It is with great sadness that we learned of Ronald Labelle‘s passing. Glass artist and cofounder of Espace VERRE, he  passed away on February 29, 2024.

Born in 1942 in Montreal, Ronald was an important figure of the Quebec artistic scene, notably in the glass art and photography domains.

As a photographer, he fulfilled numerous social reports for various magazines and for the NFB as well as publishing illustrations for several books and record covers. His photographs are part of several collections such as the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Photography Institute.

His destiny took a decisive turn after meeting French artist Claude Morin and participating in his glassblowing workshop in early 1976. Ronald Labelle soon embarked on the adventure of art glass, and the 1970s and 1980s were a testimony of his great many efforts in establishing the glass art as a recognized practice in Quebec.

The experience of founding the Ateliers du Manoir in the Magdalen Islands, which he operated from 1978 to 1983, was an important chapter in his career. Despite the financial and logistical challenges, he was able to build an educative and creative place that contributed to the promotion of the glass art across Quebec and beyond. This momentum led him to further his research abroad, notably in Venice the historical cradle of glass art. There, he drew inspiration and knowledge to nourish his ambitions for the glass art of Quebec.

On his return, Ronald teamed up with glass artist François Houdé. After four years of dedicated work with the support of Monique Giard and Maurice Achard, of the Centre de céramique Bonsecours, and artists such as Susan Edgerley and Élisabeth Marier, they founded the Centre des métiers du verre (today Espace VERRE), a school and creative center dedicated to the glass arts. Ronald Labelle’s commitment contributed to the institutionalization of the glass art practice in Quebec, thus paving the way for new generations of glass artists. His contribution to the education and dissemination of the glass arts is major. As a cofounder and active member of Espace VERRE, he shaped the destiny of many emerging artists, generously sharing his knowledge and experience.

Decades following the founding of Espace VERRE, Ronald progressed as a glass artist, transitioning from producing utilitarian and decorative pieces to creating bold sculptural works. “The concept of function in an object implies its cultural and aesthetic role; he seeks out objects in his environment that day-to-day reality has rendered banal and ordinary, and then takes them up and recreates them in glass, in unusual subjects. In this way the work becomes associated with another dimension.” Thus, he created a “corpus of contemporary sculptural works that enrich, in an exemplary manner, the artistic patrimony of Quebec” (Extracts from Ronald Labelle: Glassblowing Pioneer and Master Artisan, by Bruno Andrus).

Ronald Labelle embodied the pioneering spirit and artistic excellence that have contributed to the forming of the roots of the fine crafts of Quebec. His remarkable journey remains a source of inspiration for future generations, testifying to the transformative power of passion and perseverance. Our thoughts go out to his family and loved ones.