I received this email from Nevada City resident and business owner Kirk Valentine:
The Consul General of France for California bestowed on Nevada City’s Ms. Claudine Chalmers the title of Chevalier of the Order of Arts & Letters at a ceremony held at the official residence of the Consul General of France for California, Monsieur Romain Serman in San Francisco California.
The French government’s Minister of Culture awards this title to honor those who significantly contribute to the enrichment of the French cultural heritage throughout the world. Members are not limited to French nationals, they include such foreign luminaries (among the Chevaliers) as director David Niles, dancer Rudolf Nureyev, actors George Clooney and Jude Law. Actor Clint Eastwood is a Commander of the Order.
Ms Chalmers, a well known author and California historian, has been a resident of Nevada City for the last ten years. She is known locally for her books on Grass Valley and early Mill Valley. Two of her books to California in the 19th century. “French San Francisco” and “Splendide Californie, Impressions of the Golden State by French Artists” available in local stores and at some of our rare book dealers.
Eager to document the presence of French people throughout our County, Ms Chalmers has started gathering the life stories of important early citizens here: water engineers Benoit Faucherie, of Faucherie Lake, and Antoine Chabot who co-invented the hydraulicking approach to mining; the LeDu family of Malakoff diggings (named by the French); millionaire miner Jules Fricot nicknamed the “Emperor” of Grass Valley; Nevada City’s talented orchardist Felix Gillet, and many more remarkable characters. She is presently at work on two art books and a 2013-4 exhibit for the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento which will document the work and careers of a team of talented French artists of the West in the 19th century.
The Consul General commented in his presentation on how influential Ms Chalmers has been in advancing the spirit of connection between French and Americans citizens. He noted how important her work is for the better understanding of our two cultures.
In her acceptance speech, Ms Chalmers, a French citizen, said “When I first came to California in 1974 I felt like I was sitting between two chairs that were a long distance apart” describing the difficulty of belonging to two cultures, in her case French and American. Now, thanks to her passion for her work and understanding of our cultures, she said “the chairs are almost merged and I feel very comfortable living in Nevada City”.
Nevada City residents invited by the Consul General who attended the ceremony included former Nevada City Mayor Sally Harris, Jan Westmore & Delynn Tjoelker from the Sierra Writers group, Leonard Berardi of Mountain House Books, Kirk Valentine & Genevieve Crouzet owners of the Classic Café, and Charlotte & Larry Starns, active members of the Cascade Shores Homeowners’ Association.
Claudine’s longtime friends Susan McClatchy, famed Sacramento painter Jerald Silva, and San Francisco gent Bryan Hemming where also at the ceremony. Susan & Claudine are looking forward to the opening of the exhibit “Jules Tavernier-Artiste Peintre” planned at the Crocker Art Museum in 2013-14.
Counsel Gerneral Serman, following the ceremony expressed his great pleasure in being able to advance the connection between our two countries. He noted personally “what pride he has had in continuing the relationship between France and the US by the awarding of French medals of Honor for United States soldiers serving in the Second World War”. This little-known effort is an example of the awareness France has for the essential role Americans played in the Freedom of France in the 20th Century. France and American connections go clearly back to our revolutionary days when Jefferson, Washington and Franklin visited France in preparation for the writing of our constitution.