He’s used art and technology to make the Tri-Cities a cleaner and more beautiful place.
He’s worked to highlight and elevate women artists in the region.
He’s mentored students. Challenged them. Inspired them.
And it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Peter Christenson, assistant professor of fine arts at Washington State University Tri-Cities, recently won the Governor’s Arts & Heritage Young Arts Leader award from the Washington State Arts Commission.
He’s the first person from the Tri-Cities to win the award, and one of only a handful of local Arts & Heritage Award recipients since the program was established in the 1960s.
Christenson is a deserving recipient, said Squeak Meisel, who heads up WSU’s fine arts department.
“Peter continues to build a reputation as a practicing artist in the Northwest, across the country and around the world,” Meisel said in a statement. “It is nice to know that the state of Washington values his contribution to the cultural landscape. His research is a model for how all students can choose to be innovative in their approaches to making and having a career as an artist. I look forward to what he does next.”
Christenson said he’s pleased and humbled. He was quick to give credit to his colleagues, students and community.
“I think it’s an award for all those I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” he said.
He’ll pick up the award at a ceremony in November in Tacoma.
Christenson, a Detroit native, holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan and a master of fine arts in intermedia from Arizona State University.
He also holds a second master’s — in social work — and previously worked in that field and as a licensed psychotherapist.
Christenson came to WSU Tri-Cities in 2012 and teaches in the fine arts, and digital technology and culture programs at the Richland campus.
A multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker, he’s exhibited work around the world.
In 2015, he spent several months in Scotland as a U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Scholar in art and design, documenting traditions, stories, and socio-political and geographic landscapes in the city of Dundee.
At WSU Tri-Cities, he’s made a mark, from starting an Anti-Litter Mapping Project, to curating shows such as Women Artists from the Columbia Valley, to sparking the art collaborative Null Set.
He also started the new Guest House Cultural Capital Residency, in which scholars and creatives from around the world come to Richland for short-term residencies. It kicks off this fall.
Christenson said he’s grateful to the state arts commission for the Young Arts Leader honor.
“I think it says that what we’re doing here is important and integral to the state and the culture. It shines a light on the work being done here on our campus. I’m really grateful for that. It also shines a light on our community,” he said. “I feel really indebted to the community of people I’ve worked with here and across the state. They’ve supported these practices and helped collaborate and push these ideas forward.”