Former associate dean of Fine Arts wins Governor General’s Award

Eight Canadians have won the newly enriched Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, including veteran arts administrator David Silcox, a former associate dean and professor of art history at York, wrote The Globe and Mail March 21. [Silcox also served as Chair of the board of the Art Gallery of York University from 1992-1997.] The awards’ winners will receive $25,000 instead of $15,000. The awards will be presented Friday evening at Rideau Hall in Ottawa by Governor General Michaëlle Jean.

The award given to Silcox, an author, critic and educator, is for his outstanding contribution to the world of art throughout his 40-year career, said the Globe. After studying at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, England, Silcox became the Canada Council’s first arts officer, set up its jury system, helped establish York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, wrote books on David Milne and the Group of Seven, and served on boards of myriad arts organizations.

"The world of art chose me, in a way," he said. "I fell into it. I never got a job I applied for. But I was able to do things I enjoyed doing and was always amazed to get paid for doing it."

  • David Silcox has had a distinguished and varied career as a writer, educator, cultural administrator and arts advocate, wrote Canadian Press March 21. In 1970, he moved to York University to help shape the new Faculty of Fine Arts. The jury described his contributions as "remarkable and with purpose," and noted his efforts in paving the way for young artists. David Silcox lives in Toronto. 
  • The winner of the award for outstanding contribution to the arts was Toronto-based writer and educator David P. Silcox, who is president of art auction house Sotheby’s Canada, wrote Silcox is a strategic thinker, who, in his years of serving Canadian arts organizations, has considered the shape of Canada’s arts community and the legacy of Canadian art.
  • Toronto artists and arts educators, including writer David Silcox, led the way at yesterday’s announcement of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, wrote the Toronto Star March 21. "This is particularly great since it’s not being given posthumously," quipped Silcox.

Career Centre helped student overcome disability obstacles

York alumnus John Huynh (BA ‘01) was eager and talented, wrote The Globe and Mail March 21. And, with a degree in economics from York’s Faculty of Arts, he seemed a prime candidate for a career in finance. But while the employers he approached were happy to interview him, "afterwards, I didn’t hear a response, or they’d say I wasn’t the candidate they were looking for," he says. The reason? He has a physical disability that limits his mobility and the strength in his arms.

One program gave Huynh his big break. He heard from York’s Career Centre that the Bank of Montreal was looking for someone to help develop a recruitment strategy for people with disabilities. He was hired in 2001 as an intern through the bank’s Ability Edge program. The program pays a stipend for up to six months to help people with disabilities make the transition into full-time work.

"That was what I needed to show the work I was capable of doing. Since then, my progress has been based on the work I’ve done and my disabilities were never, ever a factor," he says. Over the next six years, Huynh earned a series of promotions, through the direct banking division to personal banking and then to risk management. Now, at 29, he is an associate manager in marketing.

Prof wonders what’s so fair about Fair Trade?

York alumnus Gavin Fridell (PhD ‘05) brings his own cup when he goes to a coffee shop, chooses only Fair Trade coffee and comments on how he’s not doing enough to help poor farmers in developing countries, wrote the Toronto Star March 21. "You can’t think that shopping is your ultimate political act," he says in an interview at York’s Keele campus, where his book was launched last week. "You have to do more."

A political science professor at Peterborough’s Trent University, Fridell has just released Fair Trade Coffee: The Prospects and Pitfalls of Market-Driven Social Justice (UTP 2007), a book taking a critical look at the successes and failures of the fast-growing Fair Trade sector.

At the launch of Fridell’s book last week, Darryl Reed, Chair of social sciences in York’s Faculty of Arts, and a former professor of Fridell’s – and an early Fair Trade advocate – said the movement needed to go mainstream to survive. "If we all have to go to Ten Thousand Villages (a chain of Fair Trade stores) to buy our coffee, they’re not going to sell much coffee," he says, admitting the movement has some thinking to do about how to effect change while working with large corporations. "It’s really a strategic question."

Taking large steps on the path to diversity

Hari Krishnan (MA ’02) has taught hundreds of students of South Indian courtly dance for 12 years, but the internationally renowned master of the ancient Bharatanatyam style will only celebrate his first graduate this June. That says volumes about the kind of professional – and perfectionist – the Toronto artist is, wrote the Toronto Star March 21.

"I don’t believe in stereotypes and I don’t like to be called ethnic, exotic and foreign. It’s just the idea that whenever something is not Western, it’s considered less," said Krishnan, 37, who ultimately moved to Toronto in 1997 to pursue a post-graduate degree in dance at York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies. His tireless devotion to promoting and experimenting with Bharatanatyam dance has earned him a 2007 New Pioneers Arts Award from the Star.

Jeff’s forever glad he went into acting

It’s a great story. Local kid makes good. When he also happens to be a personable lad with plenty of charm the story is even better, wrote the Hamilton Spectator March 21 in a story about York alumnus Jeff Giles (BFA ’06), who grew up in Stoney Creek. Bored with the daily drudge of schoo, he decided to try some "theatre stuff" after hours. Giles’s mom enrolled him in acting classes. Giles loved it…. I was bitten by the bug. It took over my life." Deciding to pursue a professional career, Giles went to York University to hone his natural skills. "The training was terrific. I found true mentors there. I came out feeling good. Then came the serious job of looking for work."

York alums are members of local anti-war group

Davenport Neighbours for Peace was established in 2002 when the US invaded Iraq, wrote the Bloor West Villager March 15. The group includes Andrew Hodge (BFA ’01, MA ’05, BEd ’05) and Pam Frache, who were York students and know each other through the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Glendon College student is ‘Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister’

Joseph Lavoie, a political science major at York University’s Glendon College, has won the CBC’s nationwide search for “Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister”, wrote the North York Mirror March 20. After graduating, Lavoie will tackle the internships with the goal of a career in public policy or public relations. "Ideally, I hope to end up on the Hill as an MP and, who knows, perhaps even as prime minister," Lavoie said. "But that’s a long way off." The Mirror noted that Glendon College at York University is Canada’s only bilingual liberal arts college.

Green Party selects federal candidates

The Danforth Greens have announced their candidate for the next federal election, wrote the East York Mirror March 15. Charles Battershill, a sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, will serve as the party’s representative for the Toronto-Danforth riding. This is Battersill’s first time running for public office. A five-year area resident, Battersill is basing his platform on global climate change and the environment. A nomination meeting for the Green Party’s Beaches-East York candidate will take place March 27 at 7 pm at the Beacher Café, 2162 Queen St. E.

York’s local councillor is pleasantly surprised by light rail plan

The corner of Jane Street and Finch Avenue West could turn into a west-end transit nexus if Toronto can scare up the $6-billion-plus it will need to realize its Transit City light rail plan, wrote the North York Mirror March 20. The newly-elected Toronto city councillor for Ward 8, Anthony Perruzza, has a history of skepticism when it comes to major transit projects, however he said his constituents should feel more connected with the city by existing transit initiatives.

"I’m comfortable in telling people that the dedicated busway from Downsview Station to York University is going to happen. I’m comfortable in telling them that we’re going to initiate subway activity in expanding the subway to Steeles. And I’m comfortable in telling people we need a much broader and more comprehensive plan to integrate the more under- serviced areas of the city with the rest of the city," he said. "I think a line up Jane Street and another along Finch would go a long way to doing that."

Sex-trade workers challenge current laws

Canada‘s prostitution laws are the focus of a court challenge to be launched today by current and former sex-trade workers, wrote The Globe and Mail March 21. The applicants are targeting specific Criminal Code provisions – those dealing with keeping a bawdy house, living off the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of prostitution – that they say put sex workers in danger. The details of their application to the Ontario Superior Court will be revealed March 21 by a legal team that includes Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Former York professor Alex McLeod, economist, 1911-2007

Like a bespectacled, banker-suited Indiana Jones, Alex McLeod dashed from one exotic country to another in pursuit of what he called his quest, wrote The Globe and Mail in an obituary March 21. Haunted by the trauma of the Great Depression and determined to find its causes so it could never happen again, he looked to the same Holy Grail all liberal economists ache to hold in their hands: humane economic policies that allow for full employment and social justice. McLeod had a less dramatic name for the quest: Economic sanity.

Forget the image of a bone-dry economist; McLeod’s career could be called adventurous, even romantic, wrote the Globe. He had a hand in the formulation of monetary policies throughout Central America and parts of the Arab world, was governor of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, was the first chief economist of the Toronto-Dominion Bank and served as professor of economics at York University before retirement rendered him, as he put it, "a professional gadfly."

In 1973, four years after he accepted a professorship at York University, the school granted him leave to advise the government of Botswana on monetary matters, which led to its first central bank, the Globe wrote. The teaching stint ended in 1977, and McLeod continued his love of sailing and racing sloops. And he wrote, pounding out books, letters and articles for his website until he was 94. A lifelong teetotaller, he was a serious man but not without an impish sense of humour. He and his twin brother swapped places several times in their lives, to mixed success.

McLeod was born in Arcola, Sask., on May 6, 1911. He died in Toronto on Feb. 25, 2007, of Parkinson’s disease. He was 95. He leaves his wife of 65 years, Rosalind (Biggerstaff), sons Norman, Bruce, Keith and Ronald, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

On air

  • Dawn Bazely, professor of biology in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and director of York’s Institute for Research & Innovation on Sustainability, spoke about new plant species in the Toronto area on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” March 21.
  • Judy Hellman, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, took part in a debate about US President George W. Bush and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, on TVO’s “The Agenda” March 21.