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News / October 11, 2018

Guelph Artist and Professor Charged with Assault

Nearly 70 current and former students have issued a statement of support for the person who reported the assault
Blackwood Hall at the University of Guelph. Photo: Google Street View. Blackwood Hall at the University of Guelph. Photo: Google Street View.
Blackwood Hall at the University of Guelph. Photo: Google Street View. Blackwood Hall at the University of Guelph. Photo: Google Street View.

Two charges of assault, and one charge of assault with a weapon, have been laid against John Kissick, a Guelph-area artist and art professor.

The charges come after Talia Yeo, a small-business owner who had been in a romantic relationship with Kissick, posted a video to Instagram on September 29 suggesting that at least one assault had taken place.

Kissick is currently a professor of studio art at the University of Guelph, and was for many years director of the School of Fine Arts and Music there.

The University of Guelph issued the following comment to Canadian Art: “The University takes matters that affect the safety and well-being of its students, faculty and staff seriously and there are policies and processes in place to address such allegations. University officials are reviewing the situation. The faculty member is on leave, which is standard procedure during such a review.”

This morning, nearly 70 current and former students of the University of Guelph’s fine arts programs released a statement to publicly demonstrate support for Talia Yeo. The statement reads as follows:

“We, current and former students of the University of Guelph’s Fine Art program, express our utmost respect for Talia Yeo, who recently came forward with allegations of assault against University of Guelph professor John Kissick. We believe the fact that charges have been laid demonstrates the seriousness of the situation. We would like to highlight that systemic barriers often prevent women from coming forward with such allegations. In light of recent events, we feel it especially pressing to express our support for Talia Yeo and for survivors who report abuse. We anticipate John Kissick’s court date on October 16 and will be monitoring closely as the court determines how this case will proceed.”

Among the artists who have signed the statement of support are Amanda Boulos, Ambera Wellmann, Patrick Cruz and Tiziana La Melia. (The full list of signatories is available here.)

Prior to coming to the University of Guelph, Kissick was dean of the Faculty of Art at the Ontario College of Art and Design, and earlier than that, professor of art at Penn State University’s School of Visual Arts. He has also contributed to Canadian Art and other art publications. A mid-career survey of his paintings, titled “A Nervous Decade,” showed in Ontario and BC in 2010 and 2011.

The charges against Kissick were first reported by CBC Kitchener-Waterloo on October 5. Court officials have confirmed that the case is set to be heard on the morning of October 16 in Guelph.

John Kissick has declined comment to Canadian Art.

A clarification was made to this article on October 11, 2018, to clearly indicate where the full list of support statement signatories could be found.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is news and special sections editor at Canadian Art. A graduate of NSCAD University and McGill University, she has also written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail. She welcomes tips, corrections and comments any time at leah@canadianart.ca.