HomeMeet Patricia Thery-Hart, the new director of Alliance Française of Madras

Meet Patricia Thery-Hart, the new director of Alliance Française of Madras





Patricia Thery-Hart, director, Alliance Française of Madras

Patricia Thery-Hart, director, Alliance Française of Madras
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

For the city, Alliance Française of Madras is a comfortingly familiar picture of hallowed halls, ivory pillars, checkerboard flooring and crowded classrooms. While the canteen, famous for its chocolate cakes and filter coffee, is back in action after a long pandemic break, the building undergoes a makeover. Like the city, the institute is racing to make up for lost time.

Hence, this is a pertinent time for Patricia Thery-Hart to take over as the new director. In late September, she took over from former director, Bruno Plasse, who had been in charge since 2018. Her calendar promises a busy year: Patricia plans to have a multi-faceted approach.

“My idea is to make it a very lively, casual space that always encourages people to come and participate in activities,” says the director who was previously with Alliance Francaise Bangkok, Thailand. After over a month in the city, Patricia, who has an effervescent smile, and curious demeanor, says she is already smitten with the way women dress in Chennai. “Especially the salwar-kameez or chudidars,” she chuckles.

As far as the calendar goes, Patricia says that every month at Alliance will be spent in specific, thematic celebration. “We will make sure that the language department and the cultural activities align with the specific celebration.” She points to an example: “Suppose, we have a month celebrating women. In that month, our library will make sure it has books about women: that students, teachers and the people who visit can read. Students in the French courses will have a topic aligned to this theme, and we will have workshops, exhibitions, and theatre on these topics.”

While serving as a director at Alliance Francaise Bangkok, Patricia had managed to actualise over 290 events a year. She hopes to take a page from this book for Chennai as well. 

Patricia’s expertise lies in social entrepreneurship. “My wish is to promote social issues like women empowerment and LGBTQIA+ issues. And I would like this place not just to be an arts center, but more participatory,” she says, adding, “Secondly, I would like to highlight what makes the French, well, French… So we will have events around gastronomy, wine tasting, chocolate tasting, fashion, architecture and design.” To that end, Patricia is already in conversation with Chennai organisations, consulates, and other cultural centres like the Goethe-Institut. 

As far as language courses go, she plans to focus on classes for children and teenagers, apart from those for adults.

With the 60-year-old, much loved home of the organisation undergoing renovation, or rather, an extension, Patricia hopes to actualise events on a larger scale. The number of classrooms will increase and a spacious gallery will host not just art exhibitions but workshops and interactive sessions as well.

As Patricia puts it, “Something or the other will always be happening.”  

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