Chalk artist has cre­ative call­ing

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier

Close to two hun­dred peo­ple en­joyed a unique ex­pe­ri­ence at Stanstead’s Sacré Coeur Church last Thurs­day evening. Ac­com­plished chalk artist and story teller Francois Berg­eron, who lives with his fam­ily in Stanstead, cre­ated a huge chalk mu­ral live

while telling the story of Easter. Con­sid­er­ing the fact that he has been creat­ing this type of per­for­mance art for the last eigh­teen years, lately do­ing be­tween one hun­dred and two hun­dred shows a year, I’m sure the au­di­ence didn’t go away dis­ap­pointed.

“The first time I saw some­one do­ing it I was drawn to it, so I got the ma­te­ri­als and chalk that I needed and started train­ing with Matthew Bow­man in In­di­anapo­lis. I then went to Michi­gan, where the chalk is, to do more train­ing,” said Mr. Berg­eron who also trained with the world-fa­mous chalk artist Ding Teul­ing, the old­est chalk artist alive today at ninety-two.

Francois con­tin­ued: “When I started I did smaller pre­sen­ta­tions, but I re­ally wanted to en­large my work, to use big­ger can­vasses and tell longer sto­ries. My lat­est show, called The Mas­ter­piece, is my big­gest.” That show in­cludes orig­i­nal mu­sic com­posed by a mu­si­cian with the Stras­bourg Phil­har­monic Orches­tra.

The chalk that is used for this kind of art, which orig­i­nated in the 16th cen­tury in Italy when artists be­gan us­ing chalk to cre­ate paint­ings on the streets, is quite dif­fer­ent from reg­u­lar chalk. “The chalk is like part pas­tel and part chalk, re­ally soft so you can use it to draw re­ally fast. It comes in big sticks, three inches long and one inch wide, and you get it at one place in the United States,” ex­plained the artist who was told by the man­u­fac­turer of this dis­tinc­tive chalk that he was the big­gest buyer of it in the world. “The chalk is made in vi­brant colours but I also use flu­o­res­cent chalk and hid­den chalk: chalk that can’t be seen un­less it’s un­der a black light. It works great to make con­nec­tions with the sto­ries, like when we know that some­thing is there but we can only see it some­times. A Gospel chalk artist en­joys shar­ing sto­ries of Je­sus and his mes­sage while show­ing a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion to the sto­ries.”

Luck­ily for Francois, the huge can­vasses that he draws on can be used over and over again. “Af­ter a show, I just vac­uum up all the chalk off the can­vas. It’s not hard to do be­cause I know I will be do­ing it again and my work is in a con­stant state of evo­lu­tion any­way.”

Francois’ cre­ative ‘call­ing’ has al­lowed this artist to prac­tice his spe­cial kind of min­istry in some in­ter­est­ing venues, both in North Amer­ica and abroad. “I’ve per­formed in al­most all of the pris­ons in Que­bec. We have great dis­cus­sions af­ter the shows; when you share your faith with oth­ers you can see that peo­ple are moved by the story, they re­late in their own way to the story and it of­ten ap­plies to what they’re go­ing through in life.” He has wowed au­di­ences in places as far away as down­town Toronto, Paris, Al­sace, Switzer­land, and Le­banon, and as close as the Manoir Stanstead and Fron­tier Lodge. “I was at a nurs­ing home in Coat­i­cook today where I had a big crowd of about seventy. They re­ally en­joyed it and when some­one in their eight­ies tells you it’s the best thing they’ve seen in their life, it’s a real treat to hear,” ad­mit­ted Francois.

“When I first start talk­ing to peo­ple about Je­sus, they of­ten first won­der what group I’m from and it can cre­ate a bar­rier. But af­ter they watch me per­form and lis­ten to the story, the bar­rier falls apart. They see I am just a reg­u­lar guy who shares sim­ply what he loves. I have per­formed for many dif­fer­ent groups of re­li­gions.”

Al­though Francois likes to take things one day at a time in this ca­reer that con­tin­ues to sur­prise him, his art­ful sto­ry­telling is show­ing no signs of slow­ing down. “I’ll be in Que­bec City on Fri­day, in Granby on Satur­day, in Sorel on Sun­day, at the Ma­gog Li­brary on Fri­day, April 14th, and in Natashquan and Havre Saint Pierre later in April,” said Mr. Berg­eron. He has also been asked to per­form in New York’s Times Square this com­ing Au­gust. “I’m pre­par­ing the English trans­la­tion of “The Mas­ter­piece” and I’m hop­ing to be able to rent the Haskell Theatre some­time in the fu­ture for it.”

photo courtesy

The artist only uses spe­cial chalk for his work.

Photo Stanstead Jour­nal

A rapt au­di­ence of over two hun­dred watch and lis­ten as chalk artist Francois Berg­eron cre­ates an Easter scene at the Sacré Coeur Church in Stanstead, last Thurs­day evening.

Photo courtesy

Francois Berg­eron work­ing on one of his chalk mu­rals.

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