Artist Philippe Lejeune Brings Interactive Installations to Slater Park Fall Festival

Published in Pawtucket Times, September 13, 2013

In writings about his artwork, French artist Philippe Lejeune says, “I play and stage ‘ephemeral images’ that live and move with us in the present time – accurate reflections, illusions of form that relate to our existence. Volatile images that can feed or simply touch our mental images, something one can remember.”

For me, and probably many of my readers,’s comment might just seem a little bit esoteric. On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 21-22, 2013 at Slater Memorial Park during the upcoming Slater Park Fall Festival, you can meet this new Pawtucket artist and experience his “Glass Project” (www.projeqt.com/tiil). Your trip may well unravel any confusion pertaining to his artistic medium, vision or creativity.

Coming to America

The sixty-two year old French artist, who grew up in a suburb just five minutes from Paris, discovered his artistic talent at age 13 when on a weekend he picked up a pen to sketch his family during a moment of boredom. Years later after graduating high school, his talent would be sharpened by formalized artistic training in printmaking at the “Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs, an acclaimed fine arts school in Paris.

The young man became an apprentice at the printmaking studio of Mario Boni, where he would later work with renowned illustrator Jean-Michel Folon. As Folon’s engraver, Lejeune translated the printmaker’s vision into the medium of print, gaining an international reputation for his mastery of Aquatint, a technique that causes the finished prints to often time resemble watercolors or wash drawings.

In 1984, Lejeune and his wife moved to Westport, Connecticut, where he became an etching artist in his own right, where his etchings were exclusively being distributed world-wide by Cavalicro Fine Arts. As his success grew by leaps and bounds, the artist became disenchanted with the “Art marketplace” because he felt he was becoming just a “producer of commodities.” Three years later, Lejeune would leave his beloved printmaking, branching into painting and sculpture with a more contemporary art approach.

Developing his Artistic Craft

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lejeune was commissioned to create outdoor aluminum sculptures for private estates and public spaces in both the United States and France. The city of Stamford, Connecticut commissioned a public installation consisting of seven wood, glass, and mirror pieces for the Bank Street Program at the Toquam School. The commission required students to interact with his art work. His huge installations became a vehicle for their own artistic expressions.

In 1992 the French artist returned to his homeland where he later developed a new artistic approach. His site-specific installations were created to challenge the viewer’s perceptions by juxtaposing reality with virtual images, to blur the line between “what is” and “what is not.” Lejeune took his concept to the Centre d’Art Contemporain de la ferme du Buisson in Marne-la Vallee as well as in schools, museums and public spaces around Paris, using his artwork as a teaching tool for expanding the awareness of children as well as adults.

In 1996, the French artist returned to the states, bringing his wife and four children to Cotuic in Cape Cod, residing in a home-built in 1850. A decade later, he moved his family to Boston.

During this time, the French artist began painting trees on plywood, creating what he calls a “plywood forest,” later on experimenting with digital photography within the boundaries with traditional photography, transforming still images into virtual animation. He also became an adjunct art teacher at Cape Cod Community College, teaching drawing and painting, creating a hybrid on-line art classes along with a video blogging class.

Coming to Pawtucket

The high cost to rent artist live-work space in Boston brought Lejeune (now separated) to Pawtucket, to rent a 2,800 square foot studio, owned by internationally acclaimed Glass artist, Great Howard Ben Tre.

The transplanted Massachusetts artist began an exploration of Providence and Pawtucket, reaching out to local art groups and artists. An internet search led him to this writer (who serves as the City’s Economic & Cultural Affairs officer). Learning of Lejeune’s interest in bringing interactive installations to Pawtucket, he was referred to Patty Zacks, an organizer of the Slate Park Fall Festival. Lejeune was invited to bring his “magical confusion” installations to the large outdoor art festival in the City’s largest park. He also was invited to take part in planning the two day event.

For those coming to Slater Park Fall Fest, they will experience Lejeune’s interactive installations, created to confuse the viewer’s senses and perception. viewers don’t just passively look at the art work, they are drawn in to become more physically engaged.

Celebrate the Beauty of Slater Park

Art lovers of every age can greet more than 125 artists and artisans at the Slater Park Fall Festival, which also presents a highlight of the festival performance by the Rhode Island Philharmonic Pops Orchestra sponsored by The Pawtucket Teachers’ Alliance. An exciting addition to this weekend is a performance by the Cowsills, national music heroes with hometown Rhode Island roots (the rain date for the Rhode Island Philharmonic Pops in the Park concert is September 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Slater Memorial Park). Bring your lawn chairs and blankets. A dazzling fireworks show sponsored by Bristol County Savings Bank will take place at the conclusion of the concert.

The Slater Park Fall Festival is a ‘community festival’ where the public has the opportunity to meet some of its local artists, learn about their craft and discover what makes Pawtucket special! This event also features an “open air market” of food trucks, farmers market, and craft exhibitions, a gallery at the Watercolor Society, and tours are available at historic Daggett House.

Other performers and presenters at the two-day event includes: Marvelous Marvin the Magician, Greek dancers, Big Nazo puppets, the Sons & Daughters of Erin Irish Festival, Living Statues by Students of Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket. Enjoy a classic car cruise, Chicken Little dance performance by the Part of the Oath, Poetry Slam, Peace Flag project, and demonstrations by URI master gardeners at Daggett Farm, and Rock-A-Baby RI. This “pet friendly” festival has something for everyone – including the Slater Park (Pawtucket) Dog Park!

Children will enjoy face painting, paddle boat rides, the Pawtucket Bookmobile (Sunday), and the Looff Carousel.

A final note…

So, if classical or oldies music is just not your cup of tea, why not attend the Sept. 22 fundraiser of the Pawtucket Fireworks Committee, scheduled from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at The Met, 1005 Main St., Pawtucket. This fundraiser features Rhode Island’s own Steve Smith & The Nakeds, currently celebrating their 40th anniversary, have proven their staying power as they continue to enjoy a full touring schedule and an ever-growing fan base. Fondly called simply “The Nakeds” by their legion of fans, this band of musicians was inducted in April, 2013, into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. Admission: $20.

For more details about the Slater Park Fall Festival or for programming information about tomorrow’s Pawtucket Arts Festival events (Rocktucket, Behind the Scenes Tour of TEN31 and Central Falls Bright Future Festival) or the events scheduled for the final weekend, visit: http://www.pawtucketartsfestival.org or call 401-724-2200.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer covering, aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

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