Ivan Coyote to bring passion, empathy to Munro Chair

Author Ivan Coyote poses against a aqua background in a colourful shirt

Emily Cooper Photography // Special to Western NewsFor more than two decades, Ivan Coyote has been using the power of personal narrative to work toward a better world. The newly named Alice Munro Chair in Creativity often grapples with the complex and intensely personal issues of gender identity, as well as family, class, social justice and queer liberation in their work.

Award-winning author and seasoned stage performer Ivan Coyote has been named the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. It is an appointment that will bring to the Western community a new level of engagement for a new generation of artists.

“Ivan possesses a rare and remarkable gift – a voice that is intensely intimate, personal and able to connect directly with a broad and diverse audience,” said Michael Milde, Arts and Humanities Dean. “Writer, performer, memoirist, and storyteller, Ivan Coyote is a multi-talented creative artist whose passion, empathy and social engagement shine through in person and in their strong digital presence – truly an Alice Munro Chair for the 21st century.

Coyote follows award-winning Canadian novelist Nino Ricci, who served as the inaugural holder of the Munro Chair.

For more than two decades, Coyote has been using the power of telling stories to work toward a better world by grappling with the complex and intensely personal issues of gender identity, as well as family, class, social justice and queer liberation.

Born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon, Coyote is the author/co-author of 12 books, the creator of four films, six stage shows, and three albums that combine storytelling with music. Their books have won the ReLit Award; been named a Stonewall Honour Book; been longlisted for Canada Reads; and shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Prize for Non-fiction.

They were awarded the 2020 Freedom to Read Award by the Writer’s Union of Canada, in recognition of work passionately supportive of the freedom to read and free expression

Coyote has a deep connection with Western, including serving as the 2012-13 James A. and Marjorie Spenceley Canada Council for the Arts Writer-in-Residence. Huron University College picked Coyote’s 2014 book, Gender Failure, as the Western affiliate college’s Huron1Read 2017-18 selection.

Now, as the Munro Chair, they will have an opportunity to expand that connection even further.

“When I first found out about the position, I was very excited by the opportunity to truly invest in the creative lungs of a city and a community, to have the time and support to really contribute whatever I am able to the arts scene here,” Coyote said. “I know how much creative connection has meant to me in my life, and I know that we need music and story and poetry and art more than ever now, because sharing words and sounds and images can safely bring us together in this time of isolation and physical separation.”

Coyote has toured public schools around the world for 17 years now, speaking to youth, teachers and administrators to fight bullying and make schools safer for students, staff and parents.

In 2019, Coyote marked 25 years on the road as an international touring storyteller and musician, and released their 12th book, Rebent Sinner, with Arsenal Pulp Press.

The Munro Chair position, which honours Canadian short story writer and Western alumna Alice Munro, DLitt’76, aims to inspire student writers and foster creative expression of all kinds.

A combination of alumni, friends and supporters donated to the Munro Chair, raising $1.5 million to honour the creative achievements of one of Western’s most extraordinary alumni. Matching dollars from Western brought the Chair’s total funding to $3 million, and permanently endowed the position.

Munro’s first connection to the Department of English came while she was an undergraduate student pursuing an English major. In 1976, Western recognized her literary achievements with an honorary degree, the only such honour she has ever accepted. In October 2013, Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.