Chalk artist has creative calling
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.”
The artist only uses special chalk for his work.
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.
Francois Bergeron working on one of his chalk murals.