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A conversation with Brigitte Renaud

episode 24
June 12 2021

Brigitte Renaud shares the inspiration behind Pièces d’été, her contemporary art festival, and the similarity between engineering and art

About our guest

Since 2012, Brigitte Renaud has been committed to supporting and developing access to contemporary art, creating an open art exhibition supported by a society of like-minded individuals in the French rural territory of Jura mountains. Pièce d’été aims to give free access to contemporary art to everyone, without the walls of a museum and using the landscape as a natural frame. The inhabitants of Malbuisson actively contribute to the success of Pièce d’été. The involvement of everyone at each step – from art production to welcoming the public – enriches the artists and the local community alike.


Pièce d’été Malbuisson

“ Stop thinking or trying to anticipate what others think”

“The main challenge is the legitimacy”

Today I’m excited to welcome Brigitte Renaud, who is the founder of Pièces d’été (Summer Piece), a free outdoor contemporary art festival that takes place every four years in the village of Mabuisson. The art pieces are staged along a 5-kilometer path that meanders between the village, forest, and the shores of Lake Saint-Point, allowing visitors to wander between them and experience each piece in a different setting.

The inspiration for the festival

Brigitte is actually an aerospace engineer, but her love for art was kindled at a young age by parents who encouraged her to be curious about the world and who often stopped to visit museums and exhibitions. It was a visit to the Guggenheim museum in 1993 to see the art of Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso  that triggered her imagination and inspired her to create Pièces d’été.

“I was so amazed, because I had seen the [Guggenheim] building until then in pictures from the outside, and then getting inside and having this journey ... it was so much clarity in how you were to discover and not miss anything because effectively you go up, and then you have these circle paths with … it’s full of light but not direct light—just the right light to really experience all the paintings or sculptures that are there, and then you go around and from time to time, when you circle, there are these little pieces that are not squared that are this strange form and that is making a very interesting dialogue with each of the pieces of art that you see,” she says.

Later, as she and other volunteers came together to plan Pièces d’été, this journey of discovery and emotional connection stuck with her, ultimately influencing how the festival is laid out along a winding path that draws visitors through the landscapes and various installations.

A place to explore freely

Brigitte says that the exhibition is really a place for artists to play and experiment with their talents without having to conform to the weight of expectation.

“What we discovered is that … creating this open air space in the rural country was giving the artist a free space where they can really explore and try new things without the judgement of any museum or institution where there is all the code of contemporary art,” she says.

She draws similarities between how artists, particularly women artists, feel about their work and her work as an engineer in a male-dominated profession.

“The main challenge is the legitimacy,” she says. “Initially it took me many years to get over it and to say okay yes I am legitimate.”

Although she says it has gotten better over time, it has required her to build her confidence.

“I think the main work to be done is to maybe stop thinking or trying to anticipate what adverse things [can happen] and to stop maybe asking the question ‘Am I legitimate.’ No, we are,” she says.

Visit Pièces d’été in 2021

The 2021 Pièces d’été festival will be open to visitors from June 12th through September 19th, and will feature 19 different artists, 8 of whom are women.

“We are very proud of that, and that’s very important that we have the diversity, both in gender but also in where the artists are coming from, and also the medium of expression,” Brigitte says.

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