The Joie de Vivre of the Alliance Française de Denver
A preview by Barbara Hamilton
Walking into the Alliance Française de Denver is a perfect way to lift your spirits. One of 107 centers for French language and culture in the United States, the Alliance is located in a lovely historic building on 6th Avenue and Galapago Street in Denver. From the comfortable chairs in the lobby, to the extensive library, to the warmth of the staff, the Alliance Française is a truly vibrant and joyful place.
There are over 800 branches of the Alliance Française worldwide, and Denver’s Alliance is one of the oldest in the United States, at 120 years old. Only Chicago’s and San Francisco’s branches were founded earlier than Denver’s branch.
The various branches do help each other out in times of need. Admirably, the Denver Alliance Française is organizing aid to send to the San Juan, Puerto Rico Alliance Française, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
With such a long history, it’s no surprise to discover the depth and breadth of the Alliance’s activities and reach in metro Denver.
French native Martin LaFitte, Executive Director of the Denver Alliance Française, began his term in 2015. He has a broad vision for the role of the organization in Denver. LaFitte has already increased the scope of the Alliance, with programs for French-speaking refugees, language and film programs for kids, and extensive cultural offerings.
Creating a welcoming center near downtown Denver to study the French language is a top goal. LaFitte pointed out that there are 25 teachers at the Alliance Française, originally from France, the USA, Belgium, Puerto Rico – and from as far away as Togo and the Ivory Coast.
While the French accents may differ between teachers, the actual French classes are taught with an emphasis on Parisian French. Boulder, Centennial and Evergreen residents can now study French at the small satellite offices, through the Alliance.
Beyond French language study, the Alliance is bursting with cultural events, welcoming all skill levels in French.
In the month of October alone, a visitor through the Alliance Francaise could experience: J’Adore Ciné Club: L’Enfer, a film at the Denver Sie Film Center 10/18 (Q/A to follow film screening); Fall Wine Tasting on the New School of French Wines, 10/19; the interactive Café des arts, 10/24, with a presentation about the iconic paintings and sculptures housed in the famed Louvre in Paris; and European Book Club, 10/31, discussing (in English) a book by French writer Véronique Ovaldé.
The Alliance has strong ties with the Denver Film Center and the Denver Art Museum. In November, the center will co-sponsor two films in the Denver Film Festival: Django, a film about famed French musician Django Reinhardt; and Let the Sunshine in, a French blockbuster with Juliette Binoche.
An exhibition opening on October 22nd at the Denver Art Museum “Her Paris” will pique the interest of Francophiles, with remarkable works of art by French women artists in the age of Impressionism, such as Rosa Bonheur and Berthe Morisot. (LaFitte was delighted to see Bonheur listed in the exhibit, as she lived and worked in his home town of Thomery, just south of Paris.)
In early November, the Alliance Française will host French priest Father Patrick DesBois, author of The Holocaust by Bullets, along with co-host Temple Sinai.
The Alliance Française de Denver is an extraordinarily active hub of culture and language, full of “joie de vivre”, friendship and laughter.
One of Martin LaFitte’s favorite events at the Alliance? The 5 à 7 French Happy Hour, offered on the first Thursday of the month. Wine, cheese, socializing and conversation will delight all who attend, from the most timid to the most intrepid French speaker.
For more information about all events at the Alliance Francaise, go to: http://www.afdenver.org