Tag: Alliance Française de Chicago

Bienvenue to a Bastille Bash



By Judy Carmack Bross



 With the Fourth almost finished, why stop celebrating? Bring your beret and toast Bastille Day with the Alliance Francaise de Chicago on July 10? 

 Their Professionals Group’s first fete will be France’s National Day commemorating the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution.  Known in France for military parades and fireworks, Bastille Day France’s National Day at the Alliance will feature continental cuisine, classic French games for kids in the afternoon and DJ Max Bonnard spinning at night as the entire building and courtyard at Dearborn and Chicago is filled with revels.

Max Bonnard

Francophiles Sophie Edwards, Emily Giangrande and Bonnard have been at work since March planning what they call part sophisticated fete and part block party.  Many of Chicago’s top French restaurants are donating specialties.

DJ Max Bonnard, a former Alliance intern is coming in from Austin, Texas where he works in technology.  Born in Lyon and having lived in Paris, Bonnard was the committee’s Bastille Day expert in planning the event.

“As a child I remember seeing the military parades on the Champs-Elysees and then after sunset watching the fireworks all over the city.  In my twenties, I had a spectacular Bastille Day outside of Deauville, watching the fireworks over a Normandy beach.”

Sophie Edwards

Edwards, a graduate student working on her MBA at DePaul, coordinated the food from sponsoring restaurants for the soiree from 7-10 p.m.

“In addition to several surprises we offer steak tartare from Chicago’s hot new restaurant Venteux Brasserie inside the Pendry Chicago and Sablé cookies from Maison Parisienne with other hors d’oeuvres from avec, Sofitel and Marchesa.

“Beverage sponsors include Grey Goose and Two Brothers. Emile Chaillot, Grey Goose Ambassador, will be serving two summer spritzes during the evening event. The first Summer Essences Spritz will include Grey Goose Essences, St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, Prosecco & soda water. The second Summer Essences Spritz will include Grey Goose Essences, Martini & Rossi Fiero, Prosecco & soda water.”

Emily Giangrande

Giangrande headed planning for the family fete to be held from 3-5:30 pm. on July 10 which include a crepe station, face painting, balloon making, cupcake decorating and working together on a banner for the Alliance.

“We have been very mindful of COVID requirements and planned two events instead of our one traditional party. We are spreading out throughout the whole building for our activities,” she said.

The three chairs are all enthusiastic francophiles.  Edwards took classes there before spent a summer during college studying in Paris.  Giangrande counts herself lucky to have visited Lyon and taken French lessons in Paris just before the pandemic.  

To Bonnard, the Chicago organization has been like family.  “The Alliance brought me over from Paris to be an intern.  I planned to stay about eight months and went on to become a staff member before I moved to San Francisco and then Texas.  I have kept in touch and always want to support them.”

When the insurance business took Giangrande to Manila on business, she became involved in the Alliance there.  “Even though it was not an affiliate of our organization, it was wonderful to have that shared French culture.  The Alliance always makes you feel that you are at home.”

Alliance Executive Director Mary Ellen Connellan told us how the plan began:

“This year we have formed a professionals group that is made up of 35 civic minded young professionals who possess an entrepreneurial spirit and a love of all things French. When the planning of Bastille Day celebrations appeared on our radar, the group was thrilled to take on the task of planning our annual event. We are currently in the process of unrolling ‘La Rentrée’ of the Alliance with events planned well into the fall with something for everyone.

“This event for Bastille Day will be one of the first large-scale events we have planned this summer with a more official opening, ‘La Rentrée’, this fall with the unveiling of an extraordinary project, ‘Les Lumières’. This is the theme of our third collaboration with the Chicago Architecture Biennial. It will be illuminating, innovative, and “très français” thanks to a collaboration with BOA Light Studio and a partnership with the cultural service of the French Consulate in Chicago.  We are grateful that this project is supported in part by the Jean Bodfish Brown Memorial Fund, always making it possible to bring French culture to as many Chicagoans as possible!”

Throughout the summer the Alliance also offers language classes, summer camps, wine classes, book reading groups and other programs.

In the fall it will offer another highly anticipated annual Symposium focusing on the magnificent French garden.  Conery Hoffman, Alliance Manager of Outreach Programs, told us:

“It will include not only the historical evolution of the garden but also the art and the beauty of these iconic retreats while capturing what went on while no one was looking…possibly a pathway to the boudoir? Nothing too salacious, just enough mischief to raise an eyebrow…or two! It is our hope to explore what was designed for the patron and his life within it. Our goal is not to discuss how to plant a garden, rather we want to explore what life was like IN the garden!

For more information about both Bastille Day parties July 10 visit Af-Chicago.org and the link to the registration page’ https://myalliance.af-chicago.org/pages/cultural-events/2021/summer-2021/bastille-day.

The cost for the family event is: $20 members • $25 nonmembers and $10 children (6-12) and free for children 5 and under. 

The cost of admission to the evening soiree is $25 for members and $30 for non-members.

New French Architecture







A three-part virtual evening series on new French architecture running April 28, May 12, and May 26 follows the sensational Grand Chateaux virtual tours offered earlier this year by the Alliance Française of Chicago. Pauline Sheehan and Ann Thompson, both architects and members of the Alliance’s Women’s Board, have invited three of the world’s top architects to share details on their projects in Paris, Arles, and Nîmes—some of the most exciting things happening in new French architecture and design today.


Palais des Congrès by 3XN.

A companion series to the Arts of France Symposium scheduled for fall, the series should attract a diverse audience united by a fascination for international architecture and design. Criteria for choosing the architects involved in the program included global significance, community-driven design, cultural emphasis, and sustainability.

The enthusiasm both Sheehan and Thompson have for this online offering was instantly apparent over our recent Zoom conversation. Both chairs spent an academic year abroad in the French School of Architecture at Versailles, describing the experience as life-changing. When they received the green light on this series they created a wish list of top architects currently doing innovative and intriguing projects in France.

“Ann and I feel very honored and excited that our first-choice architects accepted our invitation to speak to the Alliance Française,” Sheehan, AIA, a former architect with Perkins & Will, and a senior architect with Lucien Lagrange before she retired, told us. “Our last speaker is Chicago’s own Jeanne Gang. We talk of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van de Rohe here: she will be the third name in that pantheon. I don’t know if a lot of people know that Time Magazine named her as one of its top 100 most influential people of 2019.”


Pauline Kurtides Sheehan.


Ann Thompson.

Thompson, AIA, Executive Vice President of Architecture and Design of Related Midwest, leads the design and planning of projects of mixed-use, mixed-income, and affordable and luxury development in her firm. “We were thrilled to execute with a very high caliber of speakers, each internationally recognized for their projects and for having set new standards in international design,” she shared. “Each project has a big environmental component and because none of the architects are French they show with a fresh pair of eyes how an architect interprets France. Two of the projects are in the south of France, in Arles and Nîmes, escaping the strong gravity of Paris as we explore new regions.”

Sheehan added: “The speakers will address what it is like to work in France, how the culture and history of the place affects their design decisions. What I find especially interesting is that none of these architects are French, so they bring the fresh perspective of the outsider.”


Sara Lopergolo. Photo by Studio Nicholas Venezia.

On April 28 Sara Lopergolo, a partner at Selldorf Architects, will discuss Luma Arles, a new contemporary art center that brings together artists, researchers, and creators from every field to collaborate on multi-disciplinary works and exhibitions. Lopergolo is currently partner-in-charge of two high profile and highly different museum projects: the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego and the Frick Collection in New York. Selldorf Architects has been involved with the master plan and adaptive reuse of industrial buildings at an old rail yard in Arles.


Luma Arles by Selldorf Architects.

Kim Herforth Nielsen, Founder and Creative Director at 3XN, will discuss the Palais des Congrès, a 700-seat multi-purpose auditorium and exhibition hall in the heart of Nîmes during his May 12 presentation. Le Palais des Congrès, a dynamic new space for business, entertainment, and public gathering, is inserted among Roman ruins and medieval buildings in the ancient city of Nîmes. The firm’s branch GXN focuses on environmental design research across biological, technical, and social dimensions.


Kim Herforth Nielsen of 3XN.


Jeanne Gang. Photo by Saverio Truglia.


University of Chicago Center in Paris (Paris Render with ICADE and Studio Gang).

On May 26 Jeanne Gang, Founding Principal and Partner at Studio Gang, will show the Center in Paris Project, an academic center for the University of Chicago and a new hub for scholarship and cultural exchange in Paris’s rapidly developing 13th Arrondissement. A mixed-use academic and residential center, it is integrated into the city with bio-diverse green spaces.

Mary Ellen Connellan, Executive Director of the Alliance Française, shares, “This new series is a natural extension of the Symposium on the Arts of France, as architecture is commonly known as the mother of art. Our focus is on what is happening now, today, in France from the perspective of premier, global architects, which gives us the opportunity to explore a whole new element of French culture and to exchange these ideas with the public.”


Mary Ellen Connellan.

Conery Hoffman, Manager of Outreach Programming and Business Development, explains how the idea began: “Myriam Bransfield and the late Mary Blust, chairs of our Symposium on the Arts of France, and I had put together some goodie bags that needed to be delivered to the grand patrons and patrons of the series. Due to the pandemic, all in-person events were canceled and we were not able to hold our normal lunches that take place after the lectures. The bags included a bottle of champagne, macarons from la Fournette, and a lavender bunch. Myriam and I had the task of hand-delivering these bags, so one day, we hopped in her car and made our way to the South Loop to begin our journey.”

He continues, “We worked our way north, up the Magnificent Mile, through the Gold Coast, stopped in Lincoln Park and even further, and then, down Lake Shore Drive. After looking at all the beautiful architecture I said to Myriam that the Symposium on the Arts of France should incorporate a series on architecture, something to complement what we currently do, not in place of but in addition to it. Myriam continued driving, thought about it a moment, and said, ‘If Mary is in, I’m in!’ And the series was born! We thought of Pauline and Ann immediately and now we have a series on New French Architecture.”

Sheehan expanded over Zoom: “The pandemic plus-side here is that virtual presentations allowed us to dream big and access leaders in design from around the world. Very few of us will ever have the good fortune to spend thousands of dollars on a work of art, yet most of us will buy a home. Many of us visit a museum a few times each year, but we are surrounded by the built environment daily, a dynamic living gallery, thus developing an appreciation for the art of architecture.”

The essential goal she feels for this lecture series is to increase awareness within the Alliance Française community. Established in 1897, following the World’s Fair, the institution has been “the place for all things French in Chicago” for nearly 125 years. They hope to develop this series into an annual social gathering to benefit the organization’s mission.

“The themes may vary, from interior design to landscape architecture, but always with a focus on what is new, intriguing, and exciting!” Sheehan explained. “We have invited a select circle of people, Francophiles involved in the arts and design, to join our Host Committee in addition to Myriam Bransfield and the late Mary Blust.”

The Host Committee, in formation, includes Bill Abromitis; Anne Hill Bird; Suzette Bulley; Gabriela Cleveland; Mary Ellen Connellan; Joan Craig, AIA, LEED AP; Sandy Faurot, AIA; Susan Faurot; Lili Gaubin; Conery Hoffman; Gail Hoffman; Corbin Horn; Leslie Logsdon; Miranda Maxfield; Florent Mettetal, AICP; Janis Notz; Jim Prendergast, FAIA, IDA; Meg Prendergast, IDA; Cheryl Sandner; Kristina Schneider; Marc Sievers; Liz Stiffel; Noren Ungaretti; and Karen Zupko.


To learn more and to register, visit af-chicago.org.


About the Town in February



By Philip Vidal



If you made formal New Year’s resolutions (in the midst of the pandemic, I gave myself a break and did not), February is a good time to follow-up and assess your progress.  I recently saw a list of the usual top ten New Year’s resolutions: exercise/lose weight, eat healthier/better, save money/spend less, reduce stress, get more sleep, learn a new skill, travel, read more, get organized, spend more time with friends and family.  Most New Year’s resolutions for 2021 probably look a bit different.


The pandemic has constrained travel, though Southwest Airlines is expanding its service in Chicago. Already a prominent carrier at Midway Airport, Southwest adds service to and from O’Hare starting February 14.   The American College of Sports Medicine named online training as the top fitness trend in 2021.  Online training offers lots of exercise options and it’s a great way to try something new, and a good way to help support a trainer.


One of the many meal kits offered by different restaurants in Chicago. Photo of PQM Charcuterie & Cheese Box by One Off Hospitality Group.


Eating healthier/better has become a bit easier with meal kits from national brands such as Hello Fresh and Home Chef.  Another way to support local restaurants is to order a meal kit.  Bistro Campagne, Meal Kits by Stephanie Izard, One Off Hospitality Group (Avec, Publican) and Smyth at Home: “On the Line” Tasting Menu are just a few that offer meal kits.


Co-Creator of “Late Night Catechism”, Vicki Quade has a new book “Close Encounters of a Chicago Kind.” Photo by Eckhartz Press.


With respect to reading more:  I’d like to read Vicki Quade’s new book “Close Encounters of a Chicago Kind,” a series of brief stories about her everyday experiences in Chicago.  Quade is the co-creator of the long-running (28 years!) comedy show “Late Night Catechism.


Register for one of the Alliance Française de Chicago’s winter online classes beginning February 6th. Photo by Alliance Française de Chicago.


Learn a new skill or craft:  My good friend Sarah Ames told me about Masterclass.com and Domestika.org. Masterclass.com offers online classes from top-notch instructors like chef Gordon Ramsay, photographer Annie Leibovitz, and musician Carlos Santana.  Domestika.org also offers interesting options to unleash your creativity. Learn a new language, possibly French?  The Alliance Française de Chicago’s winter online classes begin February 6.   The Newberry Library’s online adult education program offers many Chicago-centric seminars, such as ”Six Plays By and About Chicago” and “A Virtual Walking Tour of Chicago” on February 10, and “An Oral History of Chicago Theater, 1940-2020” on February 11.


Want to get organized this year? Check out The Container Store x KonMari collab for storage solutions. Photo by KonMari.


Get organized:  In the past, the Newberry was part of my annual ‘get organized’ resolution.  I’d donate books to the Newberry Library for their annual Book Fair.   They currently aren’t accepting books, but the Newberry’s website lists several organizations that are.  Books for Soldiers and Operation Paperback are two other charities that will take books.  Give clothes, housewares and such to Goodwill at their donation centers or blue drop-off bins. The Brown Elephant locations in Andersonville and Lakeview are open for contactless drop-offs.  For those who want to get uber-organized, Marie Kondo, aka KonMari, the organization queen, has partnered with The Container Store.


A Chinese New Year’s tradition is to completely clean your home, as part of “out with the old and in with the new.” Chinese New Year is February 12.  It’s the year of the ox – a year of stamina – appropriate for the times.  Other holidays this month are Valentine’s Day on February 14 and Mardi Gras on February 16.  I have a sweet tooth so I look forward to February 16, which is Pączki Day in the U.S., when pączki (filled doughnuts) are readily available.


Join Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre Company’s digital Festival on the Square, a three-day virtual celebration of the arts. Photo by Congo Square Theatre Company.


This year’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans probably won’t be as raucous as in years past. Still, Congo Square in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans is the inspiration for Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre Company’s digital Festival on the Square, concluding with their 2021 Visions Benefit honoring Ron OJ Parson and Les Coney, February 4-6.  Part one of their sketch comedy series, “Hit’em on the Blackside,” continues through February with new bi-weekly webisodes starting in March.


WTTW airs “Chaka Kahn Homecoming” featuring Kahn’s 2019 Harris Theater concert, February 25.


February is Black History MonthWTTW airs “Josephine Baker: The Story of an Awakening” on February 11 about the Jazz age dancer who became the toast of Paris, and “American Experience: Voice of Freedom” about opera singer Marian Anderson on February 15. “Legacy: The Untold Story of Chicago Black Music” airs February 14.  “Chaka Kahn Homecoming” features Chicago-born vocalist Chaka Kahn’s 2019 concert at the Harris Theater on February 25.


Immersive Van Gogh” is slated to open February 11 at Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago in Germania Place.   My paternal grandparents came from Germany in the 1920s and settled in Old Town.  My grandmother told me that she went to functions at Germania Place when it served as a meeting hall for Chicago’s German-Americans.   I’ve never been in Germania Place, but I did see movies next door at the Village Theater.  The theater has been closed for many years, but the façade has been preserved as part of the new 1550 North Clark residential building.


While Germania Place can still be visited and enjoyed, many buildings haven’t been so lucky.   Just a few blocks west, John Belushi made his debut at the comedy club Second City fifty years ago in Piper’s Alley.  Second City’s façade contains fragments of a frieze of famous German writers and playwrights taken from Adler and Sullivan’s Schiller Theater Building (1891) before it was demolished in 1960 to make way for a parking garage.


Discover the “Chicago 7,” Chicago’s most endangered buildings, at the Chicago Architecture Center’s virtual event, CAC Live: Chicago’s Most Endangered Buildings 2021, February 24. Photo by Chicago Architecture Center.


For the past 19 years, Preservation Chicago has come out with its annual “Chicago 7” list of Chicago’s most endangered buildings.  In the past, the list was announced during a very popular in-person sold-out event at the Chicago Architecture Center.  This year the Chicago Architecture Center will unveil this year’s “Chicago 7’ list during a virtual event, CAC Live: Chicago’s Most Endangered Buildings 2021, on February 24.  The event is free, but registration is required.  Spoiler alert:  The photo on the promo shows the Victorian building at 1393-1399 Lake Street that was originally a Schlitz ‘tied house’ tavern and most recently was La Luce restaurant.


Schlitz’ tied-house taverns were dotted all over Chicago, just like Virginio Ferrari’s sculptures.   One sculpture, “Earth Forms” (1978), is in the lobby of my apartment building.  I was honored to meet the sculptor a few years ago at a cocktail party hosted by neighbors.  I think I first noticed his work when I saw his monumental stainless-steel sculpture “Being Born” (1983) at State and Washington in front of the then Marshall Field Department Store during the unsuccessful attempt in the 80s and early 90s to turn State Street into a pedestrian mall with widened sidewalks, and without automobile traffic.  When State Street was restored in 1996, the sculpture was moved to Orleans and Ontario at the entrance to the Kennedy Expressway.  The venerable Chicago firm, Joseph T. Ryerson & Son, assisted in fabricating the sculpture. Virginio Ferrari’s “Cosmos” exhibition runs through March 15 at the Bridgeport Arts Center.


The Dover Quartet kicks off the Chicago Chamber Music Society’s 85th season on February 24. The virtual concert is free and registration is required. Photo by Chicago Chamber Music Society.


The 85th season of the Chicago Chamber Music Society series goes virtual.  Their series of four chamber music concerts kicks off with a free concert (registration required) by the Dover Quartet on February 24 at 11:30 AM.  If you’re not already a subscriber, the first free concert should be more than enough to entice you to order tickets for the other concerts in the series.  If you’re unable to watch a concert at the scheduled time, you have at least a week to watch it if you have registered.


Reimaging Tomorrow” is the theme for Goodman Theatre’s virtual fundraising event on February 22 to support their education and engagement programs. “Reimaging Dinosaurs” on February 23 is the third of six presentations in the Auditorium Theatre’s “National Geo Live” virtual series.


The Auditorium was the place to be in January and February when dance companies visited Chicago and performed there.  Forty plus years ago, all I could afford were the nosebleed seats.  What I’d give to see a live performance even from one of those seats. Next best is a virtual performance.  The world premiere of Yoshihisa Arai’s “Boléro” streams for free February 12 on the Joffrey’s YouTube channel.  This is the Joffrey Ballet’s first performance since the pandemic began.


Visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center reopening February 3 with free admission (online tickets required). Free admission will be extended on Wednesdays through March. Photo by Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.


Museums and other institutions have reopened or will soon reopen.  The Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium have reopened.  “Mandela: Struggle for Freedom,” an exhibition (in-person and virtual) runs February 20 through September 12 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center,  which reopens on February 3 and is offering free admission on February 3 and Wednesdays through March (online tickets required). The Art Institute of Chicago reopens February 11.  I didn’t get a chance to see “Monet and Chicago.” The exhibition has been extended so now is my chance.


Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo are currently closed to the public through March 4 and February 28 respectively, but fingers-crossed they will open sooner, though probably not in time to host Groundhog Day ceremonies.  So just as we have done for years, we must turn to Punxsutawney Phil  on February 2, Groundhog Day, to learn whether he did or did not see his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter or an early spring.



Dates, times, locations and availability are subject to change.  Please stay healthy and safe and keep up with the latest COVID-19 information and guidelines.


10 Grand Chateaux Open for You







Consider a magical virtual tour offered by The Alliance Française de Chicago each Thursday at noon between January 14 and March 25 to ten of the most historic chateaux in the Loire Valley and the Ile-de-France near Paris. Each week author Russell Kelley will introduce viewers to the châtelain or châtelaine of such prestigious properties as Vaux-le-Vicomte or Chantilly for a tour and live transatlantic talk from France.


Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte side angle. Photo by Bruno Lepolard.


Château de Chantilly. Photo by Marc Walter.

Kelley mixes architecture with history and royalty, tracing the evolution of the French château from the earliest stone towers and châteaux forts of the Middle Ages, through the magnificent Renaissance châteaux built by the Valois kings in the Loire Valley upon their return from the Italian Wars, and on to the châteaux de plaisance built by the Bourbon kings and queens and their courts in and around Paris in the French Classical style.

The first stop is the Chateau d’Amboise, recreated by King Charles VIII in the Italian style where François I brought back Leonardo di Vinci from Italy to live in a manor house nearby with his unfinished painting of the Mona Lisa. “The series isn’t about the ceramic collections at the chateaux, rather about their history and the characters involved in each, as well as their architectural evolution,” Kelley, who gives an introduction to the series on January 14, explains.

Mary Ellen Connellan, Executive Director of the Alliance Française Chicago, shares, “We are very excited about this superb series that once again provides online programming that is captivating and fresh in the midst of a challenging year. In this instance, one of our devoted board members introduced us to the charismatic, entertaining, and scholarly Russell Kelley, who is involved with the Alliance Française of Metro Miami. After that initial introduction, meticulous planning and brainstorming on the part of our staff, Miami Metro, and our Cultural Committee followed, and the rest is history.”

He collaborated with Solange Brown, Chair of the Alliance Chicago’s Board of Directors, on the series.


Chantilly interior. Photo by Marc Walter.

After Kelley told us this week from Florida about the series he has curated and moderates, we imagined being in a hot air balloon descending weekly to the castles, a novel pandemic escape. With this daydreaming spirit, we asked: If you could meet anyone from history on this chateaux tour, who would it be?

His response: “François I, who was King of France from 1515 until his death in 1547, was directly or indirectly involved in the construction or renovation of seven of the chateaux we profile. He was worked directly on five and his best friend built the other two. Educated at Amboise and a true patron of the arts, François was inspired by the architecture of the Italian Renaissance and began construction of the Chateau of Chambord early in his career. He connects our whole series in the Loire Valley. In addition, he reconstructed and expanded the Chateau de Louvre and Chateau de Fontainbleau.”


François I.


Chateau de Chambord. Photo by Sophie Lloyd.

A board member of the Alliance Française Miami Metro, Russell Kelley is author of The Making of Paris: The Story of How Paris Evolved from a Fishing Village into the World’s Most Beautiful City, to be published by Globe Pequot Press in March 2021. He has lived in France for nearly 30 years and has visited every château featured in this series many times since his first visit to the Loire Valley 50 years ago.


Russell Kelley.

His Paris apartment stands just 20 yards from Notre Dame, which suffered a horrific fire on April 15, 2019: “We are on the second floor and can look over the fence at the tremendous amount of work going on to save it. Wooden frames are used to support the walls and flying buttresses hold everything in place. They have removed a huge misshapen lump of melted pipes at the top of the vaults by the where the steeple was, and they are now able to better assess the damage and develop a plan.”

One of the favorites among the Loire Valley chateaux, Chenonceau—sometimes called the “château des Dames” because of the nearly uninterrupted series of women who built, embellished, protected, restored and saved it—will be visited February 11.

Kelley explains the château’s history: “In 1512, the medieval château was purchased by Thomas Bohier, a treasury superintendent under François I, who immediately demolished all the old buildings except the keep (donjon). Between 1513 and 1517, his wife Catherine Briçonnet oversaw the construction of the new building, next to the keep. In 1535, upon discovering the embezzlement of royal funds by his father, François I confiscated the château from Thomas Bohier’s son.”

“In 1547, François I was succeeded by his son Henri II, who had married the formidable Catherine de Médicis in 1533,” he continues. “When Henri II became king, he gave the Château de Chenonceau to his favorite, Diane de Poitiers, who built the bridge with its five arches connecting the château to the north bank of the Cher. When Henri died following a jousting accident in Paris in 1559, Catherine promptly took possession of Chenonceau and added the two-story gallery that spans the river, causing Chenonceau sometimes to be called the ‘Ponte Vecchio of the Loire Valley.’ Chenonceau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the most visited private château in France. As with all our visits, the hosts miss their American visitors who have come in person for years and are delighted to give a virtual tour.”


Chenonceau profil. Photo by Image de Marc.

Of all the ten chateaux featured in this series, Kelley selects the Louvre, the topic of his final lecture, as his favorite: “The history of the Château du Louvre spans the entire period covered by this lecture series, with all the great builder kings, emperors, and presidents and their architects enlarging and refining the Louvre over 800 years. It started in 1190 when Philippe-Auguste ordered the construction of a fortress to protect the western entrance to his new wall around Paris. Two hundred years later, Charles V transformed the fortress into a royal palace.”

He adds, “Two hundred years after that, Catherine de Médicis built the Château des Tuileries a quarter-mile downriver from the Louvre. In 1595 Henri IV drew up his Grand Dessein (Great Design) to develop the Louvre. It envisaged the construction of the Cour Carrée (Square Courtyard), a waterside gallery to connect the Louvre Palace with the Château des Tuileries, and a northern gallery opposite the waterside gallery, enclosing a vast courtyard between the Louvre and the Tuileries. It would take 250 years before Henri IV’s Grand Dessein would finally be completed by Napoléon III, and another 100 years before the Grand Louvre project initiated by François Mitterrand culminated in the inauguration of I. M. Pei’s Pyramide du Louvre in 1989.”

Kelley expresses high regard for the people and events in French history. “I like to paraphrase a quote, which I feel refers to François I and the other monarchs involved with these chateaux who might begin to construct these projects and know that they couldn’t expect to see the end,” he says. “It goes something like this: ‘If you worry about finishing something, then you will never start it.’ ”

Though it is unclear when the end will be in sight for the pandemic, the Alliance has been supremely skillful in sustaining excellent programming throughout. Mary Ellen Connellan explains, “Having a Cultural Committee, composed of board members and representatives from various disciplines, is an invaluable part of the process. It requires years of building relationships with a myriad of cultural partners, both within our city and beyond, such as the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Federation of Alliances Françaises USA, and the French Heritage Society, but it certainly pays off. These collaborations allow us to disseminate our programming broadly, not only in the United States, but globally. Online technology has put the world at our doorstep with participants all over the USA, Canada, Argentina, Paris, the Caribbean, and more.”


To register for the series, starting January 14, click here.  Support the Alliance and save on the series by becoming a member for as little as $75/year. Visit af-chicago.org/membership for more information.