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The ARTS-SCÉA SIG would like to congratulate the following individuals who were presented with awards at our annual general meeting during the 2022 CSSE Conference:

The winner of the Doctoral Dissertation Award is Dr. Zane Zalis of the University of Manitoba.  His dissertation is titled Music Composition as Arts-Based Educational Research & Performative Inquiry in the Creation of Nostos: A Journey of Others and was completed under the supervision of Dr. Francine Morin.  One reviewer commented: 

“This is a very unique doctoral journey using arts-based educational research as an overarching thrust combined with performative inquiry to create a beautiful piece of writing and 11 movements of original music composition all towards addressing critical and systemic racism with an underlying hope for a more humane school system and beyond to a better world.  This is an outstanding dissertation–I loved it and feel the world is a better place with this person in it.” 


Congratulations, Dr. Zalis! 


The winner of this year’s Master’s Thesis Award is Laen Hershler of the University of British Columbia.  The title of his thesis is, Four Quadrants of Research-Based Theatre and was completed under the supervision of Dr. George Belliveau.  One reviewer commented:


“I believe strongly this work and its author have wings and will continue to fly, with this compelling work underneath him as a pedestal from which to take flight into new territory, across new horizons, and to continue to breathe new life into the potential of research-based theatre in academia and beyond…”


 Congratulations, Laen!

2020 PhD Graduate Research Award Winner:


Blake E. Smith, PhD

University of British Columbia, 2020

Supervisor: Dr. Rita L. Irwin


Dr. Blake Elizabeth Smith is a photographer, art and teacher educator, curator, and creative writer from Atlanta, Georgia. She is passionate about photography, learning, and creativity and taught for eighteen years, including postsecondary, high school, elementary, and community classes. Her years as a high school and university photography teacher helped to inform and inspire her doctoral research. Blake’s a/r/tographic research engages photographic inquiry in an ongoing search for memory. Her work aims to expand the poetic and pedagogical possibilities around visual life writing, lexical thinking, and photo-based research and teaching. As of July 1st, 2021, Blake is the incoming Visiting Professor in Residence in the Department of Teaching and Learning in Art and Design at the Rhode Island School of Design, and she is thrilled about this new position and the adventure that awaits. 

Blake’s dissertation, entitled, Being Against Disappearance: A Photographic Inquiry Through an A/r/tographic Lens was completed at the University of British Columbia under the supervision of Dr. Rita L. Irwin whom Blake credits as being instrumental in supporting the writing of her dissertation in a meaningful, authentic way. Blake is grateful to be honored with this prestigious dissertation award and acknowledges the artists and educators who took part in her study. They helped form a compelling community of practice without whom this work would not be possible.

Reviewer comments:


Drawing on her background as a photo educator, curator, and visual artist, Dr. Smith explores the complex and interconnected ethical, artistic, and pedagogical potential of photo-based memory work, using a/r/tography as a methodology. The concept of disappearance is expertly brought to light and grounded in a creative community of practice.

2019  ARTS Graduate Student Award

Master award recipient: Kevin Hobbs (Brock University, 2019, MA in Social Justice and Equity). To Know Their Stories: Using Playbuilding to Develop a Training/Orientation Video on Person-Centered Care. 

PhD award recipient: Anna Romanovska (OISE, 2019, PhD in Leadership, Higher, and Adult Education). A Subdued Palette of Subversion: Artistic Expression, Creativity, and Family Coping Strategies in Soviet Latvia.

2018  ARTS Graduate Student Award

ARTS Graduate Research Award (PhD) recipient: Anar Rajabali (University of British Columbia)

Title of the work: (Re)turning to the Poetic I/Eye: Towards a Literacy of Light

Supervisor: Carl Leggo


ARTS Graduate Research Award (MA) recipient: Meghan Parker (Simon Fraser)

Title of the work; Art teacher in process: An illustrated exploration of art, education, and what matters

Supervisor: Lynn Fells

2016  ARTS Graduate Student Award

PhD dissertation Recipient: Laurel Hart.  (Concordia, 2016 ) Her Mind’s Eye: Women’s visions of urban life explored in a place-based social/mobile photography community, online and on-the-ground


MA thesis: Nathan Hall.  (Acadia, 2016) An autoethnograpic exploration of my sexual identity as seen through interpretive dance


2015  ARTS Graduate Student Award

Recipient: Holly Tsun Haggarty

Recipient's university: Lakehead

Title of the work: Resisting Positivism:  Unfolding The Epistemological Basis of Two Arts-Integrating Research Methodologies, Arts Based Research and A/r/tography

Supervisor: Pauline Sameshima


Edited reviewer comments:

The thesis inquiry is excellently conceived and constructed - the level of scholarship and writing outstanding. The topic, comparing two arts research approaches, is intriguing and makes a valuable contribution to the scholarly community. I thoroughly enjoyed the witty, reflexive poetry integrated throughout."

For me, the strength of this thesis lays in its commitment to deep and genuine inquiry into foundations of arts education and art in/as research. Too often, in this world of speedy scholarship, foundational elements are taken as given, taken on authority, and not interrogated. The author of this thesis was compelled to look and look again, to truly re-search. This is what scholarship can be. S/he brings a balanced and powerful methodological synthesis to bear on this inquiry, which appropriately combines critical, creative and heuristic approaches. Through this work, I feel that s/he was successful in offering a satisfying response to the proposed ambitious re-search question of "how is art a way of knowing?" and that in this way it makes a valuable contribution. 

2014 ARTS Doctoral Graduate Award 

Recipient: Dr. Graham Lea 
Homa Bay Memories: Using Research-based Theatre to Explore a Narrative Inheritance 
University of British Columbia
Advisor: Dr. George Belliveau

Abstract: In her article When Missions Became Development: Ironies of ‘NGOization’ in Mainstream Canadian Churches in the 1960s (2010), Ruth Compton Brouwer discusses the move from a missionary to a secular focus in international development. To personalize this transition she tells the story of a high-school friend who, instead of following her uncle into missionary work, joined a secular Non-Governmental Organization to teach in Kenya. Compton Brouwer’s unnamed friend was my mother and the stories of her Kenyan experiences became a significant part of my narrative inheritance (Goodall, 2005). Inspired by these stories I engaged with my narrative inheritance, travelling to, and teaching in Kenya as a part of my teacher training. At the heart of this dissertation is Homa Bay Memories, a theatrical script developed using research-based theatre and narrative inquiry to explore my and my mother’s Kenyan experiences almost forty years apart. This exploration is based on letters, photos, and audio recordings left behind by my mother after her death as well as artifacts and memories of my Kenyan experiences. Through this scripted research I seek a deeper understanding of a little known but influential part of my mother’s life and how her experience has, and continues to, shape my life. Developing the script Homa Bay Memories also provided an opportunity to critically engage with research-based theatre as a methodology. Saldaña (2010) notes a lack of accounts detailing the development and “critical decision-making processes” (p. 4) encountered in research-based theatre projects. I address this gap through a careful examination of the development of Homa Bay Memories. The methodological exploration becomes the spine of this dissertation as I closely examine key moments, tensions, and decisions I faced while crafting and conceptualizing this research for the stage. These experiential and methodological contributions are theoretically informed by Bakhtin’s notion of chains of utterances (1986). This theoretical lens suggests a relentless rationality and “unfinalizability” (Holquist, 2002, p. 195) that characterizes both the understandings and presentation of the research. The dissertation concludes by suggesting possible evaluative entry points into the work. Link to file.

Edited Reviewer Comments: Homa Bay Memories -- artistic offerings that capture the paradoxical nature of life tend to speak poignantly in these times. Here Lea bridges Canadian churches with a NGO in Kenya; one life past (mother) with one life present (researcher); art as product (script writing) and art as relations (theatre performance). Thoughtfully written this project layers arts-based methods with theoretical, philosophical and personal insights. While respectful of the traditional elements of a dissertation, this research embodies its own "encounter with life/living":  a creative text and performance models with finesse the ways that scholarly artistic work can be imagined. This dissertation is recognized for its relevance for contemporary arts education, its methodological and writerly sensibilities, as well as its artistic merit. A wonderful read!

This link shares a series of videos showing a scene in various stages of rehearsal along with discussion. These recordings are from Dr. Lea’s script Homa Bay Memories, which forms the heart of his dissertation Homa Bay Memories: Using research-based theatre to explore a narrative inheritance.

ARTS expresses appreciation to our colleagues who served on the Review Committee: Dr. Bernie Andrews, Dr. Maureen Connolly, and Dr. Alexandra Fidyk.

IMAGES:  Lea, G. W. Nitobe Garden: April 1, 2011. Photograph and text by Graham W. Lea.; Photographer Unknown (1966). E. June Dingwell with Puff Adder.; Dingwell, E. J. (1967). Homa Bay from Asego.

2014 ARTS Masters Graduate Award

Recipient: Kathleen Morris 
Emerging views on making fibre graduates reflect on their practice
University of Toronto
Supervisor: Dr. Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández

This narrative research examines the ways in which craft is conceptualized from the perspective of five recent graduates from the Material Art and Design Fibre Program at a prominent Canadian art and design university. Recognizing the cultural currents that have excised acts of making, including Western de-industrialization and abundant access to offshore labour markets, this research looks at the role of maker within  a new societal context. A nascent theoretical platform for craft, shaped by artists and academics, counters a dearth of voices that has characterized the field’s history. Here, craft is posited as a methodology, characterized by embodiment, subjectivity, resistance, and skill. The experience of emerging makers, and their reflection in relation to this theoretical framework, allows for a broader consideration of present-day craft practice, and a renewed consideration of material arts curricula. Link to thesis

Edited Reviewer Comments:This narrative study has broad implications for the theorizing and practice of craft as well as the design of post-secondary craft education programs. Through conceptualizing and contextualizing craft politically, economically and aesthetically both in terms of student experiences and in terms of how programs revision craft as design, Morris challenges how we view, perceive and even teach craft. In this way, she contributes meaningfully to the conversation and pushes the academy to reframe the discussion and practice around craft. Her link to “making” was compelling and worth further inquiry both from an academic and artistic perspective. Her chosen narrative analysis structure is rich in possibilities and a remarkable synthesis of perspectives, drawing on theories of embodiment, agency, resistance, and skill.

ARTS expresses appreciation to our colleagues who served on the Review Committee: Dr. Fiona Blaikie, Dr. Terrah Keener, and Dr. Pamela Richardson. 


2013 ARTS Doctoral Graduate Award 

Recipient: Dr. Terrah Keener
See Me, Hear Me … Queerly Visible: Conversations about family and school with nonheterosexual parents and their children
University of South Australia
Avisor: Dr. Vicki Crowley

Abstract: This dissertation explores the schooling experiences of non-heterosexual parents and their children. Using queer theory as a theoretical frame this research problematizes the normalization of school and family both within the school system and the larger community by disrupting assumptions about non-heterosexual parents and the families they construct. It incorporates a multi-layered narrative and arts-influenced methodology (derived from narrative inquiry, arts-informed research methods, and a/r/tography) to interrogate issues surrounding silence and queer visibility within a school setting. Leveraging visual arts and performance as both a means of data generation and data representation, this thesis illustrates how dominant cultural practices and narratives surrounding school and family perpetuate heteronormative ideology, while excluding and silencing non-heterosexual parents and their children.

Queer visibility became a re-occurring place of reflection and tension for parents as they re-told their stories of creating a queer family presence in their child’s school. Queer visibility in the context of this research has many manifestations and I was led to the work of Janet Finch and her discussion about the art of displaying family. Finch (2007) describes the “need” to display family as an activity that is consciously acted out. The phrases display and act out increasingly took on more meaning as my research progressed and it became progressively more important for me to be able to understand and illuminate the particulars of the stories as represented by the participants. I incorporated a community based art exhibition, as a means of data generation, which became a public event, We are: Expressions of Family Queer Experience, held at Pier 21 in Halifax Nova Scotia. The stories displayed throughout the exhibit spoke to the multiplicity of queer experience as lived by each participant challenging the viewer to expand her/his own narrative about what it means to be and create a family within a society that is based upon assumptions of conformity.

Edited Reviewer Comments:This [submission] addresses crucial topics for arts education, the larger educational field, and society. There seems to be a dynamic of sensitivity and activism throughout this inquiry. The study is well designed to give the art making aspect a valid role in expressing ideas that have significance to the questions. The findings have relevance not only in arts education but also across the range educational sites and institutions. This dissertation is an important and timely challenge to teachers and administrators, calling them to acknowledge the perpetuation of heteronormative ideology in schools. Provocative and timely work contributing to the momentum for queering our schools.

2013 ARTS Doctoral Graduate Honorable Mention

Recipient: Dr. Nané Jordan
Inspiriting the Academy: Weaving Stories and Practices of Living Women’s Spirituality
University of British Columbia 
Supervisor: Dr. Daniel Vokey

Abstract:I centred my dissertation study on an innovative Masters of Arts degree program in Women’s Spirituality (WSMA) based in San Francisco, from which I graduated. I co-inquired with six women, who are faculty and student alumni, into the ongoing effects of the WSMA in our lives. As a Canadian arts-based curriculum scholar, I found myself continuing to cross borders. The WSMA is located in San Francisco, California, at Sophia University, but was previously directed from New College of California. Engaging storied interviews and experiential, arts-based practices, my research was influenced by my working background as an artist and lay midwife—by my involvement in woman-centred spirituality, and by my location as a mother and ecologically-minded educator. The aims of my dissertation study were to artfully: 
1) bridge the innovations of Women’s Spirituality education and scholarship towards other fields of knowledge, 
2) make more ‘space’ to do inspirited, body-mind-heart-spirit-art integrated, multi-modal educational research projects, 
3) inquire into struggles for new and emergent subjectivities, as in whom and what has been hidden, or not fully appreciated within the academy—especially in regards to alternate spiritualities, and the connection of these to social/gender justice education and work.

Edited Reviewer Comments: The artistic creative work is integral throughout the study – design, methodology, analysis. The inquiry is extremely well grounded in the pertinent literature thus situating the inquiry within the spiritual but aligning well with educational and social concerns. Beautifully articulated holistic possibilities for pedagogy! This abstract beautifully weaves narrative with academic content. The work demonstrates significant complexity and thoughtful theoretical review to 
substantiate the framework. The use of the red thread metaphor works well to tie the stories and the journey. The combination of a marginalized topic, a unique combination of research approaches, and excellent writing (both artistic and expository) make this an important piece of work.

2013 ARTS Masters Graduate Award

Recipient: Chantal Laurin
Vers une approche interculturelle de l’enseignement de l’orchestre à cordes de la première secondaire 
Université du Québec à Montréal 
Supervisor: Madame Nicole Carignan 

Translated Abstract:School must adapt to the plurality of cultures, languages, places of origin, and religions of its students and their parents, since ethno-cultural diversity has led to several transformations in Quebec society…. Adapting to the students means adjusting expectations and proposing differentiated paths leading to the development, consolidation, and mastery of three disciplinary competences—creating, interpreting, and appreciating. While music is generally viewed as a universal language, researchers are re-questioning this received idea….Thus, the qualifier of ‘universal’ is not attributable to music as a language, but rather to music as a phenomenon, since it is present in all cultures and always connected to a social context. What would be the constitutive criteria of reference in a unit for the teaching of original music? Further, in what context of an intercultural music education, would these criteria permit the development of intercultural competence in a secondary school string orchestra?

Edited Reviewer Comments:The author’s assertions that more appropriate selection of materials for music education will contribute to greater empathy and appreciation of the culture of others is an important contribution to the growing scholarship on this issue. A well-articulated thesis in traditional research format contributing to intercultural dialogue through the arts. [T]he analyses appear to be based on a complex array of factors and the work offers an endorsement including reasons to promote secondary school orchestra.

2012 ARTS Doctoral Graduate Award 

Recipient: Jocelyn (Beryl) Peters
A Formative Study of Rhythm and Pattern: Semiotic Potential of Multimodal Experiences for Early Years Readers University of Manitoba
Supervisor: Dr. Kelvin Seifert

Abstract: The geographies of rhythm are found in nature, place, and body, and “shape human experience in timespace” (Edensor, 2010, p. 1). The question addressed in this study is what potential the semiotic resource and geography of rhythm has to engage early years children in print and non-print literacy learning. The study investigates the problem of finding alternate multimodal pathways for learning in both reading and music for all early years children, particularly those who may struggle with traditional pedagogical approaches to reading. The guiding theoretical framework is drawn from a “chorus of agents provocateurs” (Zwicky, 1992, p. ix) including literature and research from the domains of reading, music, the arts, music education, semiotics, multiliteracies, multimodal semiotics, creativity and flow studies, play, embodied learning, neuroscience, and complexity thinking.

Edited Reviewer Comments: This is a hugely ambitious, well-designed study which examines multimodal, multidisciplinary meaning making through attention to rhythm as an aid to reading skills. Peters’ work is eloquently expressed and carefully documented, with interesting summaries. The use of jazz components as a springboard for discussion was fittingly rich!

Dr. Peters holding her art prize painted by Jennifer Pazienza

Figure from Peters' dissertation. Qualities of the beat as "the force" in experimental classrooms. 2011

Threaded bricolage map of study methods and perspectives. Peters, 2011.

2012 ARTS Masters Graduate Award

Recipient: Rozina Ahmad
Visual Journals, Artistic Processes, and Cross Curricular Connections: An Arts-Informed Inquiry St. Francis Xavier University
Supervisor: Dr. Matthew J. Meyer

Abstract: The trend for art making among youth today comes from a visual culture that struggles to fit traditional definitions of art. Art education programs need to include broader notions of artistic development (Kindler, 2003). Kindler (2003) stated, the importance of visual culture in the educational world can be seen in the art created by today’s children, often through cartoon or manga drawings. This type of art, says Kindler, is created as a result of how children experience the world through media and is often disregarded as art. It is thought to be  immature and simplistic yet, as Kindler points out, there must be a need for it, or children would not be engaging in this type of art making. She suggests children have a need to represent, communicate, and share ideas and thoughts significant to them. This need is what guides their desire to create. 

Edited Reviewer Comments: The author's creative response evokes generative possibilities for creativity in the research process.  Questions are open not destined for closure. In the performativity of this a/r/tography, Ahmad offers an exquisite juxtapositioning of text and image as the live(d) experience of a/r/tography. The doubts and the risks and the wonder co-emerge in the multiple layerings of contextual sedimentation as a material event.  

Ms. Ahmad holding her art prize painted by Tasha Diamant.

Pages from Ms. Ahmad's thesis.

2011 ARTS Doctoral Graduate Award

Recipient:  Dr. Phyllis Grace Steeves
Literacy: Genocide's Silken Instrument
University of Alberta Supervisor: Dr. Cora Weber-Pillwax

Abstract: Most literature related to literacy focuses on barriers to attaining reading and writing skills sufficient to “succeed” in contemporary Western societies. This study addresses an absence of literature critiquing the concept of literacy’s negative impact on Indigenous peoples, a critique lacking even in areas increasingly acknowledged as problematic such as the loss of Indigenous languages and the devaluing and displacement of oral traditions prompted by literacy/written language.
The study identifies and focuses on issues associated with expansion of the concept of literacy. Included is an exploration of the concept of “Aboriginal literacy” and ways it is problematically entwined with arts based research. This entwinement includes arts based research’s alignment with text, a component and currency of literacy. The theoretical framework constructed within this study drew from a wide literature base that included arachnology, education, literacy, arts based research, and genocide studies. Drawing on this wide literature base, known processes and theories related to the building of orb spider webs were used to liken the concept of literacy to processes used by an orb spider spinning a web. Through a discussion of real and potential outcomes, the theoretical framework created introduces and critiques literacy as one of genocide’s many instruments.

Reviewer comments: Steeves level of theorizing is notably sophisticated. Her theoretical discussion challenges assumptions around arts research in ways that moves arts research forward. She creates openings for discussion through controversial issues. Steeves work is interdisciplinary in a deeply integrative way. She does not use visual art to set mood, or decorate, or reiterate; rather, it is through the narrative artistry of her spider metaphor and writing that she critiques our complicity. 

Laying radius threads. Illustration: Gole, Kumar (1965)

An incomplete web. Illustration Witt and Reed (1965)

2011 ARTS Masters Graduate Award

Recipient: Shanna Hagens
Teaching in the Taiga: Learning to Live Where I Am
University of Victoria
Supervisor: Dr. Antoinette A. Oberg

Abstract: I am a non-Aboriginal teacher from the South, living and teaching in the Canadian North, traditional home to Aboriginal people for thousands of years. The Aboriginal people of the North have come to know the land deeply, their knowing rooted in an intimate understanding of and respect for the natural world. Coming to this land as a foreigner, I believe it is incumbent upon me to live and interact in the community in a way that respects the culture and way of life of the community. In this inquiry, I explore what it is to live respectfully, by relating to place and community from a position of unknowing, locating myself moment to moment as I am involved and implicated teaching and living within the flow of the community and the rhythms of the land. Specifically, I explore what it is to be connected and entangled, yet have no permanent roots. For this purpose, I draw on my experiences teaching and living in a number of northern locations throughout the taiga sub-arctic biome and represent experiences and understanding through mixed genre and multimedia such as poetry, descriptions, stories, photos and journal entries. The aim of my inquiry is to bring forth and theorize my emergent understanding of my self-in-relation to the curricular lifeworld of the school and community in the place where I teach. 

Reviewer comments: I was struck by the risks taken, and by the range of arts explored. Many art forms were used to beautifully, sensitively, and with considerable effect, explore the theme/question/issue/problem, without calling on other artists. I was very impressed with this work. As well, there was humility about it that was evident throughout. This is a beautifully written thesis on a relevant and timely theme, that of living and learning respectfully alongside aboriginal cultures. Her “currere-in-context” approach acknowledges the power of place in teaching and learning and celebrates the roles that the arts can play in providing new ways of sharing the connection we make to place and to people. Her use of multiple forms of the arts, both image and text-based, provide multiple access points into the inquiry for viewers and readers alike.

red willows entwine by the river,

breathing in a changing landscape

the river speaks, silent and unseen

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