By Philippe Vaillancourt
Catholic News Service
LONGUEUIL, Quebec (CNS) — French Canadian artist Claude Lafortune, who hosted children’s programs based on the Gospel on national television, died of COVID-19 April 19. He was 83.
Born in 1936, and sometimes compared to Mister Rogers for the way he treated children with reverence, Lafortune was a true scissors virtuoso who elevated do-it-yourself crafts to the rank of art. He gave shape to impressive characters, often inspired by the Bible or the religious history of Quebec. He called himself a “paper sculptor.”
Lafortune worked on many major children’s television programs throughout his career. He gained national fame when he developed a show called “L’Evangile en papier” (“The Paper Gospel”), where he would talk about Jesus and the New Testament using models he made out of simple craft paper. The show aired in 1975 and 1976 and left a lasting impression.
Between 1976 and 1978, he also created “The Paper Bible” and “The Paper Church.” His longest-running program was “Parcelles de soleil” (“Glimpses of Sunshine”), from 1988 to 2000, a show based on Gospel-inspired values in which he welcomed children as guests to create art out of paper.
“In my father’s eyes, each person was unique and above all very important,” said Francois Lafortune, his son. “It’s this value that he wanted to embody throughout his career.”
“My father is, first and foremost, an artist,” he said. “He always wanted to illustrate his values through his art.”
Lafortune was hospitalized for complications following pneumonia. He caught COVID-19. Already weakened, he was unable to fight the disease.
For 25 years, Claude Lafortune was a member of the Sacred Art Committee of the Diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil. For Christmas, he created huge paper Nativity scenes for St. Anthony of Padua Co-Cathedral.
Lafortune was still active on the French Canadian artistic scene. His exhibition on Noah’s Ark was presented from February 2018 to March 2019 at the Museum of World Religions in Nicolet, Quebec. His exhibition, called Glue, Paper, Scissors, has been shown in various regions of Quebec in recent years.
Last January, for the launch of the year of festivities around St. Marguerite Bourgeoys’ 400th anniversary, he created a work of paper depicting the foundress of the Congregation of Notre-Dame facing a winter blizzard.
In May 2019, the University of Quebec in Montreal awarded him an honorary doctorate in recognition of “the exceptional contribution of this creator to the development and teaching of the visual arts, in Quebec and elsewhere in the world.”
Some of his art was also published in children books.
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Contributing to this story was Francois Gloutnay in Montreal.
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Vaillancourt is editor-in-chief of Presence info; Gloutnay is a reporter.