In 1977, Ralph Stanbridge along with his wife and their two small daughters headed west after four exciting years in Montreal. Ralph had just completed his MFA degree along with three and a half years teaching at Concordia University.
After arriving in Vancouver, Ralph spotted an ad for a Visual Arts teaching position at Camosun College so he headed to Victoria to deliver his application (the deadline was the following day). He was called a day later for an interview. At that time, the Visual Arts department was one large room in the basement of a postal station on Shelbourne Street. Martin Somers and Ian Thomas, along with the Tech, Michael Yerkovich, (who became a pillar of support with his technical wizardry) constituted the whole faculty. Ralph was delighted to become the fourth member of the team.
By the time Ralph started teaching in the program it had moved to the Lansdowne Campus. His first few days on the job were taken up with ripping out the floors of two smaller rooms on the Young building ground floor to make a bigger studio space. Rather than just making it a demolition project, the team turned the whole space into a performative event – recreating an Inner Harbour environment with students taking on the roles of welders, fisherman, soup kitchen operators etc. The team built the studios and furnished them by commandeering any table, desk or chair that was left in the hallways longer than a few hours.
The program offered a very demanding generalist curriculum in which students were given complex visual and context/content problems to solve that had a wide range of possible solutions. Over the years, Ralph taught Modern Art History, Contemporary Art Theory, Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Animation and Film.
In 1988 Ralph became the Chair of the Visual Arts Department, a role he filled, on and off, for a total of nine years. That position required that he be a constant advocate for the program. It also offered a rich opportunity for learning and observing social interactions, which informed his own art practice over the years.
Submitted by Faye Ferguson, CCARE Retiree