the PE building, and the library.

A 6% increase for Alberta’s post-secondary institutions base operating grants (2004)

The Advanced Education and Technology ministry of the Alberta Government made an incredibly forward and progressive decision in the mid 2000’s. They boosted the yearly increase to post-secondary institutions to 6%, from the traditional increase of 4%. With Alberta rapidly growing economy, and increase in expenses 4% a year was below the Alberta price index inflation adjustments.

Without this extra grant, it is unlikely that the University of Lethbridge would have been able to provide the $600,000.00 in Quality Initiative Program funding, invest financially in the plethora of new buildings, or attract the talent and knowledgeable faculty  members was have taken in over the past 5 years. While the Alberta government has told Albertans that PSE is not a budgeting priority in the fiscal crisis, it is important o remind them of all the good that was done and the benefit it has to Alberta’s students and Alberta’s knowledge economy.

Former ULSU President, Kelly Kennedy comment on this, “When the province started to give post-secondary institutions a 6% increase to base operating grant funding. They normally were given 4% increases yearly, which was generally below API. I doubt QIP and other construction would have happened if it wasn’t for this increase.”

Markin Hall, Stadium, Canadian Center for Behavioral Neuroscience center (CCBN), Water Building, and Turcotte Hall (2000 – 2010)

This decade the UofL built, with assistance from the student population, the provincial, and the federal government, six new buildings and substantially upgraded Turcotte Hall to enlarge and increase the modernity of our campus. This is an incredible feat in ten years, and has no doubt added to the quality of education for every student at the UofL.

Notably, the student body has shouldered a significant amount of the cost of these new buildings.

Poo Day (2008)

Who could forget this incredible day? November 4th, 2008, I know where I was. Sitting in my VP Academics office, hearing commotion outside and then learning that sewage line broke and level one of the Students’ Union building, a building that deals with high foot traffic everyday, is flooded with…well, poo. As this was clearly a health hazard, and the sewage and water system for the entire university had to be turned off to fix the broken line, every single person got the day off from all classes and mid-terms. Hence the affectionate given to this day by at Uleth’er: “Poo Day”.

Dr. Bill Cade, our illustrious leader for this decade.

The University of Lethbridge has been lead admirably by this President for the past decade; and under his leadership the University has lead the field in water and neuroscience research, expanded Liberal Education programming, increased the visibility of the Edmonton and Calgary campus’, and continued to display itself as a strong undergraduate university focused on graduating insightful and critical thinkers. As Dr. Cade is stepping down from the Presidency after this academic year, our institution owes a great deal of gratitude to the passion he has exhibited for the UofL. His Texas drawl, his office Chameleon, his obsession with crickets all give him the personality I think we will miss.

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Art, with the lovely Jane Edmundson

Jane Edmundson is a Lethbian through and through. Born and raised in Lethbridge, Alberta, a graduate of the UofL with a BFA in Studio Art, and currently working at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, she is a staple in the Lethbridge music and arts scene as well as a supporter of local artistry and artist community groups. Nourishing a serious crush for typefaces, shiny dance pants and shoes, she knows good looking when she sees it. Just ask Lethbridge based musician Paul Lawton.

I spoke to Jane in mid October about what “art” means to Lethbridge, how funding cuts have affected the University of Lethbridge gallery and why we are truly much more cultured than the rest of Alberta.

JE: Well, in my 3rd year, I started as a student employee at the Gallery which ended up parlaying into a full time position working on the database and while I was doing that, I was also helping out the Preparator with exhibition installation so when he went on leave, I ended up filling in for him and I’ve been doing a mixture of the prep job and curatorial assistant duties for two years. I suppose I stayed because I couldn’t turn down such an amazing experience in my field getting work in the museum/gallery field right out of school is pretty amazing.

JP: Is this fairly typical of Lethbridge? Hiring gallery staff from the bottom up?

JE: Since the University Gallery encourages student volunteerism, often those volunteer positions can parlay into paid positions. The SAAG also has employed many University [of Lethbridge] graduates. It is a good pool to hire from.

JP: Many people view Lethbridge/Southern Alberta as fairly uncultured, yet those who know, know that Lethbridge boasts a tremendous art collection and devoted art scene. In your experience here, do you feel there is a thriving art culture?

JE: I think it is definitely thriving. Having a university here really facilitates the community by providing young artists and museum studies students that are interested in creating work and mounting exhibitions. Also the University promotes cultural education, which means there are lots of professors and staff that are interested in supporting local artists and exhibitions.

The University of Lethbridge Art Society (ULAS) maintains various displays of student art all over the city that Lethbridge residents can encounter in non-traditional venues, The Penny Coffee House, for example.

The SAAG brings critically acclaimed up and coming, and established artists to town for exhibitions because the community is smaller than those in Vancouver or Toronto. Students and Lethbridge citizens can interact directly with the artists when they come to town to install their exhibitions or when they are visiting as lecturers for the Art NOW course at the University.

There are also various independent artists studios all around downtown giving professional artists living in town a framework of support and the Bowman Arts Centre and Trianon Gallery provide even more opportunities for exhibitions and cultural experiences.

Really, the opportunities for artists and art supporters just keep growing.

Oh! And Trap\door artist run centre; they are a great support network for local artists, and they bring international up and coming artists to town for exhibitions and residencies.

JP: You mention Art NOW, which brings in a variety of artists to educate the UofL student community. Does this do a lot to benefit the UofL art gallery as well?

JE: I think the two go hand in hand very well. Visiting artists are drawn to the University because of its great reputation as a cultural institution, which comes from having a strong Fine Arts Faculty and the extensive art collection and any artists that are hosted by the Gallery to install contemporary exhibitions (such as Allyson Mitchell, who was recently here to install her Ladies Sasquatch exhibition) are also featured in Art NOW, which helps bring students that are enrolled in the class to visit the Gallery.

JP: What does the UofL gallery have to offer to the Lethbridge community that is unique? Why the need for an on-campus gallery when we have 5 or 6 others in a small city with a variable population?

JE: The students and staff/faculty on campus can have easy, direct access to art and research materials, and even those in the campus community who wouldn’t normally search out those cultural experiences can easily wander into the Gallery (or walk through the Helen Christou Gallery).

The Uni Gallery programming features both exhibitions from the collection, as well as contemporary exhibitions. The Gallery has also developed an online database of all the works in the collection. So, students, faculty, Lethbridge citizens, artists and researchers can learn from the collection first hand, or through the database, or through the contemporary art that the Gallery brings to Lethbridge

The integration with visiting artist lectures and the Uni Gallery gives students and community members an opportunity to learn in the lectures, and then go and view the art directly.

The Gallery and art collection allows Museum Studies/Art History students to learn directly from the collection and exhibition programming/installation techniques directly from Gallery staff. Having this type of hands-on education is extremely rare in an undergrad setting.

The 3000 level Museum Studies students are now curating one exhibition a year for the Helen Christou Gallery, which is an amazing opportunity for undergrad students who are hoping to go on to graduate school in the field

Basically, education.

JP: Helen Christou Gallery. What is, where is it, and what purpose does it fulfill?

JE: The HCG is our satellite space, it is on Level 9 of the LINC building, right beside the Security Offices. Essentially, it is a corridor space which we have adopted for exhibitions and the space is programmed along with our Main Gallery space so sometimes the two shows relate to each other, and other times they are independent of each other. We utilize the space as another way to reach students and staff/faculty who may not normally visit the Main Gallery space

Generally the shows featured in the HCG are eye catching, and accessible to people of a variety of cultural and art appreciation backgrounds.

JP: You have done some curating for the UofL galleries, what has been your favorite exhibit been to put together?

JE: My first exhibition, Tasty Treats, which was in the HCG, featured works from the collection that depict various food. It was really fun and I had a great opportunity to make awesome posters and a great brochure with my curatorial text.

JP: I have buttons from that show! They are adorable.

JE: This past summer I got to curate my first Main Gallery exhibition, and I chose to display some of the large scale, photographic pieces from the collection that examine depictions of the human body, which I thought ended up being really understated and lovely, and the Gallery felt really peaceful. It was nice to get to do something more serious after the first, more carefree show. (The Main Gallery show was called “The Body Multiple”)

JP: Has there been any affect on the UofL Gallery with arts funding cuts? Also, do you anticipate any impact from upcoming University wide budget cuts?

JE: We were affected most by Harper’s decision to cut the Exhibition Transport Service, a national shipping network for artwork and art exhibitions. It was subsidized by the government, which meant artworks and full travelling exhibitions could be shipped between galleries and museums for an affordable price.

Most of the public galleries in Canada are not-for-profit, so they can’t afford astronomical costs of shipping. When the Conservatives [government] cancelled the program, it had the University of Lethbridge Gallery and galleries all across Canada scrambling to meet shipping costs for planned exhibitions. We had to adjust some of our planning for an artist’s project coming up this November when the shipping costs proved to be prohibitive.

However, we are luckier than a lot of other galleries in Canada that don’t have the other sources of funding we have. We are supported by both the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. We are lucky to have a great Director/Curator that earns us grant funding also because we have the support of the University, and the forethought of the people that first began the art collection, the Gallery also has funding via an endowment so we are doing better than a lot of places.

JP: Is it a curator’s primary role to secure funding now, in a [sic] economically frustrated world?

JE: It is a huge part of their role, yes

JP: Lastly… Which Lethbridge gallery is your favourite, and why?

JE: (laughs) I can’t answer that! (more charming laughter) I am biased, the University Gallery has given me so many opportunities; I am indebted

JP: Fine, which Gallery in the WORLD is your favourite?

JE: The time I spent in the Musee d’Art Contemporain in Montreal was absolutely fantastic

If you want to see a sample of Jane Edmundson’s curating skills, Head Shots is the featured exhibit at the Helen Christou Gallery until October 23rd, 2009.

Article first published in The Meliorist, Volume 43, Issue 7 on Ovtober 8th, 2009.

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The problems with genocide: a liberal education

Liberal Education 3010

A topics course

Instructor: Dr. Bruce McKay

“This course will consider the problem of genocide from a number of perspectives through a number of theoretical frameworks. We shall ask such questions as: Can we more fully define genocide? Why, in particular, is genocide a problem? Is it a solely modern phenomenon or do other aggressive acts in history constitute genocide? Why is it so difficult to take action when we know that it is occurring? What can we do about it? How can people bring themselves to enact such crimes against fellow humans? What should the role of the arts be in understanding genocide? How can we remember genocide while at the same time reconciling the events of the past with the necessities of the present and future?”

I originally enrolled in this course out of a desire to take a Liberal Education course. Nothing more. The topic piqued my interest and as often my family discussions tend to travel in historical circles, I had been exposed to the history of the Holocaust at a very young age, and thus exposed to what I belive is the very worst of human nature in the form of genocide.

Wanting more out of my education that just the basics, wanting to challenge myself with a topic I am inherently uncomfortable with, and desperately needing real life examples of theory I have been academically exposing myself, “Liberal Education: The problems with genocide” seemed perfect. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The first day of class, Dr. McKay has us explain why we were all there and what faculty we were coming from. A myriad of explanations, most often a desire to continue in the Liberal Education department, every class member was there to learn and to expose themselves to new ideas.The syllabus looked intense, of course. Genocide cases are hardly a light topic, but it wasn’t until this recent class that I fully understood what I was going to have to battle with to remain present and articulate in this course.

Tonight’s class: watch Hotel Rwanda and discuss.

Tonight’s class: watch Hotel Rwanda and internally struggle to remain calm and clear enough to establish a conversation, to put forth legitimate idea’s and insight and to refrain from emotional outpourings which most likely stem from my white, catholic guilt.

The hardest moment was when after the movie ended and we resumed into our “discussion circle”. Classmates wiping away tears, struggling to remain composed and understanding that although there is no way to truly understand the after effects of such atrocities, we all feel empathy and maybe can all relate to these acts  of senseless violence someway.

Seeing violence in my home as a child and growing up knowing, understanding completely, that human beings are sometimes the very worst thing to encounter I still cannot comprehend the act of ethnic cleansing. I can still not understand violence in cold blood. For many reasons, I hope to never be able to truly understand it. I grew up in Canada, in southern Alberta, as a white intelligent and more often than not, middle class female. I have seen and experienced misogyny and classism, I have experienced poverty, and have felt the cold stare of not being good enough; but I have never felt as if my life was in danger because of my heritage. My nationality is Canadian, my background is western European.

We, we meaning my general society, my peers, and my mentors, are so fortunate to live in this country and as often as we are reminded it is just as soon forgotten. The atrocities committed on our own native land are terrible and they are an act of ethnic division in themselves.

This class will likely be the most intense academic experience I will have at the University of Lethbridge. I very much hope it forces me to grow further, causes me to think deeper and wider, and affords me the opportunity to learn from my peers to understand their experiences and their perspectives on hate and violence. Rwanda is very far away from Lethbridge, but Lethbridge is not exempt from its own form of ethnic warfare.

I most hope to learn how those exposed to and victims of genocide preserved hope and continued to see the beauty of our world.

I hope to become a better person.

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