My name is Adam Brazier. I am the artistic director of the Confederation Centre of the Arts and The Charlottetown Festival. Although my ancestors reached Prince Edward Island in the 1740s, I only arrived in the summer of 2013. Having lived nearly exclusively in large cities my whole life, I prepared myself for a massive cultural shift. In truth, I was very excited about the many unknowns ahead and I was looking forward to learning about the Island and my heritage.
Over the past four years, this Island has taught me so much about myself. It has changed much of the way in which I live and work; it has shown me the value in slowing down, in taking the time to discover, enjoy and reflect, especially while creating art. I have learned to develop a sense of pride in the creative process, and in my community, and to value the unique culture of this special corner of the country.
I adore living here and my wife and children feel the same. However… (gulp) there are certainly cultural traits that leave me wanting. It is important to remember that our Island culture is not just represented on a stage or at the local ceilidh; it’s not just the art on our walls or the goods we sell at the craft fair; our Island culture runs far deeper into our collective character than just the arts or agriculture. It is found in the way we think, the way we speak to each other, in our gossip and our newspapers, and in the way we greet strangers.
I will confess that our first year and a half on the Island was not easy for my family. We were very lonely and we struggled to create any social life for ourselves. We faced a great deal of serious xenophobia, and were constantly being reminded that we were CFAs, despite my lineage and the birth of our Islander son. To say I wasn’t disappointed or hurt would be a lie.
Every place in the world and all the people within it have their own unique strengths and challenges, and this is true even within Canada. Surely we cannot compare the majesty of the Rocky Mountains to the beauty of the red cliffs of PEI; each is its own unique and individual part of the culture worth discovering and celebrating. This is an attitude I wish was more prevalent among Islanders, a willingness to approach the unfamiliar with openness, positivity, and enthusiasm.
Although my family’s early Island experience was difficult, we have since been able to forge a deeply meaningful and genuine relationship with our Island community and culture. It, like most things worth doing, just took time. I am constantly amazed by the talent on this Island, and the incredible art it creates, and I am truly blessed to play a small role within it.
If I could give one piece of advice to all Islanders, it is this: at least once a month, I challenge you to try something new! Whether it’s a new dish at a restaurant, a play you’ve never heard of, a place you’ve never visited, try something new! Our Island culture is surprisingly diverse and rich with new ideas, and more opportunities to embrace them are emerging all the time.
PEI will always be unique to the rest of Canada, as the rest of Canada will be to us; that will never change. But let us learn to embrace that which is uniquely different from ourselves. Let us open our arms, hearts and minds to new ideas, new challenges and new people. It might just result in a stronger, healthier and more positive Island culture.