Jean Blaise

The instigator of Light Nights internationally, Jean Blaise is known in France as the Godfather of public art.  His series of innovative programmes spanning regeneration, public art, festivals and sculpting of post-industrial cultural spaces, primarily in the City of Nantes, has inspired work across the world, including our own Estuary 2016.  Jean Blaise is currently Director of the cultural tourism agency with 300+ staff called Le Voyage à Nantes.

Le Voyage à Nantes is also a city art trail open every July and August which has revolutionised the tourism industry in Nantes, effecting a dramatic increase in the number of visitors.  This trail links with the 30 permanent installations on the 65km of the River Loire between Nantes and the Atlantic Ocean .  Jean will give a lively illustrated talk, translated by Polly Moseley, explaining how he works with public, private sectors with land to give artists freedom to make places more lively and appealing to residents and tourists new to the area.

Jean is also currently Chair of a National Arts and Culture Committee and Artistic Director for the 500th birthday of le Havre in 2017 which will be centred on the summer season - Un Été au Havre.

Jean Blaise will talk as part of our Shorelines event at 12noon in The Salon at Tilbury Cruise Terminal


Jean Blaise was born in Alger.  After studying literature at Bordeaux University, he became Director of the Cultural Centre at Saint Médard-en-Jalles near Bordeaux, and then of the Centre for Cultural Action in Chelles, outside of Paris.  From 1980 to 1982 he was in charged with the creation of the regional Centre for Cultural Action in Guadeloupe.

In 1982 Jean Blaise founded the Cultural Centre in Nantes, then two years later, the Centre of Cultural Research, which was to become Nantes’ National Theatre.  (All of these centres were part of national programmes.)  He was a driving force for the renaissance of Nantes, in particular by initiating the festival ‘Les Allumées’ then the ‘Fin de Siècle’ festival which welcomed hundreds of artists from cities across the world, including Barcelona, St Petersburg, Buenos-Aires, Cairo, Johannesburg and New York.  He led the reconstruction of the old LU biscuit factory, which was opened on 1st January 2000 as the Lieu Unique, where he stayed as Director until 2010.

At the same time he led on major events in France and internationally, such as Nuit Blanche in Paris in 2002 and 2005 (to become Light Nights) and the Hué Festival in Vietnam in 2000 and 2002.  In 2007 he founded ‘Estuaire’ the fixed-term contemporary art festival with 3 editions, resulting in 30 permanent installations along the Loire.  Lastly, in 2011, he created ‘Le Voyage à Nantes’ a non-for-profit company charged with promoting Nantes as a destination by managing all of the key City sites, like the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, Les Machines de l’Île, the memorial to the abolition of slavery, the HAB Gallery, the Estuary sculpture trail.  This innovative enterprise brings culture, tourism and heritage together.  It is manifested in a trail which links all of city features together, making Nantes a unique, creative City destination every summer when for 2 months Nantes is turned upside down by art.

Since April 2014, Jean Blaise was nominated by the Minister of Culture to become Chair of a National Committee for Arts in Public Space. In 2015, he became Artistic Director for the summer season to celebrate the 500th birthday of the port City of Le Havre in 2017. In 2015 2 books were published about Jean Blaise’s career in French.

Interpreter: Polly Moseley

Polly’s 20-year career has involved building Franco-British alliances in digital economy, in arts and culture, and politically.  Polly worked for Metal on European partnerships from 2006-2008 before working to secure significant NHS investment in arts and culture in Liverpool post European Capital of Culture, and producing the Royal de Luxe ’Sea Odyssey’ show in Liverpool.  She currently works between Nantes and Liverpool, specifically on environmental projects, music projects, training and co-productions.

Photo © S. Bellanger


French version

Jean Blaise est né en 1951 à Alger. Après des études de lettres à l’université de Bordeaux, il devient directeur du Centre Culturel de Saint Médard-en-Jalles (région bordelaise), puis du Centre d’Action Culturelle de Chelles (Seine-et-Marne). De 1980 à 1982, il est chargé par le ministère de la Culture de la création du Centre d’Action Culturelle départemental de la Guadeloupe.

En 1982, Jean Blaise crée la Maison de la Culture de Nantes puis deux ans plus tard, le CRDC (Centre de Recherche pour le Développement Culturel), qui deviendra la scène nationale de Nantes. Il participe activement à l’épanouissement culturel de la ville, notamment en créant le festival Les Allumées puis le festival Fin de Siècle, qui accueillent de nombreux artistes de grandes villes du monde (Barcelone, Saint-Pétersbourg, Buenos-Aires, Naples, Le Caire, Johannesburg, New York...). Il œuvre à la réhabilitation de l’ancienne biscuiterie LU qui, le premier janvier 2000, pour la dernière édition de Fin de Siècle, devient le Lieu Unique, dont il sera le directeur jusqu’en 2010.

Il initie par ailleurs de grandes manifestations en France et à l’étranger (Nuit Blanche parisienne, 2002 et 2005 ; Festival de Hué au Vietnam, 2000 et 2002). En 2007, il crée la biennale Estuaire d’art contemporain. Enfin, au premier janvier 2011, il crée « Le Voyage à Nantes », société publique chargée de promouvoir la destination nantaise par la gestion des sites emblématiques de la ville, comme le Château des Ducs de Bretagne, les Machines de l’île, le Mémorial de l’abolition de l’esclavage, la HAB Galerie, la collection Estuaire.
Cette nouvelle structure innovante, regroupe culture, tourisme et patrimoine. Il imagine alors un parcours conjuguant atouts patrimoniaux et créations contemporaines afin que Nantes s’affirme comme une destination urbaine, une ville d’art. Ces 12 km matérialisés au sol par une ligne verte sont réactivés chaque année par un événement estival. Deux mois pour vivre la ville renversée par l’art.

Depuis avril 2014, Président de la Mission Nationale d’Art et de Culture dans l’Espace Public (MNACEP) à la demande de Mme Aurélie Filippetti, Ministre de la Culture.

Depuis 2015 : directeur artistique des festivités liées aux 500 ans de la fondation du port du Havre (2017)

En 2015, deux livres lui sont consacrés : Réenchanteur de ville, Jean Blaise* de Philippe Dossal et Jean Blaise & Jean Viard - Remettre le Poireau à l’endroit, entretiens avec Stéphane Paoli.

 

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