• Nick Zacharias

Local artist celebrated


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS

Artist Marcel Braitstein, whose works are internationally known, enjoys a moment in his sculpture garden with Vaudreuil MNA Marie-Claude Nichols while she presents him with the Medal of the National Assembly for his contribution to the arts.

Internationally renowned artist Marcel Braitstein was recognized with the Medal of the National Assembly on July 10 in an intimate ceremony in a peaceful corner of the sculpture-filled garden called Gannaiden in Vaudreuil-Dorion. The medal was presented by Member of the National Assembly for Vaudreuil Marie-Claude Nichols, who was visibly impressed with his many years of dedication to teaching and helping others bring art to life in the region. Said Nichols, “This honour is awarded to him to underline his great determination, his passion for his art, his desire to constantly improve - he is a model of perseverance and tenacity.”

Interesting trajectory

Braitstein was born 85 years ago (almost to the day) in Charleroi, Belgium. As a Jewish child in the Second World War, he was hidden from the Nazis, camouflaged as part of a Protestant family in order to survive – an experience which shaped his personal and artistic path. He came to Canada in 1951, becoming a Canadian citizen and graduating from the Montreal School of Fine Arts in 1959. After that he pursued studies and research in Mexico, frequenting the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende. There he met sculptor Lothar Kestenbaum who introduced him to the expressive flexibility of creating art with forged metal.

Metal sculpture remains his preferred medium to this day, in part for the way it allows him to create beauty with sharp edges – a reflection of his life and his difficult early days.

In December 1961, he held his first exhibition in Montreal at the Agnes LeFort Gallery. He then went to Europe with a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. Braitstein shared his gift for art as a revered professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal for 30 years, and now his works can be found in numerous museums and public and private collections all around the world.

No snob

The presentation of the award was hosted by Braitstein’s wife Elaine Steinberg who spoke alongside MNA Nichols, Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon, Hudson Councillor Helen Kurgansky and Monette Malewski, all of whom shared tales of Braitstein and his impacts on the artistic world at large as well as the local community.

“This is not some snob artist,” said Steinberg, “Marcel has always found pleasure in helping other artists to meet their goals and that is part of his ongoing story.”

Perfect venue

Gannaiden is the Hebrew word for Garden of Eden and Braitstein and Steinberg so named their sprawling sculpture garden in Vaudreuil-Dorion West in the spirit of shared values and the endless possibilities that come with new beginnings. The garden has been opened to the public in recent years for various events, most recently this one honouring Braitstein and his lifetime of enriching the lives of others through art. Said Steinberg, “This great honour from the Province of Quebec is a recognition of Marcel and his enormous contribution and not only does it coincide with his birthday, it also coincides with the 200th anniversary of Jewish families living in Vaudreuil-Soulanges. It’s a great moment worth marking.”

The gathered guests, made far fewer than originally planned because of COVID-19 restrictions, were each given a whiskey to toast the honouree. Said Steinberg, “The Jewish people believe that when one person is celebrated, all people present are celebrated. Why? Because in the end we are all one.”

“I thank you for this,” said Braitstein. “Truly, I am honoured.”

With that, the small gathering raised a toast and a traditional “L’Chaim!” to Braitstein and his gifts to the region and the world.

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