Jean-Denis Boudreau

The Work : Public Art School
The Subject : Claude Roussel and Public Art

Claude Roussel and Public Art

Claude Roussel founded the Visual Arts Department at the Université de Moncton in 1963 and the university’s art gallery in 1965. In addition, he created a permanent collection of modern art. This collection promoted the emergence of artistic modernity in the region by representing the Canadian avant-gardes of the day and by bringing together artwork by Acadian artists. These three contributions laid an important foundation for the growth of the visual arts in French-speaking New Brunswick, and their effects continue to be seen in the commitment of the arts community.

Claude Roussel’s artistic contribution also extends to his numerous public artworks in different spheres: religious art, commemorative monuments, and contemporary art. In Moncton his works have dotted the urban landscape for many years. These include Hommes d’action (1963) and Éros Corten (1971) on the university’s campus, as well as Monument Moncton 100 (1990) in the Tidal Bore Park and Transition 2000 (1999) on the façade of the Beauséjour Caisse populaire.

Claude Roussel (in the background) with a student (around 1973). Photo : GALRC archives

Public Art School

Jean-Denis Boudreau’s Public Art School is a two-stage project. The first part is a performance. In the fall of 2018, Boudreau opened a school in the heart of downtown Moncton for a three-day period. Located in a commercial space, this simulated school was administered by a generic, and equally fictitious, organization: the Department for Cultural Advancement. A discussion forum was held there to provide the community with a platform to deliberate on issues surrounding public art. In addition to its classical schoolroom furniture, the school contained a few unusual elements: in keeping with Boudreau’s playful artistic language, a security guard was posted at the entrance to make sure the discussions went well, and a number of schoolwork exercises were laid out for participants to test their public art knowledge.

To retain a permanent trace of this ephemeral intervention in the public space, Boudreau chose a conventional form for a commemorative monument: the bronze plaque. In keeping with his covert artistic approach, five plaques were scattered around the Université de Moncton campus. They bear striking quotations from the deliberations at the Public Art School. Sober in presentation despite their unconventional content, these plates will stimulate the curiosity of the reader. Cast in permanent material, the spontaneous comments gathered during the public debate will continue to fuel the reflection on the role of the arts in the public sphere for years to come.

The artist would like to thank Claude Roussel and the participants of the Public Art School for their contributions to the project.

Jacques Arsenault, one of the participants at the Public Art School, in conversation with Jean-Denis Boudreau (2018)

Jean-Denis Boudreau

Jean-Denis Boudreau is a multidisciplinary artist who works primarily in installation and public intervention. A keen observer of the conventions that influence our behaviour in contemporary society, he focuses his attention on this behaviour to show where these conventions break down or are defective. To do this, he uses subversive strategies that employ playfulness and a hint of absurdity. Through constant experimentation, Boudreau strives to develop new modes of dissemination and interaction with the public in the hope of infiltrating everyday life, thereby making art more accessible to a greater number of people.

A finalist for the Sobey Art Award in 2007, Boudreau received his Bachelor of Visual Arts from the Université de Moncton in 2002. A native of Fredericton, his work has been exhibited at venues including the Khyber Gallery, Trap Door Gallery, Third Space Gallery, and Galerie Sans Nom. He has also taken part in events such as FICFA and the Symposium art/nature.