Field Notes offers the work of artists who participate in Alchemy Artist Residency each year. It is a self-guided temporary public art exhibition in various locations throughout Prince Edward County including Hillier, Wellington, and Carrying Place.
Over the last 200 years, Prince Edward County has been defined through shifting roles in the history of settlers from military outpost to Canada’s canning capital, to one of the fastest growing viticultural regions in North America and a source of inspiration for artistic and culinary pursuits. These diverse activities contribute to the County’s history and are documented through separate and distinct lenses– historic, agricultural, and artistic. While the lens of documentation varies – there is a common thread of field notes.
Field notes are described by the poet, artist and scholar Karin Cope in a generously shared lecture offered to her fall 2021 graduate students at Nova Scotia School of Art and Design as “documentation involving travel, altered perceptions, repeated observations, encounters, interviews, reflections, associations, measurements, all carefully annotated via various sorts of recordkeeping from sketches to journal entries and other forms of data collection…It is a methodology used in a variety of disciplines in the social sciences and biology, most famously botany and geology.”
Today’s farmers and vine growers can learn from the documentation of earlier settlers who farmed the land. Vine growers and winemakers meticulously document the nuances of the grape growing and maturation of the vines for the harvest to come. Contemporary artists, makers, and chefs have found sources of inspiration through this methodology for a myriad of artistic and culinary pursuits. Now recognized as a critical method for artists, field notes (like Alchemy itself) are an opportunity to show work in progress, explore new ideas, consider collaboration, and form connections with others.
Alchemy artists return to the County each harvest season to explore, learn, and create. With each year, their affection and understanding of the land and people, who call the County home, continue to grow.During their residency at Alchemy, artists have the opportunity to collect, document, and share deeply layered stories showcasing what compels people to continue to create, grow, farm, and live in the County. The resulting works represent an ever-deepening relationship and understanding between and among artists, residents, farmers, wine growers and agricultural workers both seasonal and local. Through textiles, installation, painting, drawing and sculpture, these works – collectively and individually -- examine themes of collaboration, labour, creative expression, food sovereignty, and community in a rural agricultural setting.
Through Field Notes, Alchemy artists find and share a deeper appreciation for the beauty and physically demanding work that comes with living and working at the western edge of Prince Edward County. Their offerings through this group exhibition offer a collective narrative to share how simple, yet profound acts of growing, making, and sharing, whether food, wine, or art, can further foster community.
Returning to inspiration found in Cope’s notes – the act of field notes can help artists and others to “understand something about the place where you are, the phenomena and entities you encounter, and your place in that world (however invasive or precarious or contradictory it might be). Field Notes are essential to arriving at such understandings through description and reflection."
Table Settings began in the summer of 2020 as a series of hearty, healthy, no-cost suppers to Hillier-based "from away" vineyard and farm workers who come to PEC from outside of Canada during COVID-related social and physical isolation. Gathering together around food making and sharing is a profound, immediate means to foster human connections. Offering these meals food to acknowledge the hard work done by farm labourers, many of whom come to PEC from outside of Canada, but all of whom work alongside local residents to harvest food and grapes enjoyed in the County and beyond.
Funded by Storehouse Food Bank, with support from the Prince Edward County Community Foundation, Table Settings and other generous donors continued as a community-engaged art project contributing to the well-being of the vineyard and farm workers during the 2021, 2022 and 2023 growing seasons. Our local economy also benefited from Table Settings. Farmers, growers, and local suppliers are paid for their meal contributions. We served 3000 meals over four harvest seasons since 2020.
Through our Table Settings initiative, Alchemy Artists developed a deeper appreciation for the beauty and challenges of living on and caring for this land. Ongoing conversations with lifelong residents, farmers, vineyard owners, and workers. resulted in Table Settings --an unexpected goodness that came out of an unprecedented stressful time -- the global pandemic.
Alchemy artists prepared and served 3000 suppers to 40 seasonal agricultural workers from 10 farms and vineyards in Prince Edward County. between 2020 and 2024.
Table Settings brought simple, healthy and delicious suppers to Hillier, Prince Edward County farm and vineyard workers after a long day in the fields. Prepared by a volunteer kitchen brigade of artists/chefs/makers, these meals are offered with thanks and recognition of hard work.
Photo: Pizza Supper at Closson Chase, October 2021, Hillier, PEC.