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Guelph artist Seth named a Knight in France

Gregory Gallant, better known by his pseudonym Seth, was named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres — or a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters

A famous Guelph artist has received a high honour from a European country.

Gregory Gallant, better known by his pseudonym Seth, was named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres — or a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters — given out annually by France's Minister of Culture for those who have "significantly contributed to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance."

To simplify things, think of it like the Order of Canada in a sense.

Recipients of this order get a medal on a green and white ribbon, and much like Canada, there's three grades: Knight (Chevalier), Officer and Commander.

However, unlike the Order of Canada only being awarded to Canadian nationals, citizens in foreign countries are still eligible for the Order of the Arts and Letters.

The 59-year-old got his medal as part of a ceremony at the home of Consul General of France in Toronto, Tudor Alexis, a pleasurable experience he was urged to be a part of.

"Anything where you're the centre of attention is something you kind of want, and also something you kind of dread," Seth told GuelphToday.

"I could've just had them mail it to me, but my wife said — and she was right — 'you really should take opportunity at something like this, it's not like it's going to happen very often.'"

Flip the pages back a bit to when Seth first got notification, he was unsure what exactly was happening, as the letter he got in the mail was written in French.

"Every once in a while as an artist, you win awards you're unaware of, like an illustration award, or a book design or something," he said. 

"So I thought it was something like that and I was just about to file it away on the shelf with other such things, when I thought I should Google it and see what it means."

When he realized what it was?

"I was kind of taken aback," he said.

But where does his connection to France come from?

"I thought that myself," he said. "I have no real idea why my name rose to the surface, except that I suspect that in between Canada and France, there are people probably trying to make connections between the countries and I do have a fairly long history dealing with the world of French cartooning. I've had many books published in France."

If there's any other connection, Seth said his name could've come up due to his long standing connections with the Angoulême International Comics Festival, one of the biggest festivals of its kind in the world.

Seth won a Special Jury Prize award at the festival in February 2020 for his graphic novel Clyde Fans.

And now, some 40 years into his career, the awards continue to flow in.

And despite all the success, he remains humble.

"I have been blessed with a lot of career successes that have made me feel lucky that the world has changed enough that the kind of work I do could now be considered a mainstream art form," he said. "This has been an amazing transformation in the last 40 years, to go from completely marginalized to really a very lovely honour like this."

Seth said the medal is in one of the main showcases in his living room for now. He is considering framing it, but wants it to be accessible in case he wants to wear it someday.

"I might frame it in a frame that you can open," he said.

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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Mark is a graduate of Canadore College in North Bay whose career has taken him through a number of spots across Ontario. He spent nearly a decade in the radio news industry in North Bay, Timmins and Waterloo Region
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