Discovering Art

The second week of my visit to Perpignan has dawned, and already so much has changed. Instead of wandering lost in random alleys, I have a purpose when I walk. Instead of just saying, "Sorry I don't speak French," and then continuing to order my Nutella gelato in English, I attempt to speak the language. The most enjoyable change however is the knowledge I have gained of some local art – specifically a sculptor by the name of Pierre Renard.

I was visiting a nearby town called St. Cyprien when, by chance, I started talking to a man who worked at a local hotel. I told him that my purpose of being in France is to create a journalistic story through video and text about something or someone unique in the area. Without hesitation he handed me Pierre Renard's business card, telling me his sculptures are very well known in local areas. So, later that week I ventured off to Mr. Renard's abode, which rested in a strikingly hot, but quiet part of town.

What I found was remarkable. Sculptures of all different sizes and textures decorated the inside and out of his house. I saw some made of marble, some wood and some even bronze, which he says is the most difficult to make. The curves and smoothness of his art gave a peaceful flow of a feeling to his house. All were unique from each other but still shared the complex characteristic of beauty. I was in awe and slightly overwhelmed as I took it all in.

Mr. Renard proceeded to explain how his passion for sculpting started and where he acquired his distinctive style. It turns out that he began as a cake baker and would create the decorations and designs on each dessert. He even entered contests where he would win first prize for cake decorating. After some time however, he grew tired of just cake decorating and asked himself, why not sculpting? From then on, his new career as a sculptor began.

This proved him to be a very spontaneous character, always set off to find new adventure, a quality which I admire. Soon after making his decision, he attended an art school in Perpignan, where he learned about a famous sculptor named Brancusi, and was inspired by him. They do have similar abstract and curvy styles, but Renard truly has transformed it to be his own.

Today Mr. Renard still works, but not as often as he use to when he first started about 20 years ago. He does most of his work for charity; one in particular is a library for the blind and deaf. But even though he is slowly coming to an end with his art, he still states, "the sculptor is finished when there is nothing more to give."

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About the Program

Fifteen college students came from North America to Perpignan, France, in June 2011 to produce these videos and stories. To find out more, read a welcome letter from program director Rachele Kanigel, meet the program faculty and explore the 2010 website.