Marie Hélène Allain

Marie Hélène Allain

  • Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, New Brunswick
  • Canadian
Schools / Studies
  • Collège Notre-Dame d’Acadie
  • l’université Queen’s de Kingston
  • l’Université du Québec à Montréal
  • l’Université de Moncton
  • Strathbutler Award for excellent in the visual arts in New Brunswick (1996)
  • Prix Éloizes, artist of the year (2001)
  • Gold medal, in sculpture, at the third Jeux de la Francophonie in Madagascar (1997)
  • Winner of Lieutenant Governor's award for excellent in the visual arts (2019)

Marie Hélène Allain was born in 1939 in Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, New Brunswick, Canada.

At the age of ten, she began taking art classes with Jeanne Léger, a local artist. After completing grade twelve, she entered the convent of the Religious of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at the age of sixteen where she completed her novitiate. She took her temporary vows in 1958 and her final vows in 1961. Fortunately, her religious community strongly encouraged her to develop her skills in the field of visual arts. In 1958-1959, she studied at the École normale and received her teaching certificate from the New Brunswick Department of Education. She then completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie (1966).

Wishing to pursue her studies in visual arts, she took non-credit summer courses in visual arts at Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie in Moncton and at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. In 1967, she entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Montréal. It was there that she discovered sculpture, which later became a passion. In 1971, she completed her bachelor's degree in plastic arts, with a major in sculpture, at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).

In 1978, Marie Hélène Allain did an eight-month internship in Europe, including six months of sculpture training in Pietrasanta (Italy) and two months visiting European art centers. In 1987, she followed a five-month internship in Montreal devoted to various artistic activities, and in 1990, she perfected her skills for a year in France. She also participated twice (1990 and 1992) in the International Sculpture Conference.

After completing her second bachelor's degree, she divided her time between teaching and creating. For three years, she taught artistic expression part-time in Kent County public schools. She then taught, still part-time, courses in sculpture and didactics in artistic expression at the Faculty of Education and at the Université de Moncton's Continuing Education program until 1979. Afterwards, she devoted herself entirely to sculpture, except for a few years during which she resumed teaching at the Université du Québec in Montréal (1987) and teaching sculpture in the Visual Arts Department at the Université de Moncton (1988-1989).

Although she has been exhibiting since 1972, it was not until 1976 that she had her first solo exhibition at the Galerie d'art de l'Université de Moncton. In all, she participated in more than 50 exhibitions, including more than 20 solo shows and a few travelling exhibitions in Canada, France, Italy and the United States. Among her accomplishments, we can note her participation in the 3rd Jeux de la Francophonie in Madagascar in 1997, in the Louisiana Artists Exchange in 1992 and the traveling exhibition in 2003 of the Strathbutler Award recipients (1996 to 2000).

Her sculptures are included in several public and private collections. Over the years, she has created a number of commissioned works, including those for the Market Square (1983) in Saint John, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (1985) in Fredericton, the Mère-Marie-Anne Pavilion in Moncton (1986), the Restigouche Gallery (1984), and the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont Hospital Oncology Centre (1994) in Moncton. She also directed the public prize, entitled La vague, awarded by the Festival international du cinéma francophone en Acadie (FICFA), for four years, from 1993 to 1997. In all, her artistic production already includes more than 180 works.

Her main objective is to bring inert matter to life and to study the symbolism of stone in assembly with several other materials. She even claims that sculpture is her vocation.

Marie Hélène Allain has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and, on several occasions, from the New Brunswick Arts Board. In 1996, she received the Strathbutler Award for excellence in the visual arts in New Brunswick.

She was also one of the three main organizers of the Exhibition/Retrospective of Visual Arts in Acadia at the Congrès Mondial Acadien in 1999. It was then "the largest visual arts exhibition in Acadia" where, in all, more than 230 works covering the history of Acadian painting, sculpture, engraving, photography and ceramics and regrouping about 120 artists, were exhibited.

Marie Hélène Allain also won the gold medal in the sculpture category at the third Jeux de la Francophonie held in Madagascar in 1997, with her work Danser sa liberté. In 1994, Marie-Hélène Allain was the subject of a book entitled Marie-Hélène Allain: La symbolique de la pierre / The Symbolism of Stone written by Carolle Gagnon and published by Éditions d'Acadie. In addition, Marie Hélène won an Éloizes award for artist of the year in visual arts in 2001.

The director Rodolphe Caron dedicated the documentary Marie Hélène Allain en dialogue avec la pierre to her in 2008, co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada and Productions Appalaches.

The Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation, whose mission is to promote and support the creation, development and understanding of the visual arts, recently launched the Marie Helène Allain Fellowship to encourage creative exploration and innovation among mid-career artists.

The Société culturelle Kent-Sud honored her in 2018 at the opening of the Marie Helene Allain Art Gallery at the Cultural Centre located in Bouctouche, New Brunswick.

In 2019, Marie Hélène is one of three recipients of the Lieutenant-Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts, in the visual arts category.

[From the artist's personal website].

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