Herménégilde Chiasson, OC, ONB, artist, poet, playwright, film director, lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick (born 7 April 1946 in Saint-Simon, NB).
Herménégilde Chiasson, OC, ONB, artist, poet, playwright, film director, lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick (born 7 April 1946 in Saint-Simon, NB). An Officer of the Order of Canada, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, and New Brunswick's 29th lieutenant-governor, Chiasson is considered the father of Acadian modernism and is one of Canada's foremost advocates of Acadian culture and the arts. He is also notable for his insistence upon Acadian culture being a living culture rather than a persecuted and exiled one.
Education and Early Career
Of Acadian descent, Chiasson was born and educated in Saint-Simon, New Brunswick. He earned a BA from the Université de Moncton in 1967, a BFA from Mount Allison University in 1972, a master’s degree in aesthetics from the Université de Paris 1 in 1976, an MFA from the State University of New York in 1981, and a doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1983.
Chiasson has actively pursued a career in the Canadian arts both during and following his graduation from five degree programs. His first placement was as the director of the Galerie d'art de l'Université de Moncton in 1974, and he assumed the position of president at Galerie Sans Nom in 1980. From that time onward, Chiasson began to found and chair arts organizations, including Éditions Perce-Neige in 1984, the Aberdeen co-operative in 1985, the Imago workshop in 1987, and Productions du Phare-Est in 1988. In 1994, Chiasson assumed the position of curator of the Marion McCain exhibit at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, and he served as president of the Association acadienne des artistes professionnels du Nouveau-Brunswick from 1993 to 1995. Chiasson was also employed by Radio-Canada as a director, playwright, journalist and researcher intermittently from 1968 to 1985, and served as a member of the teaching staff at the Université de Moncton's fine arts department from 1988 to 2003.
In addition to his numerous tenures throughout his career, Chiasson has pursued his own love of art, poetry, theatre, and film, and his work has been celebrated both in Canada and worldwide. He has participated in over 100 exhibitions of his painting and photography, including 18 solo exhibitions such as La frise des archers (1983) and Mythologies (1996). He is also the co-author (with Patrick Condon Laurette) of a monograph on the New Brunswick sculptor and painter (and founder of the fine arts department and art gallery at the Université de Moncton), Claude Roussel, Claude Roussel Sculpteur/Sculptor (1985).
Poetry, Film, and Theatre
Chiasson is the author of 18 books of poetry, including his first two groundbreaking examinations of Acadian identity, Mourir à Scoudouc (1974) and Rapport sur l’état de mes illusions (1976), reflecting shifts brought about by student demonstrations at the Université de Moncton in 1968 and 1969 and the formation of the Parti acadien in 1972.Climat (1996) was translated into English under the title Climates (1999). Conversations won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 1999.
Chiasson has directed more than 15 films, mostly focused on Acadian identity, notably Robichaud (1989), Marchand de la mer (1991), Les années noires (1994), L’Acadie retrouvée (1995) and Épopée, which won Best Documentary Film at the Festival international du film francophone de Namur. He has also written 25 plays, including popular productions such as L'exil d'Alexa (1993) and Aliénor (1998).
On 29 August 2003, Chiasson was installed as New Brunswick's 29th lieutenant-governor, succeeding Marilyn Trenholme Counsell. His term ended in 2009, and he was succeeded by Graydon Nicholas. He is the honorary chairperson and patron for numerous charitable organizations, both in New Brunswick and across Canada, and he is Artist-in-Residence at Mount Allison University and Université de Moncton.
Prix France-Acadie (1986 and 1992)
Chevalier de l'Ordre français des Arts et des Lettres (1990)
l'Ordre des francophones d'Amérique (1993)
Governor General’s Literary Award (1999)
Grand Prix de la francophonie canadienne (1999)
Prix littéraire Antonine-Maillet-Acadie Vie (2003)
Honorary Doctor of Literature, Université de Moncton (2009)
David Lonergan, « L’espace dans la poésie d’Herménégilde Chiasson », Literary Atlas of Atlantic Canada / Atlas littéraire du Canada atlantique (2014).
David Lonergan, Paroles d’Acadie. Anthologie de la littérature acadienne (1958–2009) (Sudbury : Prise de parole, 2010).