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Meet the art history grad showcasing the art and architecture of his home province

‘I hope my work has made people care more about New Brunswick as a place that matters,’ says John Leroux
July 13, 2022
By Moritz Wittmann, BA 19, GrDip 21

a video still of John Leroux interviewing an artist John Leroux pictured interviewing New Brunswick artist and educator Jennifer Pazienza for a Beaverbrook Art Gallery video about her work.

After being hit by an oncoming car on a rural New Brunswick road in February 2006, John Leroux, MA 02, stopped breathing. By sheer luck, the driver behind him happened to be a doctor who saved his life.

Following the accident, Leroux spent the better part of a year in a wheelchair, using his time in recovery to write the first comprehensive book about architecture in his province.

“It was the first attempt at a complete architectural history of New Brunswick, and it was apparently the first time that the whole architectural lineage of an entire Canadian province — from pre-contact Indigenous works to the contemporary — has ever been done,” Leroux says. “I worked on this for about a year and it is 100 per cent rooted in my art history studies at Concordia.”

John Leroux has published 16 books on architecture and Canadian art history.

Since that publication, Building New Brunswick: An Architectural History, Leroux has published 15 more books on architecture and Canadian art history using the skills he honed during his master’s in art history at Concordia.

As the current manager of Collections and Exhibitions at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, Leroux also lectures part-time at the University of New Brunswick.

‘One of the great adventures of my life’

Originally from New Brunswick, Leroux moved to Montreal to study architecture at McGill University and completed his undergraduate degree in 1994. Having developed a keen interest in art from an early age, many aspects of architectural studies appealed to him, yet it was only when he heard about the MA in art history at Concordia from a friend that he was able to weave his two passions together.

“I could actually become someone that could write about architecture, in addition to having done it professionally,” he says. “There are not a lot of architects that are also architectural historians.”

Leroux calls his time in Montreal “one of the great adventures of my life." The hands-on experience gained during his undergraduate degree was supplemented by the MA program, which Leroux says gave him the opportunity to write and discuss the things he was visually dissecting and provided him with a better understanding of the world around him.

“The Concordia professors give you the confidence to figure out how you can connect larger issues within our world to art history,” he explains. “It’s about much more than just the art object; they instilled in us how you can empathize with and understand people through visual and material culture.”

Leroux adds of his professors and classmates: “There wasn’t [any] hierarchy, there was no arrogance — it really stuck with me how generous of spirit they were.”

Bringing it home

As a proud native of the East Coast, Leroux felt home was always beckoning. Of his extensive catalogue of published books, all but one are related to New Brunswick. He says his goal is to change the conversation around art and architecture in the small, yet powerful province.

“If we understand the foundation of what we’ve been given, we'll do things that have integrity, we'll take more care and honour the visual legacy of our region,” he says. “I hope my work has made people care more about New Brunswick as a place that matters.”

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