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“Free Spirit is an artistic collective passionate about creation in all its forms. We navigate without ceasing between the imaginary and the real world through our shows, exhibitions, festivals, and our photo of video projects. We combine our talents, and count amongst them photographers, costume makers, dancers, and makeup artists, in order to create diverse and varied projects that never stop evolving.” - http://www.freespiritproject.org/
INTERVIEW - HÉLÈNE LECOMPTE 💬
1️⃣ To begin, tell us about your educational background. What did you study, both before and at KEDGE?
I’m originally from Montfermeil in the Parisian suburbs (93). I got my BAC ES with distinction from the Saint-Louis Blanche de Castille High School in Villemomble (93). I then took the economy option for HEC prep classes for two years at Claude Monet High School in Paris. After I passed the Ecricome entrance exam, I went to KEDGE for my ESC Bachelor. I’d been doing intensive sports since childhood: gymnastics since the age of two, equestrian, running, yoga and, mainly, training in classical dance and modern jazz at the Montfermeil School of Dance. Like all sports and artistic disciplines, I participated in shows, performances, and competitions so I got involved very early on in extra-curricular activities that required a strong personal commitment on my part. As far as what I studied at KEDGE, I specialised in Marketing (Experiential Marketing and Luxury Marketing). But without a doubt, what really marked me from my years as a Kedger was being a member of the Bureau des Arts. A dancer since I was five years old, and passionate about artistic activities in general, at KEDGE I regained the enthusiasm needed to be able to invest in my projects as I had always done in the past. It was natural - like a continuity of what I’d always been able to do, but with a higher dimension: that of being the originator of the creation of projects. My involvement in the association and its projects deepened during my Master year at KEDGE. I held the position of Partnerships Manager with the determination to develop strong relationships with the artistic groups of Marseille and the region (Opéra de Marseille, Ballet Preljocaj, National Ballet of Marseille, Théâtre La Criée, Grand Théâtre de Provence d'Aix en Provence, etc.) so students could benefit from special rates. I helped in the organisation of our three festivals (DCDB, MTZ and Etang d'Arts) and I won the Artistic Direction of the Meltin'Dance company in pairs. So these two years have been strongly marked by my investment to keep this association and these projects alive. I’ve given all my time, energy, and ideas, which has been a real source of pride. I’ve learned a lot and it’s made me grow. We’re faced with real responsibilities, as well as management, logistics and project management challenges. This is a significant practical experience for entering the professional world. All of this has been an integral part of my training at KEDGE, and is a solid basis for first professional experiences. Beyond the professional benefits, it’s the personal development I was able to draw from KEDGE - being able to give and invest oneself in order to have the satisfaction of having constructed and accomplished something.
2️⃣Tell us what you did after your studies were finished. What positions have you held? What did you learn in those positions?
Once I graduated, my desire to be involved never left. I continued to put my energy into my personal artistic activities: as a dancer, a model, and in lead roles. And I developed them. The main challenge I faced was to have good balance between my career and continuing to succeed in my artistic activities. We all start our professional careers with the desire to grow and prove ourselves. But combining the two isn’t easy. Rehearsals require a lot of discipline and a lot of time too. There are time constraints that aren’t always easy to respect… or to make your employer understand. Companies are still having a difficult time understanding that this type of involvement contributes to personal growth and provides the balance that’s essential for everyone's well-being. However, I have never favoured my personal commitments to the detriment of my professional commitments. I enjoy my work, I thrive in it, and it is vital that my personal activities do not hinder my productivity. I have always made sure to separate these two parts that constitute my balance today. In hindsight, I think that all these efforts have given me a "fighting spirit" that allows me today to face complex situations with more calmness and composure. Large projects don't scare me and I approach them with more serenity. The artistic world requires perseverance, discipline, and humility. These are values that I draw inspiration from daily in my job as a Consultant to meet the requirements of my clients.
3️⃣ What are you doing/what is your situation today? What gave you the idea and desire to do what are you doing today?
Today my involvement with associations has taken on a whole new dimension. I gave it a deep meaning by joining the Free Spirit association and becoming its Vice-President. Free Spirit is an association made up of artists committed to defending causes related to the preservation of biodiversity and the environment, and to live better together. My artistic projects have allowed me to meet many artists and passionate people like me. This is how I crossed paths with Fabrice our President when the association was organising a fashion show to promote the talent of young international creators. There I met the Free Spirit team and it was a revelation for me. I had finally found meaning in my investment in artistic projects. Our association aims to use Art as the main vector of communication and conducts awareness campaigns on the preservation of our environment and the Human being. Our ambition is to put the "talent" of our artists at the service of these causes in order to bring awareness to citizens by creating emotions, to push them to adopt a more respectful way of life. It has always seemed normal to me to give my time to build things. It brought me personal satisfaction. Today I create and I give my time, my "talent" for others and for a deep cause that is crucial for the planet. It is this approach that seduced me because I found a strong meaning in my investment. Today, I’m the Association’s Vice-President, which now has more than 250 active members. Our actions are concrete and varied:
They are financial when we provide grants to other organisations. We raise funds through the creation of dance and costume shows or concerts that we hold in the biggest Parisian venues. These shows are unique creations created, directed, and produced by our member artists.
- They are human-based when we send our members all over the world in order to bring help to other centres (such as dispensaries or shelters, for example).
Finally, we also partner with other associations to offer them visibility. For example, we paraded alongside Surfrider on International Oceans Day where our imaginary characters "Les Shiivas" (dancers entirely body painted as ocean creatures) led the way to create a powerful visual impact.
Through all this, we want to touch the spirits, create emotions because it is through emotions that awareness is strong. Our approach is peaceful and our message is positive. We advocate wonder by showing the beauty of the world around us in the hope of awakening the will of citizens to preserve our planet.
4️⃣What are your development goals for the future?
Our ambition for the future is clear: to become the largest artistic NGO in the service of the planet. Little by little our association is growing, evolving and becoming more structured. Our members are multiplying and we are recruiting new members every day. For this, Free Spirit is getting organised and is constantly reforming. We operate in "project" mode, and we've now adopted a fully horizontal system in order to favour co-creation and collective intelligence. This non-pyramidal organisation allows us to stimulate creativity and taking initiative. It is fully in line with our vision that says that there is a talent in every person just waiting to be expressed and valued. Moreover, while we are proud today to walk alongside associations or NGOs of great renown such as Surfrider or WWF, during events for which we are co-organisers and speakers, our ambition for tomorrow is even greater. We will continue to raise awareness and gain visibility by creating our own events. We are currently working on a very big project: the summit “Recréer le future” ("Recreating the Future") which will take place in 2021 at the Palais des Congrès in Paris. It is a summit dedicated to solutions and innovations that have a positive impact on the planet. Our aim (volonté) is to create dialogue, to bring citizens together, and make emerge solutions on subjects such as zero waste, the protection of biodiversity, oceans, forests, the circular economy, social inclusion, etc... We also want to create Free Spirit branches internationally so that initiative can be taken on a large scale. We, therefore, need ambassadors abroad who can ensure our presence and take over. Our projects are ambitious and we are all working actively to see our projects born and developed. Like all associations, our actions and projects are conditioned by economic constraints and we are all volunteers. This is why every human, financial or visibility support is important.
5️⃣Have you received any prizes or recognition (articles in the press, support) on the subject of your project?
We have the support of prominent and influential personalities, all of them sensitive to the protection of the planet:
- Yann Arthus Bertrand received the Free Spirit to learn about the different projects we are setting up. His project "7 Billion Others" through his NGO Good Planet supported the Free Spirit project "Words Must Be Seen", a project of photographic portraits in which each person interviewed addresses a message to the rest of the world.
- Alexandre and Sonia Poussin held a conference organised by Free Spirit at headquarters of CISCO to support the association Halte sida (Stop AIDS), supported by Free Spirit, and to testify about their experience during their 3 and a half year walk in Africa.
- Maître Gims gave his support to the orphans of the association Halte sida (Stop AIDS), supported by Free Spirit, and in particular to all the AIDS orphans in Africa before the construction of the orphanage. The aim was to shed light on our project.
- Last year, we participated in the International Day for the Preservation of the Oceans with Surfrider as co-organisers and we had a strong media impact.
Photo caption: Dancers kick off a parade on the World Day of the Ocean, in Paris, 8 June 2019.
6️⃣ How did your education at KEDGE Business School help you become who you are today, and which of its courses helped you develop your project?
The curriculum I did at KEDGE gave me the keys to do business. When we started there, we are immediately immersed in the context of taking action. It gives you the feeling that you can really build your future - as if anything is possible. By doing the ESC route, I had the impression that I had access to great freedom of action with confidence as a driving force. It gives you the courage to dare to do things that you would probably never have tried. Everything I learnt during my schooling was a springboard to launch myself, whether in the professional or associative field. The experiences I gained during my schooling brought a great added-value to my background. We leave school with concrete experiences of which we can be proud. Thanks to them, I was able to illustrate my skills in concrete terms and enhance my profile during job interviews for example.
7️⃣ If you had to give advice to any KEDGE Alumnus or Alumna who would like to do something similar, what would it be?
I would tell KEDGE Alumni we must be aware that our backgrounds are rich. I sincerely believe that, in addition to each person's own background and experience, there is talent in everyone. The most important thing is to discover how to use one's own talent. We must know how to trust ourselves and dare to move forward because our experiences and talents provide us with a field of possibilities to take on beautiful things. Successes and achievements aren’t things that can be something you can decide to make happen, so they shouldn’t be a goal in itself. The most important and stimulating thing is the path we take, a path made up of opportunities, a path that we trace step by step, and that is made up of experiences and encounters. They are the things that teach us, a force that we must constantly draw upon in order to move forward.
8️⃣Hélène, anything to add? A message to pass on?
The Marseilles Artist Painter Sandrot is part of our collective. Sandrot paints giant murals depicting animals in danger of extinction. She now exhibits in several galleries such as "Circo Art Galerie" for example, and donates 50% of the sales of her work to our of defence and protection of endangered species programme, "Inaudible Voices".
Our goal for this programme is summarised in the organisation of exhibitions in the big cities of France. This exhibition tour will start in Paris on 19 March at the Renaissance Hotel de La Défense. All funds collected for the programme will allow us to help the associations and NGOs we support, which are mainly animal refuges.
Finally, our collaboration with Sandrot has recently given life to a book "Sans Bruit" (Noiseless), and a portion of its profits will also be used for our programme. The book is currently available in pre-sales.