Believing in the Democratization of Art and Social Engagement…

Henri Lamoureux and D’Arts et de rêves -

It's not easy to write a volunteer chronicle when the subject is as impressive as Henri Lamoureux.  Now where does one begin…

More than forty years ago, Henri Lamoureux (socio-ethicist and novelist, essayist, and author of academic works) and Nicole Côté (lawyer and visual artist) settled in Glen Sutton, a little paradise where they chose to raise their family. They’ve had a good life and have always been grateful to be able to thrive in such a beautiful environment.

Over the years, there was this idea that often ended up as the topic of their discussions:  how to give back to the community, how to contribute to the cultural environment of Sutton in the field of the arts.  This idea slowly but surely took shape and led to the creation of a second little paradise, the D’Arts et de rêves artists' residence and eco-cultural park (find out more:  "The Story of D’Arts et de rêves").  Being one of the three co-founders of this organization (Joanie Leroux-Côté, contemporary circus arts, completes the trio), Henri knew that it would take up a lot of his time, but he may not have suspected the number of hours it would actually require...

Henri_parc

Henri, pensive, in the eco-cultural park of D’Arts et de rêves.

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Henri and Nicole, in the presence of Mrs. Nathalie Bondil of the MMFA and other guests,
at the June 18, 2016 official opening of the artists' residence and eco-cultural park.

Why invest so much of oneself?

By conviction, because Henri believes in community involvement; this has been his leitmotif, basically his trademark all through his professional as well as his personal life.

It was at the first conference on the defense of social rights that he organized in 1972 that Henri met Nicole, who was there as an observer.  At that time, Nicole was completing her law degree; she was far from suspecting that by going to this event, she would marry not only a cause but also a man.  Both collaborated closely on a number of social projects and were leaders of the community action movement in the southwest of Montreal.

Henri pursued this path all his life and became an expert, or more to the point, the specialist in community action.  He taught social movements history and ethics applied to social engagement at the university level (until 2008, though Henri still enjoys doing practical training and popular education) and published many books and articles, some of which are still the reference materials of many university courses.

Why volunteer?

According to the Quebec Volunteer Network (Le Réseau de l’action bénévole du Québec--RABQ), one of the first reasons people offer when asked this question is that they give of their time because they believe in a cause.  We could underline everything that follows because this man certainly wants to:

  • demonstrate one’s interest in a cause;
  • be one of those who work to make things better;
  • help others and participate in the well-being of the community;
  • make a difference;
  • be a part of positive change in one’s community.

How does Henri volunteer?

Henri does not only handle a pick and shovel, his work also calls upon his brain power.

A pick and shovel

Henri has been present at all the working bees held at 57, rue Principale Nord in Sutton, and even more so.  Before the very first working bee, Henri was on site with Nicole to study the environment, inventory the resources, plan the work required, prepare the chores, maintain the lawn of the eco-cultural park...

In short, Henri has shown that he knows how to roll up his sleeves and how sweaty daily chores can be, as evidenced by the photos below...

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Henri_kubota
Miryam Saint-Pierre et Henri Lamoureux

Henri clearing out the land.

Henri transporting mulch
for landscaping work being
done in front of the barn.

Henri planting shrubs,
in such pleasant company
(Miryam St-Pierre)!

Using a pick and shovel is the easy part of Henri's volunteer work:  there is a task to be done, the work is done, the mission is accomplished, then comes the satisfaction of having succeeded...

Working those brain cells

Working one's brain cells is a lot more demanding because as soon as we set a new challenge for ourselves, it’s hard to just turn off our brain...  Here are some of the challenges Henri remembers.

Obtaining the "charitable organization" status required a lot of work and the incalculable contribution of many people.  Why was it so important?  So that our donors be eligible to receipts for tax purposes and hence be encouraged to contribute.

With the "public utility organization" status, D’Arts et de rêves is exempt from municipal and school taxes.  This status is obtained following the judgment of a provincial administrative court; so again, imagine the imposing dossier that had to be prepared...  Why was it so important?  So that all the funds obtained be invested directly in the development of the artists’ residence and eco-cultural park.

An ongoing challenge is seeking funds in the form of grants, donations, and sponsorships to ensure the operation and development of D’Arts et de rêves.  Without these varied sources of funding, the artists' residence and the eco-cultural park projects could not be realized.  Henri, having worked in community action and having published many books, had the experience of seeking funds.  He gladly put at the service of the organization these skills and knowledge which in a nutshell translate into : constantly being on the lookout for available funding; knowing the structures of the organizations; networking; being aware of the sensitivities of governments, political programs, institutions; mastering a specialized language; writing applications that take into account all these variables...  Henri and Nicole have written many requests for funding over the years and are pleased with the writing now done mostly by Karina Sasseville (D’Arts et de rêves Coordinator) who has learned to navigate this maze of criteria and constraints.  Of course, it’s quite a blow when a request is refused or program criteria are modified along the way, all that can be done then is to support one another and start again...

Remember that, as Vice-President, Henri is also a member of the Board of Directors and as such contributes to the good governance of the organization.  His main focus is funding, though he works on special dossiers as required and occasionally acts as the organization’s spokesperson (as you will see in a photo below).  And, of course, says Henri laughing:  "I am at the service of her majesty (you will understand that he refers to Nicole) and her duchesses (Karina and Stephanie L'Italien, hired in the spring of 2018)."

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Henri_AGA

Henri Lamoureux and Karina Sasseville representing D’Arts et de rêves in a 2016 interview by Sylvie L. Bergeron for Arts d'œuvres, broadcasted on the Eastern Townships French Community Radio.

Henri presenting the financial report
at one the annual general meetings.

What motivates Henri?

It is first and foremost Nicole's support which motivates Henri, happy to be working with his "president".  Why?  Because it’s together that they dreamed up this art democratization project of which the people of Sutton and the many visitors to our beautiful region are now taking ownership.

And there is undeniably the support of the team—Karina has been on board for a few years now, and there are the board members, the different committees, and the many volunteers.

The eco-cultural park is also an incentive.  Just look at the sculptures on display, the well-developed pathways, the surrounding nature, and the view of Mount Sutton.  Those who have the opportunity to walk the grounds are always amazed at what they discover.

Equally motivating is the praiseworthy feedback from the artists in residence who, each in turn, mention the welcome and quality of this inspiring environment...

Then there are artists who receive awards for work done in part while they were in residence at D’Arts et de rêves (see the News).  It is encouraging to know that we have contributed a little to these successes and this motivates Henri to pursue this social project...

Finally, there are the partners, sponsors, and donors.
In short, all this and more motivates Henri...

On the other hand…

To invest as much in such an ambitious project requires, as you must surely understand, a lot of time...
What was set aside?

  • The weeds in Nicole and Henri’s flowerbeds are taking up much too much space...
  • A novel, begun three years ago, is still waiting for some tender loving care from its chosen author...
  • Papers thought out, but yet to be written...
  • Books that gather dust while waiting for their favourite reader...

But this will not stop Henri from devoting time to D’Arts et de rêves

What does Henri wish for D'Arts et de rêves?

Three little things...

  1. Financial stability to ensure the organization’s smooth operation:  ideally some form of recurrent financial assistance from the municipality.
  2. A workspace designed to safely meet the needs of contemporary circus artists.
  3. The ecological development of the park by ensuring the safeguard of biodiversity, to which we could add an art collection.

And why not...

  • Two persons on staff to ensure the efficient operation of the organization.
  • A music kiosk where we could install the piano, much like the public pianos that can now be found in many cities during the summer...
  • An imposing sculpture at the entrance to 57, rue Principale Nord that people would see as soon as they arrive in Sutton...
  • The elimination of Japanese knotweed, a species that is much too invasive and very difficult to control...
  • A shed to store the tractor and tools used for ground maintenance.

Imagination is required to dream up such projects and Henri is pretty good at this!

In conclusion…

If you want to talk about social commitment and D’Arts et de rêves, writing or literature, or if you just want to meet a very committed man, drop by Henri’s third little paradise, La petite librairie (micro library) located at the Galerie Art libre at 6, rue Principale Sud, Sutton.  Henri is usually there one or two days a week...

-An article by Liliane Lessard.