French ambassador visits Northwest OhioWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | email@example.com
“The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden” at Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) has transported thousands of visitors to Paris since it opened this winter, but on April 23 it passed perhaps its stiffest test yet – a visit from French ambassador Francois Delattre.
Delattre, who spent the day in Northwest Ohio as the guest of Congressman Bob Latta, declared the exhibit “an absolute delight.”
“This is incredibly well-conceived, well-realized, and, here I speak as a Parisian, you feel like you are in Paris in two seconds, so it’s wonderfully done,” Delattre said, noting that he would be meeting Louvre Director Jean-Luc Martinez in a few days and will be telling him how much he enjoyed the exhibit.
Latta, who represents Ohio’s 5th District and who co-chairs the Congressional French Caucus, said the purpose of the visit was not only to showcase area gems like TMA, but demonstrate France’s economic ties to Northwest Ohio.
There are more than 200 French-owned or French-associated companies in Ohio, providing about 15,000 jobs, Latta said. Ohio exported about $250 million in exports to France last year, making it one of Ohio’s largest European trade partners, he said.
Delattre said the partnership between France and the U.S. “walks on two legs” – culture and values on one side, innovation, cross-investment and job creation on the other.
The trip was Delattre’s first visit to Northwest Ohio. He also visited the University of Findlay, where he met with local businesses leaders to discuss economic relations, spoke with students and honored Northwest Ohio World War II veteran Clyde Shull.
Delattre also ate a traditional French meal prepared by students from the Owens Community College’s Culinary Institute and served by University of Findlay hospitality management students.
“They did an extremely good job,” Delattre said. “I believe that France was the No. 1 in the world in terms of gastronomy. I discovered today we have to share this No. 1 position with those students who did such a great job.”
At TMA, Delattre also met with a group of 16 French foreign exchange students, whose two-week term at St. Francis de Sales High School happened to coincide with the ambassador’s visit. The students are visiting from St. Michel High School in Annecy, France, along the Eastern border near Geneva, Switzerland.
“When we told them they would be meeting the French ambassador, they couldn’t believe it,” said St. Francis French teacher Margaret Blackburn. “They were very excited.”
Alexis Burnier, 17, said he enjoyed the exhibit.
“Very beautiful,” he said.
Classmate Lucas Giel, 17, agreed.
“Amazing statues,” he said. “I didn’t see this in the Louvre in Paris. It’s very important for me to see the art.”
Both said school in the U.S. is “very different” from France, the biggest difference being the class schedule. French classes are shorter but the school day is longer, they said.
Giel said he was impressed by the number of sports available and the weight room. Burnier said his favorite part so far has been the welcome they’ve received.
St. Michel English teacher Martine Hoareau said the students will remember their trip forever.
“I told the girls, ‘When you will be grandmothers you will tell your grandchildren you were in Toledo and you met the French ambassador,’” she said. “The boys were amazed because they saw the painting with the portrait of our King Louis XIV, and they said, ‘Is that the real one?’ Because this painting is in history books, so they knew it but they had never seen it for real. It’s quite amazing to be in the States and see it here. We’re very lucky.”
St. Michel science teacher Gwenaël Belerin said nothing can compare to the real Tuileries Garden, but TMA’s exhibition is a good representation.
“Nothing compares to Paris, but for people who have never been there it can give a [good idea],” Belerin said. “I think if I had never been to Paris, to the Louvre, to Tuileries, I think to see that I would say, ‘Yes if I go to Paris, it’s something I have to see.’”
Belerin said he particularly enjoyed the photography in the exhibit.
“It’s very rare to have photography,” Belerin said. “For a lot of people, photography is not art. For me, it’s one of the biggest. So it’s very amazing and we are so lucky to be here for a private visit.”
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