An artist who grew up in Oak Bay and crafted his foundation in Greater Victoria is among the recipients of honorary doctorates at the University of Victoria this year.
Eric Metcalfe, 80, attended St. Christopher’s school, St. Michaels school and Oak Bay High, then earned a bachelor of fine arts with distinction from UVic. His many awards and accolades include a Gov. Gen. Award for lifetime achievement in 2008 and a 2015 honorary doctorate of letters from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, where he taught for seven years.
The awards signify a key element for the multi-platform artist.
“I’m respected by peers which is the most important thing,” he said in a phone interview from his Vancouver home.
Metcalfe’s choice of secondary school was wholly intentional.
“I heard that Oak Bay High School had a good art teacher by the name of Bill West, recently from the Vancouver School of Art,” Metcalfe said. He scored mostly Cs and Ds with A+ only appearing in art. Despite the grades, he became president of the jazz club and graduated in 1959.
“I was a terrible student. I was an oddball and an artist.”
While growing up in Greater Victoria was great, he left for the mainland in the 1970s in a bid to evolve as a person and an artist.
Since the late 1960s, his art practice has crossed and merged disciplines including painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, performance, video and film. In 1973, he co-founded Western Front, an artist-run centre in Vancouver.
Notable works include a 2005 mural in the lobby of UVic’s Fine Arts Building and the 2014 large work in the lobby of the Burrard Building in Vancouver. He was also commissioned by the Cultural Olympiad to work with American composer George Lewis to create an interactive sculptural sound installation for 2010.
While not currently with a gallery, he mentors young artists and does small tours in B.C. and the prairies (when travel is endorsed).
“If you want to get into the art world it’s very murky. It’s not glamorous, it’s work. You have to play it.”
During a June 8 online ceremony, UVic will issue honorary doctorates to Metcalfe (fine arts), Bruce Poon, (laws), Marvin Storrow (laws), and Dr. Pauline van den Driessche (science).
Metcalfe is pleased to see the university acknowledging artists who came through its system.
“I had a very good education in Victoria. I had some great teachers who helped me through my dyslexic problems.”
Learn more about the artist at ericmetcalfe.ca.
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