Day in the Life: Gillian Booth

Fine Arts, Social Sciences, Education

- Tara Sharpe

Booth. Image: UVic Photo Services

A typical day for Gillian Booth as the newest member of Legacy Art Galleries is never predictable.

“Exhibitions are always changing,” says Booth who, as the new academic and community programmer, helps to grow and enhance links with the broader community and focuses on the development and facilitation of educational programs related to gallery exhibitions and the UVic art collection.

Booth has “always been a maker and a writer” — with an eye on art. She graduated from UVic with a BA in 1993 (geography and environmental studies), a BFA in 2003 (visual art) and an MA in 2005 (curriculum and instruction). For her master’s thesis, she focused on the process of art-making and how it changes the artist. She then spent nine years with the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria before joining the UVic team.

Booth is continually exploring new ideas for cross-disciplinary learning opportunities which invariably take many forms on the UVic campus both in classrooms and the campus gallery space Legacy Maltwood, as well as in UVic’s free public art gallery Legacy Downtown.

She researches and surveys the UVic art collection on a regular basis to determine what is available “to choose works for particular workshops” for UVic students.

And she designs those workshops using art from the collection to teach transferable skills in the contexts of “critical thinking, cultural competencies and object-based learning … and to decolonize how we see art.”

Decolonizing how people see art

“So much of what we do at Legacy Art Galleries is focused on the Indigenous art collection and what’s happening in Indigenous communities. Teachers are looking for ways to teach First Nations culture. Gallery exhibitions are a great way to do that.”

Booth was born in Victoria and was part of the first cohort to take French immersion in Victoria from kindergarten to grade 12, graduating from Mt. Doug. (Her pre-schooler is currently in daycare at École Victor-Brodeur, the French first language school in Victoria.)

Life-changing experiences, overseas

Booth spent several years overseas after obtaining her first undergraduate degree. “I wanted to apply my degree experientially and it was life-changing.” She studied in France and worked in Hungary, Egypt and Ukraine.

She also volunteered for Canadian Crossroads in a midwifery clinic in Mali. “I really wanted to help others to get a similar cross-cultural experience.”

After working with street-youth programs back in Victoria, she returned to UVic for her second bachelor’s and her master’s and, while a student, also worked as a supervisor at Cinecenta and with the Resource Centre for Students with a Disability as a learning strategist.

Booth adds she’s “a bit of a typical west coaster” and likes to hike, bike and swim, as well as “celebrate the food and plants from this place, grow food, forage wild food and learn the wild flowers here. It has always been important to me to ‘ground back’ into the nature of this place, especially after being overseas.”

Now most of her spare time is spent enjoying life with her son, who joined her family when he was eight months old from Kinshasa, a city of 20 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Art gallery as teaching resource and community space

In 2017, Booth will be developing two grade-school programs to address curricular needs of local school boards for meeting BC social-sciences curriculum enhancements with respect to Indigenous history, cultural practice and traditional knowledges.

“It feels like a great fit to be back with UVic again. And I love that we’re downtown. I call it a ‘storefront’ — people can walk in off the street. I really want to help make the art gallery a community space. And I really like discovering what is of interest to people — not only what they like in an exhibit, but also what they may not be comfortable with and what challenges them.”

The day after her interview with The Ring, Booth met with UVic Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator Chaw-win-is (education) to forge more links between faculty members and Legacy Art Galleries in relation to mandatory UVic courses on Indigenous education.

The previous week, Booth bumped into a former acquaintance — the chair of UVic’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics — by pure happenstance and now, because of this chance conversation, she is thinking “of art in terms of math and math in terms of art. What can we do with exhibitions that illustrate connections that may otherwise seem far apart?”

'It’s not just about putting art on the walls'

UVic Legacy Art Galleries, as a leader in cultural and academic collaborations, engages curiosity, inspires creativity, and fosters research and learning through art. The UVic collection is comprised of approximately 20,000 objects and serves the university and all communities through exhibitions, programs, events, teaching and research.

What has surprised Booth most in these first few weeks in her new role is “just how much significant art there is here — in the gallery spaces and throughout campus in the offices, and more public hallways and classrooms.”

“The gallery is not just about putting art on the walls. The conversations we have around art are one of the most important things we do.”

More about the UVic art collection

More about Legacy Art Galleries

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Keywords: administrative, alumni, arts, staff, Day in the Life, Legacy Art Galleries, community, Indigenous knowledge

People: Gillian Booth


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