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Upstreet artist residency exhibit project draws light on accessibility issues on P.E.I.

Washington state artist Peter Christenson is Upstreet Craft Brewing’s fourth artist in residence. He held daily walks in Charlottetown for most of June as part of his project. Behind Christensen is some of the work inspired by the walks.
Washington state artist Peter Christenson is Upstreet Craft Brewing’s fourth artist in residence. He held daily walks in Charlottetown for most of June as part of his project. Behind Christensen is some of the work inspired by the walks. - Mitch MacDonald

Peter Christenson was in Charlottetown for three weeks in June as the brewery’s resident artist

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

The creative juices have been flowing at a P.E.I. brewery.
A crowd gathered at the Upstreet Craft Brewing artists’ space recently for the launch of a new beer collaboration with Washington state artist Peter Christenson and for the opening of his exhibition, “Noon Steps for Midnight: P.E.I. Archive”.
Christenson was the brewery’s resident artist brought in for three weeks during June.
“It’s been really lovely, everyone has been so welcoming and generous, and I felt immediately embraced by the community,” said Christenson, an associate professor of fine arts at Washington State University.
Every day, Christenson would explore Charlottetown on daily walks, often with others, and would then create – by midnight – a new piece inspired by the outing. 
Sometimes it meant dragging canvasses behind him, while other pieces in the exhibition include literal foot prints and other items found during the walks.
“I’m interested in exploring place, identity and culture of different regions,” said Christenson, who has done similar projects in Russia, Iceland and the North Cascades, all of which have seen vastly different results. 
“For me, it’s really about us leaving a mark on a place but also thinking about how we absorb place, identity and culture through where we walk and who we interact with.”
The project also touched heavily on accessibility, sustainability and engagement, with community members invited to the walks.
Kurtis Kelly said he founds them to be beneficial as they helped raise some accessibility issues. He noted his own wheelchair became stuck on a heritage sidewalk during one of the group’s outings and that, thankfully, some good Samaritans were nearby to help.
“It was an eye-opening experience, not only for Peter, but for a few Islanders regarding accessibility,” said King. “And I think the artwork that’s come out of it is really interesting.”
Christenson said he realized how inaccessible some areas of the city are, pointing to the trek from Upstreet to Walmart as being difficult without a car.
“You have to cross over all these barriers, it’s just insane,” he said.
Christenson said walking can be seen as a “disruption” or “intervention” in itself. Two of his pieces were photographs of the worn paths created near the road leading to Walmart.
 “There’s no sidewalk (there)… so you’ll actually see paths start to develop just because people are demanding that and the landscape responds to walking,” he said. “In that way, it’s a clear, overt way to be political, by walking as opposed to driving your car. It’s making a statement and forces people to take notice.”
Those in attendance were also able to try the collaboration beer, an orange mandarin gose, and discuss the artwork with Christenson.
For him, that’s what it’s all about.
“Fostering connections with people. It’s less about the end product and more about the process,” he said. “I believe (art) is a discussion, it’s an exchange.”
Upstreet marketing manager Marsha Gallant said Christenson is the fourth resident artist. The residency is possible through the brewery’s Do Good fund and is in collaboration with This Town is Small.
“Every time we do this it’s completely different and it’s so amazing,” said Gallant on the four artists so far.
Christenson's exhibit is now closed; the next resident artist at the brewery will be Canadian artist and musician Tanya Davis in September.

Mitch.macdonald@theguardian.pe.ca
Twitter.com/Mitch_PEI

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