Bodyworks: A Symposium brings artsies and jocks together

It’s not unusual for an artist or an academic to find inspiration in their favourite pastime – but poet and English Professor Priscila Uppal, a devoted hockey fan and someone who has taken an array of sports lessons from diving to fencing to figure skating, is taking her love of sport to the next level by organizing Bodyworks: A Symposium.

Intended to foster exchange, dialogue and enlightenment between disciplines, institutions and communities, Bodyworks: A Symposium will be a gathering of professional athletes, artists, researchers and community advocates, plus students. The symposium takes place Nov. 5 and 6 at York’s Keele campus and is co-organized by York grad Suzanne Zelazo (PhD ’07), an elite triathlete, poet and research fellow at Ryerson University.

Uppal, who is also taking part in fundraising efforts for Canada’s Olympic athletes (see YFile Oct. 26), wants to see this interdisciplinary exercise result in innovative research and collaborative multidisciplinary projects that highlight reciprocity between sport and art practice. She also hopes it will encourage breakthroughs in all fields that promote mental, physical and creative health.

“We are always talking about the economic crisis, but we are also suffering from a health crisis and a creative crisis. Promoting how we can engage with our bodies and our minds to lead healthier, happier and more satisfying lives is crucial to strengthening our communities.”

Left: Professor Leslie Heywood, writer and bodybuilder (photo by Anthony Buccino)

The symposium includes an art exhibition at the Samuel J. Zack’s Gallery in Stong College, and the Special Projects Gallery in the Accolade West Building, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, called Artletics: The Art of Sport, featuring artworks by Olympic gold medallist rower Kevin Light, and visual artists Craig Le Blanc, Jane Roos and Julia McArthur, followed the next day by the opening session and keynote address from Professor Leslie Heywood, a former track and cross-country runner who is also a power lifter and bodybuilder and now teaches creative writing and cultural & science studies at  Binghamton University, State University of New York. Heywood is the author of Pretty Good for A Girl: A Memoir and Built to Win: The Female Athlete as Cultural Icon. She has also published a book of poetry titled The Proving Grounds and a number of books on sport.

Heywood will speak at the opening session of the symposium on Nov. 5 in the Founders Assembly Hall, 152 Founders College beginning at 9am.

Panel discussions on the first day of the symposium will look at topics such as the cultural importance of sport, pushing the boundaries of sport  and hypnotism and sport. World-renowned hypnotist Dr. Mike Mandel will be conducting a live workshop on the subject. Greg Malszecki, sports sociologist, activist and professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, will be part of a panel that includes Mary Ellen Clark, two-time US Olympic bronze medallist in diving, and Professor Bradley Young of the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa.

The final event of the first day is a book launch for The Exile Book of Canadian Sports Stories, edited by Uppal, with readings from the book by some of Canada’s greatest storytellers alongside Olympic athletes. This event takes place at The Annex Live, 296 Brunswick Ave. at Bloor Street. Admission to the event is free and participants are invited to help support Canada’s athletes by purchasing a copy of the book. Five dollars from each purchase will be donated to Canadian Athletes Now Fund to support Canada’s Olympians.

Friday’s panels are devoted to discussion of sport and creativity with speakers such as Ann Peel, a former lawyer, Olympic race-walker, and sports, children’s and women’s rights activist. She is the co-founder of the Canadian Athletes Association, now the Athletes Canada, and former executive director of Right to Play.

Russell Field, executive director of the Canadian Sport Film Festival and a professor at the University of Manitoba, has organized a sport film festival scheduled for the final session of the day, featuring the films Our Marilyn and Punch Like a Girl with a Q-&-A with the films’ directors, York Professor Brenda Longfellow, and Maya Gallus and Justine Pimlott of Red Queen Productions. The festival will be followed by a dinner at Atlas One Café, 820 St. Clair Ave. W. at Atlas Road.

Other speakers include:

  • Billy Bridges, gold medallist with the Canadian Paralympic sledge hockey team in Torino in 2006
  • Cory Freedman, an events and logistics strategist, sports activist, and founder and director of Max V02 Management Inc. and Toronto Women’s Runs
  • Bruce Kidd, Canadian Olympic distance runner, dean of Faculty of Physical Education & Health at the University of Toronto, officer of the Order of Canada, and prolific author and athlete activist
  • Kevin Light, photographer and Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian men’s eight rowing team in Beijing in 2008
  • Tara Norton, professional triathlete, multi-sport coach and motivational speaker
  • York Professor Emeritus Barry Callaghan, award-winning Canadian poet, novelist, publisher and journalist
  • Michael Holmes, Canadian poet, novelist, editor and cultural critic
  • George Bowering, poet, novelist, critic, professor and editor, and Canada’s first parliamentary poet laureate
  • Craig Le Blanc, widely exhibited Canadian visual artist
  • Jane Roos director/curator of the Jane Roos Gallery, and director and founder of the Canadian Athletes Now Fund

For more information on the symposium, including a full schedule and on-line registration, visit the Bodyworks: A Symposium Web site or contact Prof. Uppal at

Classes and sports teams are especially encouraged to attend and will be accommodated.