Canadian culture aplenty

Canadian Cultural Centre © T.Joly
For 40 years, the Canadian Cultural Centre has organised exhibitions and events to showcase Canada artists, sometimes in conjunction with museums and festivals. The Centre is also home to an Inuit Cultural Centre which offers a window onto the cultures of the Far North.

[ Practical ]

Canadian Cultural Centre
5 rue de Constantine, 75007 Paris.
Opening times
- Exhibitions
Open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, till 7 pm on Thursday. Admission free.
- Library
Open from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm.
- Espace Culturel Inuit
Open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 2 pm to 6 pm, on Wednesday by appointment.
Tel : 0144432190
The Canadian Cultural Centre was created in 1970, an event which has taken on more and more significance over time. To this day, as it celebrates its 40th birthday, it is still the only institution of its kind outside Canada. Tokyo and Washington can only lay claim to a theatre and a gallery within the chancellery. And as for the Canada House in London, its role is not entirely a cultural one.

Louise Blais © T.Joly
 Bilateral cultural agreement
The creation of the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris is a direct consequence of the bilateral cultural agreement signed with France in the 1960s. But it is also linked to the longstanding ties that exist between the two countries and to the fact that France is recognized as a cultural and artistic centre of excellence”, explains Louise Blais, cultural counsellor of the Embassy and the director of the Centre for the last four years.
An art history graduate and former art broker, she went on to advise Interpol on stolen works of art. Today, she is delighted to be in Paris following postings in Washington and Tokyo. “As Canadians, there is a certain prestige to being posted in Paris. It’s a wonderful, generous place that welcomes the whole world, a place where people are curious and the city that produces the world’s best artists. There are so many cultural activities that it’s impossible to see everything. On top of that, France has incredibly diverse regions that I enjoy discovering during my free time. At the moment, it’s particularly nice to be here because it’s a period of change and transition between old and new”.

Eric Cameron exhibition © T.Joly
 Contemporary art exhibitions
Housed in a late-19th-century townhouse located on the Place des Invalides, the Centre employs 12 staff members including 8 Canadians, some of whom have been living in France for many years. Throughout the year, it offers a wide range of cultural activities to the general public. At any one time, there are always one or two exhibitions on the go within its walls. Most of these are devoted to contemporary art, but some are designed to highlight other aspects of Canada, for example the architecture of Vancouver. A multi-purpose room with seating for 90 people plays host jazz and classical music concerts as well as contemporary musicians, lectures and drama. “Most of the time, the artist on stage hasn’t necessarily made the trip from Canada, but may be on tour in France or Europe. The public really like the small, intimate atmosphere of the venue that creates a cabaret spirit”, adds Louise Blais.

Library © T.Joly
 Themed evenings
The audience is made up primarily of French people, followed by Europeans and Canadian expatriates keen to stay in touch with their homeland. They can also take advantage of a bilingual library that holds 20,000 books. It is Europe’s largest collection of Canada-related documents.
Since 2009, there have also been screenings of high-definition, Dolby-sound Canadian films downloaded over the Internet. There are feature-length and short films, as well as documentary films from the National Film Board of Canada, the institution that developed this technology.
Lastly, themed evenings are sometimes organized on specific subjects or events. “We invite up to 650 people and the Centre is completely transformed and decorated according to the chosen theme”. Last autumn, it was transformed into a winter sports playground ahead of the Vancouver Olympic Games.

Inuit art © T.Joly
 Activities outside the Centre
Before, in March 2009, the Inuit world took centre stage with exhibitions and films about this civilization and its culture as well as traditional circus acts. “But a large proportion of our work is related to activities that take place outside the Centre and involve Canadian artists, for example at the Pompidou Centre or at the Avignon Festival. It’s very important for us because it allows us to reach a larger audience and to have a bigger impact”, emphasizes Louise Blais, who considers culture as a fundamental element in improving communication and knowledge-sharing between countries. “Despite the old links that exist between France and Canada, in 1970 there wasn’t really a complete understanding. But things have changed in the right direction, in part thanks to the Centre”.
The Canadian Cultural Centre houses and works in partnership with the Espace Culturel Inuit that has been promoting this civilization and its culture all around France since 1995.

Inuit cultural centre © T.Joly
 A voyage to the Canadian Far North
To my knowledge, there is no international organization on a par with this French association, which provides a large amount of information on very important subjects for Canada: the consequences of global warming, the reopening of the Northwest Passage, the sovereignty of the Arctic, etc.”, explains Louise Blais. Founded and led by people who have studied Inuit culture and language at the INALCO, it has a collection of books in French, English and Inuit as well as an exhibition of Inuit artists’ work for sale. In addition, its members organize exhibitions and conferences either on the spot or outside, as well as shows and activities for adults and children about traditional games, language, writing, etc. A real voyage to the Canadian Far North without stepping foot outside Paris.

February 27, 2010
Thierry Joly