November 23, 2017
The labour movement has historically and famously demanded both bread and roses.
Building and supporting cultural and arts communities are vital to our movement, as workers are whole people with interests, hopes and hobbies. The Ontario Federation of Labour presents the Cultural Award to an artist or union member whose work has featured or furthered the goals of working people in Ontario.
Eugene Lefrancois is the 2017 recipient of this honour. He is a Métis Woodland Artist and was born in Beardmore, Ontario in 1959. Lefrancois is a self-taught artist and has been drawing all his life in one form or another. His mother said, “there wasn’t any wall in the house that he didn’t like.”
He started painting seriously in 1985 after a workplace injury. His father brought him some paper and acrylic paint with a few brushes and said, “Now, you will have time to paint”.
Lefrancois began drawing in bush camps and on lake freighters. Ideas for pictures came to him in dreams, clouds, scenery, animals, reading stories, news, listening to music, listening to people remembering the past and remembering the stories his grandparents told him.
Eugene says, “Sometimes I feel angry about how society has changed. It seems that many people are so busy they are starting to forget the meaning of what a community is. It seems that our society has placed the dollar above the individual. I see completed drawings in my head, in the bush and all around me, but my skills are not ready to paint them. I keep at it, hoping that the day will come when I can complete my yet-to-be-drawn masterpiece.”
In accepting the award, Lefrancois said, “I am an artist to make change for people.”
He further challenged locals to, “adopt an artist,” saying that, “You need them as much as they need you. They can tell your story.”
To view some of Lefrancois’ current works, available for purchase, click here.
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