In from the cold: new Inuit art collection fires imagination in the university library

A new art collection, donated to the university’s library, has a cold and snowy beginning. Norman Zepp (BA ’76) and his wife Judith Varga (BA ’76) have travelled the northern-most part of Canada to research the art created by the Inuit people and have cultivated a nationally-recognized collection over the course of nearly 50 years.

The donation includes over 200 sculptures, dozens of prints and drawings, five wall hangings, a vast set of photographs and original interviews with the Inuit artists—predominantly from the Keewatin region of Nunavut.

“This would be a remarkable collection even if the art weren’t included,” noted Tim Hutchinson, university archivist. “The interviews and archival material provide unique insight into the lives of Canada’s northern artists—indeed it is likely the only in-depth documentation available about many of the artists. This is an invaluable addition to our research collections focusing on the North.”

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Judith Varga (BA’76) and her husband Norman Zepp (BA ’76) have donated their collection of Inuit art to the University Library.

Zepp, an independent art curator and expert in Inuit art, started collecting when he first attended the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) as an art history student, in 1969. Peter Millard, an English professor who was influential in the arts community, introduced him to the works of the Inuit people, and Zepp was hooked.

“I’ve always had an instinct for art,” said Zepp. “I wasn’t aware of this style before then, and I immediately went to the Mendel (art gallery) and bought my first piece.”

Thus began a lifetime studying and working with the Inuit people and their creations. Zepp specialized in Inuit art through his masters of Canadian studies, from the University of Ottawa. While a curator at the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina he organized several exhibitions, showcasing the northern creations he had grown so fond of. He also established the Inuit art department for the Art Gallery of Ontario and helped found the Inuit Art Museum in Toronto in 1985.

Zepp’s research trips to Nunavut, at times accompanied by Varga, helped him develop relationships with the artists and learn about the origins of their artwork. “They welcomed us into their homes, so we got to know them,” said Zepp, who noted how worthwhile it was to observe the blending of traditional and contemporary culture, which informed their art.

For instance, some of the most iconic pieces in the collection are the detailed carvings of caribou. Zepp said the Inuit people of the Keewatin region relied heavily on the animal for their existence—for food, clothing, shelter and tools— and the reverence for the animal is reflected in the art. “There are 40 different renderings of the caribou by some of the north’s finest artists,” said Zepp. “It’s such a noble creature and a magnificent subject matter.”

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The historical impact of the collection has not gone unnoticed. This past July the university received word that the Canadian Cultural Property Review Board certified the collection as having ‘outstanding significance and national importance’.

Not only has Zepp brought his lifetime of work to live at the University of Saskatchewan, he has also shared his expertise with the university, by curating other notable Inuit art donations. In 2015 he helped the University Art Collection showcase a collection of Inuit art sculptures donated to the Edwards School of Business by alumnus Sam Schwartz. He also curated the Henry and Cheryl Kloppenburg Collection of Inuit Sculpture which was gifted to the College of Agriculture and Bioresources in 2011.

President Peter Stoicheff noted how important this gift is to the university’s Inuit art collection. “Although we’ve been collecting Indigenous art for decades, in the last few years our collection of Inuit art has expanded impressively in scope,” he said. “Thanks to this donation, we now have a comprehensive overview of this important aspect of Canadian art. Visual art is so important to our campus community, and I’m excited to see how students and researchers use this collection in their work.”

Zepp said it is fulfilling to bring his and Judith’s personal collection to help students at their alma mater. The idea was first proposed to Zepp and Varga by University Archives and Special Collections, and the couple agreed.

“I’m flattered they approached me. It’s rewarding to present the artwork on campus,” said Zepp. “The U of S has always treated Inuit art collections seriously, and I am impressed with how it’s been displayed. I appreciate that the university can put most of its art collection in front of its community.”

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Zepp is hopeful that having the artwork in common library spaces will be encouraging to students, and will provide additional opportunities to visiting community members to absorb the cultural meanings behind the artwork.

Charlene Sorensen, interim dean, agreed. “With the published collections of university libraries being increasingly based on electronic resources, it is rare and unique collections like this one that set us apart,” she noted. “We are so thankful to Norman and Judith for entrusting the University Library with this collection. I look forward to a time when we will be able to have much of the art on permanent display, as an inspiration for students and other visitors to University Archives & Special Collections.”

The Norman Zepp-Judith Varga Collection exhibit is in the Link area of Murray Library until the end of January 2017, and will be available for students and researchers to use in their work through University Archives and Special Collections.

Learn more about the collection in the University Archives and Special Collections in this special video, narrated by Norman Zepp.

Written by Jessica Elfar

Pillars of the Home Ice Campaign

Shortly after graduating from the U of S, Neil Evans (BA’78, BComm’81) and Basil Waslen (BA’78, BComm’78) became friends as professional accountants and through playing hockey together. Little did they know that they would eventually work together to dramatically enhance the experience for hockey players at their alma mater.

Together, Neil and Basil started Pillar Properties Corp. in Saskatoon to develop and manage commercial, industrial, and retail property. Since 2002, Pillar Properties has been responsible for developing notable projects such as University Heights Square Shopping Centre and the acquisition of the Scotiabank Mainbranch and office building on 2nd avenue and 22nd street in Saskatoon.

Pillar Properties is now contributing to the Home Ice Campaign with a generous donation. The campaign is an effort to raise the remaining $7 million to build Merlis Belsher Place, a modern two-storey facility, which will be the home for Huskie hockey teams, campus recreation leagues, and minor hockey.

“As a developer, when we heard about plans for the new facility, we wanted to help,” said Basil. “It is a facility that will be utilized by the community, as well as the university. We felt it was important to contribute to the long-term vision of athletics and student experiences.”

Though they never crossed paths during their years at the U of S, Neil and Basil both played intramural sports at university. Through their hockey connections, Neil and Basil can attest to the bond that sport creates; another reason they wanted to invest in a new home for hockey.

 With a friendship forged through a love of hockey, Pillar Propertiesfounders, Basil Waslen (left) and Neil Evans, have joined the team helping to fund a new home for hockey at the University of Saskatchewan (photo: Dave Stobbe).


With a friendship forged through a love of hockey, Pillar Propertiesfounders, Basil Waslen (left) and Neil Evans, have joined the team helping to fund a new home for hockey at the University of Saskatchewan (photo: Dave Stobbe).

“Team sports have a direct relationship to family, community and work,” said Neil. “Everyone has a role on a team. It instills an attitude of helping one another and working together. These are important lessons for students.”

Giving back to the U of S is not a new venture for Neil and Basil. They both have supported the President’s Student Experience Fund and the Neural Health One Voice Fund. Neil and Basil are also part of the Edwards School of Business Dean’s Circle and have judged students’ business cases.

“Through the Edwards Dean’s Circle, I’ve gained more knowledge and connections with the college,” said Basil. “It has been rewarding to continue to be part of the Edwards School of Business and link with current students.”

Pillar Properties has always made it a mission to support projects that last for generations–its gift to the Home Ice Campaign supports this philosophy perfectly.  “A new ice facility is overdue. The project is now moving forward and we are happy to contribute,” said Neil. “Years from now, minor hockey players, student-athletes, everyone who goes to a Huskie hockey game, we all will be proud of this new facility.”

Click here to make a gift to the Home Ice Campaign.

Alumnus, former researcher earns World Agriculture Prize

Lorne Babiuk (BSA’67, MSc’69, DSc’87), a former U of S researcher and one of the country’s leaders in health research, was recently awarded a prestigious agricultural research prize.

The U of S alumnus and current vice-president research at the University of Alberta was awarded the World Agriculture Prize by the Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences (GCHERA). The award recognizes his lifetime contributions as a renowned virologist, acclaimed for his international leadership in vaccine development and research in veterinary infectious disease control.

Lorne Babiuk, a former U of S researcher and director of the Vaccine and Infection Disease Organization

Lorne Babiuk, a former U of S researcher and director of the Vaccine and Infection Disease Organization.

As a former director of VIDO—which underwent a $19.4-million expansion in 2003 during his tenure—Babiuk led a team that developed six world-first livestock vaccines, including the first genetically engineered vaccine for an animal species. Known for applying animal research to human diseases, he created a vaccine against rotavirus in calves that enabled researchers to develop a vaccine against the viral bowel infection in children. He also set in motion the creation of the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac) at the U of S. Officially open in 2011, the $140-million level-three biocontainment facility is one of the largest of its kind in the world and key to advancing the next generation of vaccines designed to combat diseases such as pandemic influenza, West Nile virus, tuberculosis and numerous others.

See more at GCHERA.

The good old days at CJUS

Since his time as a student at the University of Saskatchewan, Brian Russell (BSc’75) has gone on to a successful career in the geophysical profession in Calgary. In 1987 he founded Hampson-Russell Software with Dan Hampson, which is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of CGG. Brian was selected as one of the first group of Alumni of Influence by the College of Arts and Science.

Brian recently reached out to the Green & White editor about his time as a volunteer radio DJ at CJUS-FM. Below is his retelling of his late nights in the CJUS booth.

The article on the history of CJUS-FM in the fall 2016 issue of the Green & White brought back some nostalgic memories of my time as a volunteer DJ at the station back in the ‘70s and gave me an urge to share some of those memories. Unfortunately, I can find no photographic proof that I was actually at CJUS, so you will just have to take my word for it. Back then, photographs were reserved for birthdays, weddings or family vacations, and you will note that the pictures that accompany the article have the distinct look of being posed for an official photo shoot.

I entered the U of S as a physics undergraduate in 1969 and had no intention of ever getting involved as a DJ with a radio station. But at a party in 1970 I met someone who volunteered at CJUS and he said they were looking for someone to host a nightly jazz show. Since I was an aspiring jazz guitarist at the time, this sounded interesting, but I had zero experience in running a radio show. He said nobody had any experience when they joined the station, so I decided to give it a shot. After a very brief training session, which consisted of learning which buttons to push and which ones not to push and the order to push them in, I was then thrust upon an unsuspecting audience.

I suppose if I had been at the CBC, in addition to actually having had some training in the radio business, my show would have had a technician at the controls, a producer and maybe a director, and plenty of research assistants. I had none of that. I was on my own to develop and present the show. To make matters worse, I really didn’t know much about jazz outside of Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz.

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“While Brian didn’t get his photo taken in the CJUS booth, Dudley Newell, announcer/librarian, is shown here in the control room in 1966. Read the original Green & White article to learn more about the history of CJUS.”

Despite this, CJUS had a wonderful record library and I learned as I went along. I discovered all the greats like Miles Davis, Bill Evans and John Coltrane simply by listening to their records in the studio and reading the record liner notes. Liner notes have been the great casualty of this digital age.  The records were big enough to contain a lot of information on the back cover, and the notes were usually written by experts in the field of jazz criticism.  As my knowledge of the genre grew so did my confidence in putting together a jazz show.

The job was reasonably straightforward, but I had to make sure the sequence was correct. While the current song was playing, I’d “cued” up the next one, trying to find that sweet spot of silence in the vinyl grooves between tracks. When the song ended, I switched my microphone back on, gave my spiel and then started the next piece of music, hopefully remembering to turn the mike off.

A typical spiel might be: “You have just been listening to the Bill Evans trio playing Waltz for Debbie from the album Sunday at the Village Vanguard; with Evans on the piano, Scott LaFaro on the bass and Paul Motian on the drums.  Sadly, Scott died in a tragic car accident only ten days after that recording was made.”  Little did the audience know that I had just read all that minutes before on the liner notes!  In those days, the liner notes were my Google.

And speaking of my audience, I was never sure who was out there late at night listening to my show. I know that my mother was a regular listener, as were some of my more eclectic friends.  But most people in those days were more into rock, which was why my show was on at night. The superstars at CJUS were my colleagues who hosted the rock shows during the day.

Occasionally I would get a surprise and someone would phone in to say how much they were enjoying the show and ask me if I would play a request. This was always tricky because I had to duck out of the studio, locate the record in the stacks and make it back before the current track ended. Also, if I was alone I might not notice that phone outside the studio was actually ringing. The phone inside the studio was a different matter. Only the station manager had the phone number and so if the phone rang it meant you were in deep doo-doo! Perhaps you had forgotten to turn off your mike and the listeners were hearing you sniffle or sing along to the tune. Or, and this was the worst offence, you still had everything muted and all the listeners were listening to was “dead air.” Luckily, I can’t remember any on-air calls (or if they happened, I have suppressed those painful memories).

My initial stint at the station lasted until 1972, when I joined CUSO to teach physics and math in Africa. But when I returned in 1974 to work on my honours degree in geophysics, my friends at the station were happy to give me my old late night jazz program back, probably because nobody else wanted to do it.  When I graduated in 1975 and joined the oil industry in Calgary my radio career came to an abrupt end and has not been resumed since.

But doing that radio show helped me in so many ways. It taught me not to be afraid to tackle new and different things. It gave me a lifelong love and appreciation of jazz. And, most of all, it taught me the art of public speaking, something that has been extremely useful throughout my career. It is unfortunate that CJUS has been off the air since 1985, as working in student radio is a great learning experience for any student. I would love to see the station revived, but perhaps this is just wishful thinking.

Written by Brian Russell

Governor General awards alumnus Medal of Bravery

Myles Brown (BSc’06) received one of Canada’s most distinguished honours for saving a colleague in danger. Last week, Brown and Chad Lyttle were awarded the Medal of Bravery at the Decorations for Bravery ceremony in Ottawa. The medal recognizes acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances.

(Photo: Edmonton.ctvnews.ca)

Brown (left) and Chad Lyttle (right) posing with Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall(Photo: edmonton.ctvnews.ca).

In 2014, Brown and Lyttle risked their lives to protect a colleague who was attacked by a cougar at a research camp near Grande Prairie, Alberta.

Brown and Lyttle saw their colleague being dragged into the bushes by the cougar, and without any equipment, Brown ran towards the wild animal to get it off the victim. Both Brown and Lyttle managed to keep the cougar away while they provided first aid to the victim.

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Astronomical Gift

The donation of a unique telescope from a family of U of S alumni will open up new worlds for the College of Arts & Science’s Department of Physics & Engineering Physics.

At a reception on Friday Oct. 28, the department celebrated the Tarasoff 24-inch telescope donated by Karen Larson (BSHEc’74) and her family in memory of her husband Harry Tarasoff (BA’68, LLB’71).

The instrument is likely the largest telescope in Saskatchewan, said astronomer Richard Huziak (BusAdm’92).

The family of the telescope's builder Harry Tarasoff, who donated the instrument in his memory. Left to right: Nissa Baran, Gavril Tarasoff (with daughter Kalyna Tarasoff), Elia Tarasoff, Karen Larson.

The family of the telescope’s builder Harry Tarasoff, who donated the instrument in his memory. Left to right: Nissa Baran, Gavril Tarasoff (with daughter Kalyna Tarasoff), Elia Tarasoff, Karen Larson.

The story of the instrument’s creation is just as unique as the telescope itself. Tarasoff, a Saskatoon business owner with a passion for building and inventing, constructed it in his shop with help from his sons Gavril (BSc’04) and Elia (BSc’07) and installed it in his backyard. After Tarasoff passed away in 2008, his family donated the telescope to the Department of Physics & Engineering Physics, where he completed his first degree.

The instrument is much larger and more powerful than any optical telescope currently in the department’s possession, said senior departmental assistant Yannis Pahatouroglou, and has excellent potential for expanding the university’s research and teaching activities in astronomy. Future undergraduate astronomy students will make use of the telescope in their classes.

“We are so happy that Harry Tarasoff’s love of discovery and invention will benefit students for many years to come,” said College of Arts & Science Interim Dean Peta Bonham-Smith at the event.

The telescope is currently being prepared for installation on the roof of the Physics Building in mid-2017.

Written by Chris Putnam

U of S connections in city council chambers

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Sarina Gersher (BCc’12) is one of six U of S graduates sworn in to serve on Saskatoon City Council (photo: sarinagersher.ca).

Saskatoon city council was officially sworn in on Monday Oct. 31. Cynthia Block (BA’85), Troy Davies (HosAdm’99), Bev Dubois (BusAdm’81), Sarina Gersher (BSc’12), Hillary Gough (BA’09), and Mairin Loewen (MA’13) are all U of S alumni who will serve as council members.

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Alumni Highlights: Kara Nadeau

For this month’s alumni highlight as part of the Alumni Association centennial, we’re profiling College of Agriculture and Bioresources graduate Kara Nadeau (BSA’11). Nadeau is the head of sales and marketing for her family’s seed business, Nadeau Seeds.

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Tell us about the campus when you went to the U of S; how is it different today?

The campus is beautiful. My favourite time of the year was in the fall with all the beautiful tree colours. The agriculture building is such a fantastic building with huge windows letting in lots of natural light. U of S did an excellent job of incorporating nature, trees and flowerbeds into their campus. Today, it seems like the campus has grown and the student facilities have improved.

What’s one of your favourite memories you had outside of the classroom?

The Agriculture Student Association, which I was the Academic Vice-President (2008-2009), organized amazing events where a person would make new friends and have fun with old ones. I have many great memories with friends in residence, the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and some of the other colleges as well. U of S was such a welcoming university and the professors were also very welcoming and approachable. There was a feeling that the professors genuinely cared for you, to help prepare you for a very promising future. As well, coming from Manitoba, the people in Saskatchewan were so warm and friendly. I immediately felt like at home.

Overall, how was your U of S experience?

I absolutely loved U of S! The campus was beautiful, the people were friendly and I felt like it was a place that allowed me to thrive. The courses, especially in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources were great and diverse. I have a big place in my heart for the U of S as those four years were unforgettable.

How did going to the U of S shape your career?

It shaped my career by having great courses, fantastic mentors, encouragement and an uplifting and hopeful energy in the college, which led me to be confident in the agriculture industry. I found strength in all of this and more. Through my experiences and courses, it developed me both personally and professionally. It was a safe environment where I could learn new things and be independent.

What did you wish you would have known on your first day at the U of S?

To tell you the truth, I only have great memories of my first day at the U of S. I had been so excited leading up to that moment so I was ready for any and all experiences. The Student Orientation was a very special memory of mine on my first day at the U of S that I will never forget. You could feel the energy that the students had knowing that this university would shape their future

Check in for monthly Q&As with alumni from all the U of S colleges, as we sit down to talk about their life after the U of S and how being on this campus shaped their careers. In case you missed any previous features, you can read them here.