Gaétan Bruel / Credit: Ian Douglas

Gaëtan Bruel did not waste his time. At the age of 30, Montpelliérain has just become the youngest cultural advisor in the United States. Arrived in September at the head of the Cultural Services of the Embassy of France, responsible for promoting French culture in the United States from its headquarters in New York, he replaces Bénédicte de Montlaur part lead the World Monuments Fund (WMF).

"I'm 30 but I've been working for 10 years, he says, sitting in his temporary office at Crédit Agricole, where part of the Cultural Services took up residence during the renovation of the 5th Avenue building. "At the head of the cultural service of the Embassy, ​​I do not forget that I am 30 years old. I'm not trying to behave like someone who would have 50. I've always had the chance to be accompanied by people who have been here for a long time and it continues today".

His career at that of a first class: a job at the publisher Grasset at 18, literary prep in Louis-le-Grand, entry to ENS (Ecole Normale Supérieure) and EHESS ( School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences) where he works on the sonic violence of the First World War … He takes "a series of tangents"At the age of 20. "I realized that I was on rails that did not fit me necessarily. I wondered what I wanted to do". In search of answers, he moved to New York for a year to teach French at Columbia University. "I wanted to escape, I needed air. My accent was not better than today, but I felt New Yorkers after two weeks".

Back in France in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election, he chose to apply to the cabinet of Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense of the new president Francois Hollande, rather to begin his studies at Sciences Po and finish the ENS. He wins a "pen" position, the person responsible for writing the minister's speeches. "They were curious enough to receive me and crazy enough to recruit me ", jokes the one who grew up in a "left-wing family without a military history". After two years rich in experiences: boarding submarines and a fighter jet, missions in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Libya and Syria … Among his activities, he creates the "cinema" mission of the Ministry of Defense to create bridges between the army and the professionals of the 7th art.

At 27, he is looking for new challenges. Renouncing the ENS, he became administrator of the Arc de Triomphe and the Pantheon, respectively the 2nd and 5th buildings the most frequented network of the Center of National Monuments, he said. At the Pantheon, which he feels close to, he develops experiments and various educational programs designed to attract Parisians, who sulked the monument of the Latin Quarter. "The Pantheon is a magnificent playground. It may seem boring especially for the French who do not visit it, but it has a lot to please and to say. Few people know that it contains for example the largest historical collection of graffiti in the capital, registered since the eighteenth century by Parisians. There are even erotic drawings that date back to the Belle Epoque. But he also has a lot to say, especially about what can bring us together today".

After two more years as advisor Americas alongside Jean-Yves Le Drian, who became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the meantime, he is now appointed to the Cultural Services, the arm of the French Embassy responsible for developing cultural, educational and technological programs. and scientists between France and the United States. The administration consists of ten offices located throughout the country. Its sprawling activities include support for bilingual French-English programs in US public schools as well as touring French writers in the United States, selecting some candidates for the Make The Planet Great Again initiative. Emmanuel Macron or the presentation of festivals and cultural events related to France, such as the very popular Nuit des Idées.

In New York, its headquarters is home to the French bookstore Albertine, which organizes Friday, November 8, the 2019 edition of its annual festival Albertine Festival. This year, it will be dedicated to climate change and will include author Bill McKibben and Canadian activist Noami Klein. (The bookstore will remain open during the renovation of the building).

Cultural Services is currently working on the launch of new artist residencies in San Francisco and Marfa, Texas, an exchange between Oakland (California) and Saint-Denis and the next Night of Ideas in several US cities. "One might think that the American elites, in the current context, are spontaneously approaching us, but it is far from obvious. That's our challenge. There is an affection towards France, but it is necessary to work it. It is anchored in a past, a certain nostalgia. We want to anchor it in the future "he says.

His ambition: to broaden the circle of American Francophiles to "new audiences"In the business community for example and off the coast. "The friendship between the two countries was not born in a day, nor acquired forever. It will not continue with force if we do not maintain it. The fact that Americans love us does not fall from the sky. The mission that the Ambassador gives us is thus to contribute to the emergence of the next generations of francophile Americans while of course continuing to work with our partners today.".


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