Petra Kuppers describes her main art form as “community art.”
It is important to her to work with people who might feel unable to access mainstream art as art makers or art audience. This aligns perfectly with our mission at Surel’s Place, as we work to ensure that our events are as welcoming and accessible to art experts and novices alike, regardless of background or ability.
Petra came to Surel’s Place from Ann Arbor, Michigan where she teaches performance studies and disability studies in the English Department at the University of Michigan. She thinks of herself as a rural artist and was looking forward to living near a river again. The setting of the Boise River was a draw for Kuppers, and it is echoed in her words about art: “What we call ‘art’ is up for grabs, needs to be re-thought, re-created, every time we step into the river of practice.”
While in Boise, Petra finished a revision of a novel, Tree, as well as worked on a new poetry/movement/landscape series, Moon Botany, which is also the title of the workshop she hosted. Kuppers also hosted a poetry reading which featured work from her poetry collection, PearlStitch, as well as from her work, Soma Land: poems and stories of land and body, queer disability aesthetics, experimental feminist play. In addition to these public events, The Cabin collaborated with Surel’s Place to present an additional workshop with Petra’s partner poet Stephanie Heit, who accompanied her to the residency.
Her workshop took advantage of the Greenbelt and Esther Simplot Park near Surel’s Place and explored how art can deepen interaction with nature even with physical restrictions and pain. Petra has insight into chronic pain and into the challenges of living in a world that is not always accommodating. She was pleased to see that Surel’s Place could accommodate her as a wheelchair user, saying that it was “really heartening to find a residency that is not only accessible, but also a site of beauty,” which is exactly as Surel Mitchell intended when she originally built the home.