Annual Charlotte Street Art Centre exhibition focuses on community

The Charlotte Street Art Centre, located in downtown Fredericton, N.B., opened its annual "Together" exhibition on Nov. 18. (Submitted: Charlotte Street Arts Centre)

The Charlotte Street Art Centre opened its doors with a sense of unity on Nov. 18 for its annual Together exhibition.

The exhibition provided an opportunity for any CSAC member and four chosen residents from the Fredericton Artist Alliance to showcase their art until Jan. 10, 2022.

“It is an opportunity to see what our peers are working on, which has gotten a bit harder over the past year or so,” said Matt Watkins, CSAC resident.

Watkins thinks participants resonated with the exhibition theme of togetherness and their passion for it shows in their art.

His latest work is showcased in Together, which he describes as classical realism. His work was done during life drawing sessions at CSAC and took inspiration from everyday people.

The Fredericton Artist Alliance is a registered charity and runs two paid summer residencies. Apart from artists, venues like CSAC can be members as well.

“Our role is to advocate on behalf of the arts and on the behalf of artists in the city,” said Katie Fitz-Randolph, Artist Alliance president.

An alliance residency provided participant Ysabelle Vautour with an opportunity to create works focused on the theme of disability.

Vautour has visual impairments as well as chronic pain, but rather than letting that stop her, she used it as her inspiration.

Her contribution to the showcase is called Looking Inward, Looking Outward. While painting, Vautour studied other disability perspectives and esthetics.

“I have a visual impairment. I have to say it, otherwise I wouldn’t really mention it because it’s not relevant. But because it’s a visual medium — I feel like I need to explore that and talk about it,” she said.

Some of her paintings hanging in the exhibition are outfitted with textiles and braille.

Her residency with the alliance allowed Vautour to try new methods. She said the program let her expand creatively.

“The point of it was not to make it look extensively pleasing. The point of it was to touch it … so when [you] feel it, it’s like ‘oh, what the hell is it,’” she said.

Vautour said meeting other artists sparked conversation and she is excited to experience what everyone created in their own homes for the showcase. She said the concept of togetherness is important and everyone experiences it differently.

“We were all separate in our own little space and then we’re bringing stuff together for the show,” she said.

Alliance resident Cheryl Lavigne said the pieces she created aimed to present community. She painted outside during the summer and gained inspiration from the people around her.

Her contribution to the exhibit is a departure from her usual style.

“I wanted to engage with community members as they spend time outside while reflecting on my own relationship with my natural surroundings,” she said.

Places she captured on canvas for the CSAC include Hayes Farm, Sunset U-Pick and the Fredericton Botanic Gardens.

Lavigne thinks that people connect with nature and each other for many different reasons.

For her, the outdoors “resets her nervous system.” Daily walks with her dog through Odell Park are crucial for her creative process. She said it’s important to recognize that New Brunswick is unceded and unsurrendered land belonging to Indigenous Peoples.

“My paintings observe the land and how it serves us,” she said