The Debacle of the Capilano University Studio Art Closure


The following is a report from former Capilano and current Emily Carr student Jennifer O'Keefe. It outlines her experience and investigation into the Capilano programs closure of the studio art program last year. It is important that as this political and highly contested event disappears from our newsfeeds that investigation and analyses of how this continues to affect the climate of artists and students in Vancouver persists.


From the very beginning it became evident that the University administration seemed to care very little for the students and faculty of the programs axed. 

The announcement of cuts occurred 3 days before the end of term 2013: our coordinator, under gag order by the admin, leaked it to all the students and staff that our program was going to be cut, apparently the admin wanted her to wait until their graduation to break the news! The timing of this came too late for many of the students to apply to other institutions (students feared that they would not be able to graduate because of the cuts ), it was also too late for many faculty to find  jobs at other institutions. Most of the students and staff were crying when the news broke, we then started delegating tasks and organizing how we were going to try and save the program.

    Originally one of the explanations given to us by the admin, was that the University had a budget deficit of $ 1.3 that was being incurred by the programs, however after I started reviewing the audits and the revenue that programs were generating, it became evident that this wasn't really the case.  

To cover a 1% shortfall, the University was cutting $3.1 million in programs, cancelling 211 courses, and cutting entire programs without a clearly stated plan. I started to question if the deficit was a result of financial mismanagement of the University’s finances. I filed Freedom of Information requests with Michaela Hanemaayer for administrative travel expenses and spent a lot of time reading through the University’s audits, and there were definitely some questionable things occurring in regards to the financial management of the institution.”

Here is some of the information gained in our FOI requests:

Over her last four years, Capilano University VP Catherine Vertesi has spent $276,692 on travel costs.  She spent $79,651.43 for 2011 alone, including a side trip to Paris! Coincidentally, she just happens to be former Premier Gordon Campbell's sister.

Catherine Vertesi's travel expenses:

2011 $74,739.59

2010 $55,600.18

2009 $66,701.06

 in 2006-2013 Cindy Turner spent $21,464.00 

There is also considerable circumstantial evidence suggesting that Cap had been subsidizing international student tuition.  - Subsidizing international student tuition is against Provincial Mandate. 

Thus, Catherine Vertisi's travel expenses over those four years amounts to approximately 20% of the budget-shortfall of $1.3 million. For one individual to be incurring such extravagant expenses when the University is obviously experiencing significant economic difficulties is utterly unacceptable. Further, given the apparent climate of entitlement that seems to pervade the administration at Capilano, it is hardly surprising that they have mismanaged the University's finances to such an extent that the very programs that have historically constituted the essence of the University ( Studio Arts, et al ) have

been eliminated. To sum, the future of education has been compromised by incompetence and corruption of the people entrusted to oversee the institution. 

Juan Cisnero, Melissa O’Connor,  Michaela Hanemaayer and I became largely responsible for writing and distributing the petitions to the Government, Board and President asking them to save the program; students sent out crews to gather signatures from the campus and the community of North Vancouver,  eventually we received over 7000 signatures.  

                I organized a silent sit-in protest to take place in the presidents office April 29th 2013. However this was sidelined; instead, more than 100 students and faculty were crowded into the lecture hall to meet with Kris Bulcroft (who was sitting on a chair onstage), Keirnon Simmons the school conflict resolution advisor mediated the affair. Each student was expected to go up individually in order to speak (while having their faces videotaped by the admin! ). In response, the film students decided that it was only fair that the administration should also be filmed (videos of the meeting are on youtube). At one point I went up to speak and said “ We, the students are requesting an independent audit of the University, to ascertain the extent of the deficit as we have reason to believe the deficit is due to financial mismanagement. We would also like some budget transparency: travel costs and expenditures by the administration, are the trips at the costs of students and taxpayers. We question the shifting of resources making the university more attractive to international students and by so doing, the admin has chosen to deny education opportunities to existing and future students”.  ( prior to the meeting I had been reviewing the Public sector database, and had been somewhat alarmed by the amount of expenses being claimed by certain VP’s! )  At the meeting, students asked if they were including faculty severance packages for the cut programs, in the deficit, to which they replied yes, when asked further regarding what the cost of this was, they stated that severance packages were roughly around $600,000, but that they did not know for sure, because some faculty might choose to take early retirement instead. To be clear, this meant that they were including the severance pay of the soon to be laid-off faculty in the $1.3 million dollar projected deficit (?!) At the same meeting faculty had offered to pool together money and fundraise to bail the University out of its deficit as it was the equivalent to the price of a house, however Kris Bulcroft talked about how they had not given up on getting adequate government funding. After which I asked “ But even if you had the funding, would you keep the programs?” Her response was “ that’s a good question, we have to continue this dialogue, that she didn't know enough about the programs and their longterm sustainability. After further questioning she said, “No, she wouldn't keep the programs”.

You can imagine what the reaction to this statement was!

Video :

           After more research in the library archives Michaela and I stumbled upon the ‘Conceptual Development Plan’ for the University, a very interesting document that discussed international student housing in the northern part of the campus. (The Studio Art Building, the Jazz building  and the parking lots were also in the yellow zone for future redevelopment?). I was later sent a video of the North Vancouver District Council meeting where the admin had introduced the plan. When questioned by the District Council about how they planned to fund the projects, they said that they had no funds. (?!) Why would the administration spend $76,462 on a plan which they had no known budget to work with? 

What bothered me the most about this whole process is the fact that while all these things were happening, very few people actually seem to stop and question! When you see something that’s not right, or the numbers don't add up, doesn't that make you want to get out there and try to find out what exactly is wrong?

           Needless to say, Michaela and I spent rather a lot of time researching, trying to find answers as it seemed that all the faculty, students and community were being stonewalled by the administration, with little transparency into the processes at Capilano University. 

                    On June 11th the Board of Governors voted to cut programs despite public and community outrage, and letters of support from artist Gordon Smith, who begged the board to reconsider! Letters from Emily Carr University faculty spoke of how the Studio Art program was invaluable to the Arts and Culture of B.C. At the meeting the Board also refused to look  at the CFA alternative budget, which would have balanced the entire budget without making drastic cuts!       

On July 31st 2013 Michaela and I,  filed a freedom of information request against the administration at Capilano University. 

In September, 2013, Michaela and I had an opportunity to meet Opposition Education Critic David Eby. I asked him if he would be willing to look at some of the University audits that I had accumulated, and told him that we had copies of the audits and some information that we would like to show him regarding the FOI Request.    

It wasn't until around Oct that we were given the remainder of the contents for the FOI request, we were unable to get everything that was originally asked for - specifically, full extent of VP Catherine Vertesi’s travel expenses.

We eventually had a meeting with David Eby, where he looked at the audits and our FOI requests, listened to our concerns and questions regarding what appeared to be rather extravagant travel expenses for VPs, and what also appeared to be the subsidization of international student tuition. He considered the information interesting, and suggested some very helpful advice regarding information to look for and told us about the Ombudsperson. It wasn’t until later, when he started investigating Kwantlen and exposing the Amrik Virk scandal, that he found there was a similar pattern at Capilano University in regards to executive overpayment.

 I ended up filing a complaint with the Ombudsperson asking them to investigate expenditures by the administration (VP Catherine Vertesi ), and the suggestion - gleaned from the notes and minutes - suggesting Capilano had been subsidizing international student tuition rates. The process with the Ombudsperson was a complete farce; much like my later attempt to try and get information from PSEC regarding salary Caps for the administration, it became evident that law and democratic process were in abeyance.

( Vertesi retired Dec 2013?)

We spent the fall and spring going to the Senate and Board of Governors meetings, in addition to trying to advocate for our classmates to be taught out of the University.  This whole experience was really different and new: Michaela and I were just students trying to do the right thing. We weren't the administrators whose job it was to see that the students were being taught out, we just tried what we could.              

Given the recent disclosures regarding the overcompensation of the Capilano President and VP’s in gross excess of the PSEC salary caps, it is all the more questionable that these people should have ever been hired, let alone allowed to manage a University! 

              In a NorthShore News article July 25 “CapU salary caps exceeded, says NDP,”  Capilano University Board Chair Rep Jane Shakell issued a statement, “saying all administrators are being paid in accordance with the law.”   Perhaps she hasn’t had time to really look over the numbers? Although clearly she had time to sign off on the Capilano Executive compensation disclosure to PSEC for 2014, saying that the reported compensation was in compliance with PSEC!  

I question why Capilano VP of Finances, Cindy Turner, was compensated $44,253 over the compensation cap, or why President Kris Bulcroft appears to also have been overcompensated for the year 2014?  Since 2012, President Kris Bulcroft has been overcompensated by $14,763.97, Catherine Vertesi $31,794 and VP of Finances Cindy Turner who appears to have actually been overcompensated to a total of $ 113,330 ?!  To put this in perspective Cindy Turner’s overcompensation of $44,253 in 2014,  is far greater then many of the Capilano University staff make annually. 

 I would hope the president and VP’s would take it upon themselves to pay back the amount that was overcompensated to them - back to the university as it would be perhaps beneficial in supporting student services and programs at the school” Or submit their resignations!

One would imagine that a responsible Board of Governors and administration would have made sure that executive compensation was within the legal parameters of government regulation, Is this merely incompetence, or indicative of a deeper issue stemming from the questionable ethics and accountability practices belonging to our government and those in positions of power?  How can we expect our University’s Executives to uphold the rules, if our Government is failing to monitor and enforce regulations in this Province?



Jennifer O’Keeffe


Below you can find a satirical letter written by Capilano faculty member: Marcus Bowcutt 


Listen up class!


During this past term we've been discussing the ways in which we can use colour and composition to construct different symbolic meanings in pictures. For instance, how convex shapes imply life and growth and concave shapes hint of collapse and implosion. We've also discussed how we, as artists and subjective beings in and of our culture, are influenced by the overwhelming presence of imagery in the mass media. In today's lesson - the final class in the final term of an art department in this "university" which will no longer have an art department - we are going to consider how our "re-visioned" (artless) university manufactures and constructs images using the fundamentals of design, which we've been considering during this past term. The university presents these pictures as public relations, as advertising.

Remember last week's class? I quoted Picasso saying "Art is a lie that tells the truth"? Well, times have changed and the truth is our university is no longer interested in questioning the nature of truth through the exploration of visual art. We are now in the age, the realm, of "business". Business has emerged in this university as the first, foremost and final authority on art and culture. 

I will ask you to consider that the art program has been axed for the sake of "business" and "deficit" if you doubt my observations. As Capilano U students interested in developing a practice in art - your only option now is to seek instruction about art from instructors from other disciplines. I recommend the Business Program. The Business Program now offers the most direct and efficacious way of becoming an artist. Consider this: during a recent Capilano University Board meeting, a Board member from the Business Faculty stated that the sculpture - of protest - by instructor George Rammell of the Studio Art Department "is disturbing and not to my liking … and not to the liking of other university instructors either." Art class dismissed. 

This Business instructor is an authority on art precisely because she is a Business instructor. In the new, rebranded Cap U, art no longer has - as they say in business - currency. Art is now advertising. Art is branding. Art is business and business is art. If Picasso were alive today he'd manifest his art as a living, breathing venture capitalist interested in derivatives and the bottom line. He certainly wouldn't be making any controversial or unpleasant, disturbing paintings and sculptures. He certainly wouldn't be asking:

"What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles? Far, far from it: at the same time, he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war."

Ah, …  but I digress … that Picasso quote was from an old lesson … it is no longer relevant in our current "Cap U Business" world … now, back to today's lesson: the manipulation of form and colour in the pursuit of influencing public opinion for better business …


Marcus Bowcott

Drawing and Painting Instructor

Capilano University 1991 - 2014

Meditations on the Stall


you are only a moment.

i think i’m in love with an asshole.

fire + ice / sugar + spice, naughty no nice

teach me how to draw flowers

→ “go outside and look at flowers”

→ “look in the mirror”


The “female” and “male” iconography identifying each washroom at Emily Carr is manipulated on about every floor in the North Building: the male restrooms sporting the black triangle of half a skirt, and the female restroom’s triangle scratched out. This public gender statement is not unusual at an art school where open-mindedness and innovative techniques at rooting out the politically correct are commonplace. It’s only natural that the private innards of these gender-specific habitats would be even more compelling.

Within the four-walled confines of the ladies’ room stall, a lot of thoughts and emotions are present while the stall is occupied. Whether it’s about our humorous “Juan and only” or a hapless doodle, or even a complaint about the surrounding bathroom notes, the ladies of ECUAD have a story to tell -- so long as they have a Sharpie on hand. These private exhibitions provide the hush-hush confessions of love or hate or guilt or embarrassment that students can share without tacking their name on. Students get to view these for brief, private moments and can analyze and dissect the little art pieces as visual poetry and get a lot emotionally out by either viewing or adding to the washroom murals.

The individualized collections of bathroom graffiti form a testimony to the student form and her personal narrative at different levels in the Emily Carr program. Playful verses on the stall walls are an age-old way to anonymously connect with others in an intimate, unorthodox setting.

What exists is a strange dimension: a room where you can hear others murmuring or talking on their phone, or any assortment of wipes, makeup touchups, sanitary unfolding, and you are neatly organized into a raised box, naked ankles and shoes, private and solitary. The words and drawings on the walls around you aren’t illegible tags. These are the words of your peers in a light that no one else gets to see

Like Fight Club, no one talks about the bathroom graffiti. The poetry isn’t found solely in the words of the bathroom, but exists in the quasi-private atmosphere in which the viewer is literally seated. Depending on when the custodians last decided to give it a good scrub, an individual plopped down in the middle of a university’s present and past commentary is a strangely immersive way to familiarize yourself with your fellow classmates.

- Summer Skinner


all text and snaps by Summer Skinner

all text and snaps by Summer Skinner

Without Masks

by Jamie Chen


With an aim of broadening the acknowledgement of contemporary Cuban art and culture Without Masks curated by Cuban poet, art critic and curator Orlando Hernandez, successfully presented contemporary Afro-Cuban art within cultural and historical context, addressing racism, stereotyping and religious discrimination. With the works of 31 contemporary Cuban artists, range from painting and fabric sculpture, to photography and media installation, a great diversity in both medium and style was shown. The aesthetics and values of Latin American culture and art were very well presented along with their passion and creativity. In history colonialism and slavery had made traumatic damages to Cuban culture, and caused a majority of Cubans to experience a dark time of discrimination. Today Cuban culture is still facing the threat of marginalization in a world with prejudice among cultures and racial discrimination, which most believe that American culture may be behind.


At the door, the audience is led by Belkis Ayón’s large size collography drawing into the exhibition. These large size drawings filled the entire wall near the entrance of the exhibition. The drawings are based on spiritual and cultural heritage, which are from an African religious group. The spiritual culture forms the main part of Cuban culture, which is a good way to start the viewing journey of Without Masks. The rest of the space in the gallery is divided into different sections to provide different types of works a certain space, according to their medium or subject. The middle part of the gallery is occupied by a strong video piece, White Corner. It is based on the historical context of Cuban slavery, which gathers together the entire show as a whole. Another reason that this piece is in the center may be that, the curator wants to bring people some enlightenment of stopping intra-racial fights which draw origins from the pressure of being oppressed, or classified as a minority .


Inspired by African culture, Afro-Cuban art maintains a sense of primitive beauty, a flow of intuition and strong sense of materiality. In history, there are some major painters who took influence from Afro-Cuban culture, including Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, who’s recognized as a leader of the avant-garde movement Cubism. New possibilities in aesthetics are easily found in Afro-Cuban paintings. In the exhibition, Oro Baba, 79 x 71 inches, a large size painting which Santiago Rodríguez painted in 2002.On brownish raw canvas, it is characterized with powerful strokes of line drawings, a strong intensity has been created along with the color combinations of black and red. The color combination of red, black and brown is commonly seen in African pottery. The content of this painting aims to show the relationship between two societies of African origin, with one called Oro represented by male figure, and the other named Lyami Oshoronga, represented by birds suggesting female. On the upper part of the canvas, large size drawings of a fish and a body bag are placed parallel, suggesting the idea of death, which is coherent to the murder scene going on in the bottom part of the canvas. The murder scene is about a male figure with a dagger in hand and with a same size bird in suffering gesture. Next to them is another pair of a suffering man and a dead bird. The artist is borrowing the real material from life to enhance the severeness, by attaching a real horsetail to the end of the body bag and a fish skull over the fish drawing. The horsetail is hanging over almost half the canvas. The mixture of a real object brings out reality, seriousness and the theme of death. It is a discussion about humanity and choice. The word “baba” means gold, which relates to money. According to the curator’s description on the historical background, Oro society chose to devote their wisdom to commercialization instead of saving their own culture. Despite the differences of culture and language, the theme of the painting seems universal and relevant. This may also be the point that Without Masks wants to inform to its audiences.


Another good example in the show is a painting called God’s eye is looking at you, painted in 2007 by Havana born artist Manuel Mendive Hoyo, who also has a root in West Coast African culture. This painting has created a colorful surreal world within a canvas around 80” by 70”. This proportion forms almost a square, which gives the painting a very harmonious and stable structure. In this painting, everything is personified; even the sun and the tree, suggesting nature and humans are communicable. Human-like figures with three legs and a transformable body signify the soul and spiritual aspects, which can grow out of one person or more. There’s also some narrative going on, one section of the painting portrays the behavior of giving and killing, and is described  by the figure’s two sides. This painting presents religious and culture values. The flatness, the way the paint is applied to the canvas and the yellowish-brown colors all contribute to the primitive quality. The canvas is tied to a black metal frame, which has small metal figure on top. This figure makes the painting a strong sculptural work.


With less academic painting influence from western art, Afro-Cuban paintings from Without Masks focus more on expressing the idea behind the painting rather than painting techniques like linear perspective. Afro-Cuban artists developed their own technique and visual language, which is sufficient in its visual communication.  Inventiveness and Intuition is a remarkable feature of Afro-Cuban’s contemporary paintings, and it is worth studying by the western painters. In this show, there were many more outstanding works that have not been mentioned. The paintings that are described here only provide an idea of the originality and important artistic value of Afro-Cuban art. The title Without Masks reminds people of the aboriginal culture, but what has been truly shown in this exhibition is diverse contemporary art which is highly inspiring to the western contemporary art world. It is also an exhibition that provides viewers with lessons of how racial discrimination  and cultural prejudice can damage human civilization, and block the development of cultural diversity.  It is through these means that curator Orlando Hernandez has made this exhibition successful and opened the door leading the western world to contemporary Cuban art.


Without Masks Ran from May 2nd to November 2nd 2014 at the UBC Museum of Anthropology. More information about the shows documentation and catalogues can be viewed on site at UBC or on their website.

Featured Creative - Luke Pellizzari

with permissions of Luke Pellizzari & Haku

with permissions of Luke Pellizzari & Haku

MJ: How do you hope your work will evolve in the future? What are some of your goals or dreams within your artistic field?

LP: In the future, I think it's hard to say where this path leads. I've had a few gigs as an editor, and I enjoyed that side of film production, too. I think I still want to be in some way involved in the cinematography aspect of filmmaking, but I can see myself working as an editor, too. Whatever the outcome, I want to maintain a level of artistic control over the work I produce.
Artistically, I want to work with better storytellers and creatives. I've written my own scripts so far, but I want to collaborate with real writers and work to create films that have fully realized screenplays. Working on a feature-length screenplay on a more professional level, where you're helping someone else to bring their story to life, would be so awesome.

Really though, I just want to keep making things. I know the industry is fickle and can be rough on a lot for people trying to dive in, but I'm confident I'll find my place in there somewhere.

Interview by: Melissa Johnson , 2014

The Details:

Name: Luke Pellizzari
Age: 23, born September 14, 1991
Major/Year: FVIM/4th
Other Details: Super handsome/charming, has a cute shiba inu, haha...

The Interview:

Melissa Johnson (MJ): How or why did you start working in film? What are your interests in this medium?

Luke Pellizzari (LP) : I started working with film when I was a young kid, making funny shorts with my older brother. We thought we were funny, so we made parody videos of movies we thought were hilariously bad, like The Happening. I've become very interested in cinematography, and my interest has only increased since I started here at ECUAD. I think the best medium for storytelling has become through the use of film; Not only is it accessible to anyone, but the quality of the gear is cinema-grade, meaning if you have the drive to make a professional film, the tools are there for the taking. It's an exciting time to be in this industry.
I love being behind the camera because you really get to choose what the audience is seeing, how they see it, and you can in a way dictate what is most important, either to the story or to your personal ideals.

MJ: Can you talk a bit about the work you’ve done up to date?

LP: My recent work has been drifting towards the darker side of the human condition. I like to deal with the way people deal with crisis, particularly when the line between right and wrong is blurred. My last film, Growing Cold, dealt with a father trying to protect his daughter from an abusive relationship. When he discovers that going to the police or scaring his daughter's attacker just isn't going to stop him, he has to make an incredibly hard decision: Does he take this man's life to save his daughter's even though it would destroy his soul? It's these kinds of situations I'm interested in putting my characters in, to see how they react, and hopefully shed some light on human nature in the process.




Book Bag

Open up your canvas tote. And show me your books.

We darlings of Emily Carr are in a privileged position, in the last two months we have been treated to SWARM, The Vancouver Art/Book Fair, and currently, the Writers Festival!

What’s the result? Well I know I’ve had to scour for silver in-between my couch cushions due to decisions made between the magical rows of tables at VA/BF. Financial setbacks aside, the richness and variety offered at VA/BF and the first ever Artist’s Book Week was truly significant. From paper material available for purchase, to talks lectures and events, a healthy menu has been steadily offered by reputable venues throughout the fall season. It’s entirely impossible to leave empty handed/minded from any of these diversions. With the “Shelfie” trend bubbling into newsfeeds everywhere, It’s time to ask: What made it on to your bookshelf?

Below, some of the WOO staff have taken some classy phone snaps of their spoils! Add yours to our gallery? 

Is that a pyramid power I see?

Featured Creative - Rosalie Weeks


Hi, who are you?
                                                 "Rosalie Weeks"

Oh yeah, so like, what year are you in?                     

Cool! What’s your major?

Tell me a story about your prints: 

"These prints started as part of a project for one of my classes. We were supposed to create an illustration that was a juxtaposition, so I chose lewd and highclass. I'm very fascinated by the period of Rococo, I've used it as inspiration for a lot of my art. There's something really wonderfully indulgent about it that I'm a little jealous of. I'm interested in how we know now that during the Rococo period, the bourgeois were having crazy amounts of sex similar to what I depicted but they didn't exactly include that in the art of the time as explicitly. I like to think of these prints as a Rococo hustler mag."

If you want to buy a print you can contact Rosalie through her facebook page, which is Rosalie Makes Art.

They're $25 each plus shipping. 

You should snap these up,
They’re classy as f^&k.



images with permission of Rosalie Weeks. photography by Naitik Mehta

Dear ECU,

It’s October 14th. Sh*t.

The final date for fall submissions is already here and the semester is rushing by faster than a sailfish spearing herring! Amid the chaos, I’m excited to announce that the WOO Blog, is back in action! 

We’ve done some re-vamping and although I’m sure there will be few snags along the way, I’m happy to announce we have added some important additional features. While we are maintaining the tumblr blog we have expanded to deliver the content on our website!  This website features a brand-new comment area! Have comments, questions or thoughts about an article? Want to share them with the world from the blanket nest you made on your couch? Now you can! Generate some fine discourse around any post! (or just be a troll, you know?) 

Our robust and enthusiastic writing team is geared up to offer an expanse of content for your consideration this year that will include: reviews, bi-weekly artist features, exploratory essays and creative writing. WOO will also be accepting written submissions from students throughout the year. Anything art/music or ECU related is game. So if you find yourself reaching the character limit on the comment feature, feel free to take up the pen yourself, and write to me.  


Talk soon,

Jennifer Dickieson
WOO Publications Editorial Director