Cultural Connections: Norman In Clermont-Ferrand Curatorial Statement


In the United States, when 9/11 happened, everything changed…Everyone says that…It has become cliché…But everything changed. It just did. And for us – France and the US – partners through two Revolutions and two World Wars – everything changed. We were strained and stressed and a relationship that was forged over nearly 250 years was threatened by fear.

Then came Charlie Hebdo, then November 2015 in Paris, and 2016 Bastille Day in Nice. Terrorism has shaken us both and we are, as we started, once again commrades in freedom and democracy. We need each other, as we always have.

And that brings us to this:  Norman, Oklahoma in Clermont-Ferrand, France – “jumelage” – we are twinned – we are sisters, united by our commonalities and treasured for our differences.

With Cultural Connections, the Norman Arts Council works to build relationships, learning, and understanding through the exchange of ideas, culture, art, and people. We are diplomats and we are ensuring that the special relationship between our two towns and two countries (and with our sister cities around the world) continues to forge us into a global community.

In this exhibit, Cultural Connections: Norman in Clermont-Ferrand, you see the works of three Norman, Oklahoma artists. Jason Cytacki, Ginna Dowling, and Daren Kendall were chosen from many submitted proposals by a joint selection panel of representatives of each community. In September of this year, three Clermont-Ferrand artists: Hervé Brehiér, Cecile Gambini, and Annemarie Rognon will travel to Norman to complete the exchange.

We arrived in France to seek out something familiar, something to which we can all relate. Each artist, with their individual perspectives, has created site-specific installations that speak to their observations of this initially unfamiliar place. As they have worked, a fog began to lift, and we see that we are, in the end, not at all that different…

There was the waiter at breakfast – so excited to learn we were from the US that he proclaimed he would return home with us when his shift ended.

There was Christoff, who, one late night at a local bar, imprinted on us (well, on Jason, specifically). He had returned from California that morning and was longing for more connections from his sister country across the Atlantic.

There was the French election, which was eerily reflective of the recent US Election. We watched from the living room of one of our Clermontoise friends.

There was the familiar crowd at a sporting event that gripped the nation. Life comes to a blissful halt as strangers gather to drink beer out of plastic cups and hug one another when the home team goals and lament when they, once again, fail to achieve the long-fought-for victory.

Each of the three installations in Cultural Connections examines the textures of this place (Clermont-Ferrand) and this space (Chapelle de l’Oratoire). We are exploring the Physical, Social and Elemental textures of Clermont-Ferrand. We hope you enjoy our views of your place and we thank you for having us as your guests.

Erinn Gavaghan
Curator and
Executive Director, Norman Arts Council