Interview #5 – Freelance ART HISTORIAN

Finally a new interview of a professional. Today I am writing about Mélanie Lebeaux, art historian…freelance. That’s what caught my attention about her work right away.

She kindly accepted to do a little Q&A over the phone. We actually did not meet because I discovered her facebook pro page, the magic of internet ! Below are her answers which have been translated by me.

mélanie lebeaux historienne de l'art
  • In a few words can you describe your activity ?

My goal is to make the art accessible to everyone, and to give the tools to understand it.

  • How did you get the idea to start as a freelance ?

It all happened very smoothly and naturally. I worked during my thesis with non-profit organizations and tourism offices*. There was a need especially about the architecture theme and also I wanted to do something outside the academic field.

*I will make an article about these, I don’t know if there are the equivalent in other countries. They are in most of the cities in France and dedicated to the city’s history, culture, heritage and social life.

  • You are specialized in the architecture of both regions the Périgord and the Limousin (click on the names to know more). What are the specific features (esthetically or technically) of this architecture which make it so unique ?

Globally we are outside of the major artistic creation sites of the Renaissance. It is a slightly traditional architecture, still in its infancy. Which is very attractive and which characterizes this architecture. And you also have to add outstanding monuments. I already had interest for Renaissance before going to college, so I naturally was drawn to that region (the Périgord), plus it is next to my home region the Limousin.

Château de Bourdeilles en Périgord Vert. Construit entre 1589 et 1598.

  • I have to admit I am interested by the pedagogical actions you offer to schools, can you give us the progress of an action ?

I am just starting these type of service, I am actually writing a pedagogical project for schools. The idea is to present an initiation into art, architecture, to learn how to look and to do an analysis adapted to each school grade.

  • What are the difficulties you encountered when you started ?

I only had support. The only difficulty is that this field, art history, does not ring a bell to everyone.

  • By the way how was your transfer between research and pedagogical actions in front of audiences ?

It went smoothly, during my studies I have spoken quite regularly to audiences, so I am used to it. And I did not really left the research field since I am also carrying on some research for my actions. In addition I still have some research projects which I am working on. We could say that I was already present in both fields before starting as a freelance.

  • I saw on your website you offer trainings for tourism professionals, can you tell us more about that ?

Every institutions that received the label City of History and Art have to train their tour guides on a regular basis. So I started working with Tourism Offices in that way, by giving training. It allows the tour guides to complement and actualize their knowledge. My trainings for the moment are about my specialty, but I also have a catalog. The Tourism Offices often ask me specific topics so we stay on the time frame I know the best.

  • What advice would you give for young professionals starting out or students ?

Don’t let go, don’t take anything for granted. Despite what we think, there are plenty of opportunities for art historians thanks to schools and art history education. We always find something anyways.

  • Finally I would like you to give us a place you like, which we absolutely have to check out in your region. And most importantly why ?

So it is in Périgord, it is the city Périgueux for people travelling in the Dordogne, instead of going to Sarlat. It is a city loaded with history, with a strong Gallo-Roman heritage. But also marked by Renaissance with outstanding private monuments which are accessible on guided tours.

Périgueux - source : périgueux.fr

Thanks again Mélanie for answering my questions, best for your career !
To know more about her work :
her website http://melanielebeaux.fr/ (in French)
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