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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dr. Susan Edwards Knighted By Consul General of France

The Frist Center's Executive Director, Dr. Susan H. Edwards, was decorated as a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters) in a ceremony at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The medal was presented by the Consul General of France, Pascal Le Deunff.

Dr. Edwards was recognized for her significant contributions to the art and the culture of France.

Consul General Pascal Le Deunff remarks to Dr. Susan Edwards at Chevalier Award ceremony held at the Frist Center on September 23, 2011:

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,
Dear Susan,

It is both a pleasure and a privilege to be here in Nashville with you today to honor a truly exceptional woman, visionary, ambassador of the arts, and precious friend of France, Dr. Susan Edwards.

Susan, your passion for art has been a driving force in every step of your professional career, which is clearly reflected on your curriculum vitae, but even more so in your community. Before arriving in Nashville, you spent a considerable amount of time in New York where you received your PhD in Art History from City University of New York in 1995. During your time as Curator at Hunter College of the City University of New York from 1987 to 1998, your drive and artistic vision was exemplified by the over twenty art exhibitions that you originated, and was affirmed in 1997 when you were named a Founding Fellow at the Liguria Study Center for the Arts and Humanities in Genoa, Italy.

You further honed your skills as Executive Director of the Katonah Museum in Katonah, New York from 1998 to 2004. But of course, your exemplary commitment to the arts spread far beyond the walls of museums. In addition to your book, Ben Shahn and the Task of Photography in Thirties America, you have also published numerous articles on modern and contemporary artists, material, culture, and photography-- of which you are a specialist -- as well as several exhibition catalogues, further establishing yourself as a known expert in the world of visual arts in the United States. You have also brought your knowledge and expertise to many schools and universities, including New York University, Queens College/CUNY, School of Visual Arts, New York, and Vanderbilt, where you are currently Adjunct Associate Professor.

As a recognized member of the art community, you continue to make contributions, serving on the advisory boards of the Bogliasco Foundation, Harvard University Art Museums and Collection Committee, and the Stephen Taller Archive at Harvard University. And all of these eminent accomplishments and contributions to the art community are only the half of it.

Your work at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts here in Nashville, Tennessee has been in a league of its own. From the very onset of your career as Executive Director in 2004, you’ve offered Nashville and beyond an ambitious, diverse, and multicultural program that has truly lived up to the vision of the Frist Center of “inspiring people through art to look at the world in new ways.” In addition to the spectacular array of art exhibited, your programming has demonstrated and reinforced an exceptional friendship with France. In only six years, you’ve consecrated more than ten expositions to French culture and artists. From “Les Chemins de l’Impressionisme, paysages français et américains du Worchester Art Museumto Matisse, Picasso and the School of Paris Masterpieces from the Baltimore Museum of Art, Rodin, A Magnificent Obsession, sculpture from the Iris and B Gerald Cantor Foundation to Twilight Visions : Surrealisme, Photography and Paris”, your high, your high quality exhibitions have been both multi-disciplinary and extremely tangible, offering educational programs and community outreach activities that have brought French culture closer to the Southeast.

Most recently, it is thanks to your efforts that the Frist Center became one of only two institutions in the United States – making Nashville one of three cities in the world to present the exhibition "The Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay”. Displaying 100 paintings from the permanent collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, you’ve provided the Southeast with an unparalleled cultural experience. This further demonstrates your excellent intuition and entrepreneurial sensitivity. Indeed, the echoes from exhibitions and events have reached far beyond the boundaries of Nashville and Tennessee. Your leadership has brought the Frist Center to new heights, giving it national visibility and recognition and turning it into one of the premier art centers in the Southeast.

Your remarkable contributions to advancing cultural relations between France and the United States are commendable and worthy of the distinction that you are receiving today. It is a great honour partnering with you and we look forward to strengthening this relationship with you and with the Frist Center for the Arts in the years and projects to come.

Dear Susan, to render homage to your commitment to artistic efforts and actions, au nom de la République, nous vous faisons Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Dr.Susan Edwards Acceptance Speech

"Consul General Pascal Le Deunff, Honorarie Consul Madame Amelie De Gaulle, Madame Chevalier Hazel Joyner-Smith, et invités distingués. C'est mon honeur d’ accepter la medaille de Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et lettres de le part du comité administrateur et du personnel du Frist Center. Merci beaucoup. Maintenant, je voudrais continuer in anglais, s’il vous plait"

Consul General Le Deunff, Honorary Consul Amelie De Gaulle, fellow Chevalier Hazel Joyner-Smith and distinguished guests, I am deeply honored to accept the medal of the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the staff of the Frist Center. I am grateful to M. Frederic Mitterrand, the French Minister of Culture and Communication and the people of France. I thank Consul General Le Deunff and Carole Scipion, the French Cultural Attache in Atlanta, for placing my name in nomination, and Ellen Pryor and Angela Butler for keeping my nomination secret -- even from me – for the past year.

I am pleased to receive a Chevalier at this point in my life and career, after youthful arrogance has mellowed. It is not false modesty to acknowledge the role of many others in this award. Great accomplishments are rarely the result of one person’s endeavors, rather they come about through the combined efforts of visionaries such as Tommy Frist, the relentless promotion of a Ken Roberts, the steady direction and leadership of Billy Frist, as well as the assistance and professionalism of colleagues, co-workers, and friends.

The Chevalier acknowledges my passion for all things French and a twenty-year history of working on exhibitions, film series, and literary projects that promote French arts and culture. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that the pinnacle of my visibility was our 2010 exhibition "The Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay."

I am grateful to Guy Cogeval, President of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, for allowing their extraordinary 19th-century paintings to be presented in Nashville. The exhibition would not have come to Nashville without the support of Tommy and Trish Frist, Janet and Jim Ayers and Marlene and Spencer Hays, who made the lead gifts that gave us the courage to move forward with the project. Mark Scala, Chief Curator at the Frist Center, worked closely with Stéfane Guegan at the Musée d’Orsay to refine the checklist for our venue. For considerable efforts on « The Birth of Impressionism » and their devotion to our mission, I remain eternally grateful to our founders, trustees, members of our advisory councils, and the entire staff at the Frist Center.

For assistance on previous projects devoted to French culture, I should like to acknowledge colleagues and collaborators here at the Frist Center and from New York: Thérèse Lichtenstein, Jane Roos, Catherine Bernard, Laura Schor, Alice Zimet, Annette Blaugrund, Jeanine Plottel, Philippe Lalliot and Annie Cohen-Solal.

I want to thank Ellen Pryor, Kathy Demonbreun, Angela Butler, Brandon Gnetz, and Karen Gwaltney for planning this day for us. Thank you for being here. Please stay and join us for some refreshments.

Once again, I thank Cultural Attache Carole Scipion, Consul General Pascal Le Deunff, and the French government for this great honor.

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