France Honors Susan O’brian Lyons

France Honors Susan O’brian Lyons

On July 14, 2021, Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General at the Consulate General of France in Chicago, awarded Susan O'Brian Lyons with the insignia of Knight of the Orders of Arts and Letters in a ceremoney held at the Arts Club of Chicago in recognition of her tremendous philanthropy work toward in Franco-American relations and as a founding member of the franco-american foundation FACE in Chicago, which supports franco-americain relations across cultural projects in Chicago and across the Midwest.

Susan Lyons is one of Chicago’s leading francophiles who is deeply involved in the promotion of french culture and education.

A graduate of the University of Columbia and the University of Chicago, Susan Lyons worked in finance before devoting herself to her children’s education and her philanthropy.

When she decided to enroll her students at the Lyée Francais of Chicago, Susan Lyons enthusiastically participated in the creation and development of a new school in the late 1990s. Her vision and commitment helped shape the mission of the Lycée, which she wanted to make a place of education and learning of the French language with a bilingual approach, but also a space for cultural and artistic exchanges open to the world.

In 1997, Susan Lyons, with the support of a few parents, initiated the biannual Artist-in-Residence program, which offers renowned artists from around the world the opportunity to collaborate with Lycée students to develop an artistic project. During each residency (2 to 3 months), the Lycée becomes a place of creation and artistic transmission. The prestige of this program is reflected in the artists who have participated, including French artists Christian Boltanski (who inaugurated the program), Nicolas Henry and more recently Joël Degbo.

Susan Lyons’ investment in this program has raised the funds necessary to support ten residencies to date. Although her children are now at the university level, Susan Lyons remains fully active in the Artist-in-Residence committee.

In 2011/2012, then aged 10 and 13, the opportunity to spend a school year in Paris, during which she could fully convery to them her passion for French culture, language and values, and deepen her knowledge of French art and cultural institutions through museums and galleries. She took advantage of this year in Paris to study gender and feminism with Patricia Paperman at the University of Paris 8 Nanterre. The academic knowledge she acquired on this occasion allowed her to teach a course on family and feminism at the Newberry Library since 2017, with a comparative approach between France and the United States. She also organized a seminar there in the fall of 2018 on Simone de Beauvoir and her work the “Second Sex.”

Susan Lyons is also very involved in many of Chicago’s cultural organizations including the Art Institute of Chicago and the MOCP (Museum of Contemporary Photography).

A founding member of FACE in Chicago, she was instrumental in the creation of a local chapter of the FACE (French American Cultural Exchange) foundation in 2017, which brings together a group of Francophiles wishing to contribute to artistic exchanges between France and Chicago and allowing for financial support of certain programs conducted by the cultural services of the French Consulate in Chicago.

In addition to providing annual financial support, Susan Lyons is very active in facilitating the FACE in Chicago group and advising on program strategy and implementation. In recent years, she has contributed to the establishment of the “Méthode Room”, an annual residency program for French artists, a European dance festival, and the first Night of Ideas in Chicago.

Susan Lyons is an essential partner in the cultural activities of the Cultural Services of the French Consulate in Chicago, thanks to her unwavering and committed investment in Franco-American relations.

Her involvement and dedication to contemporary French culture fully deserves a distinction in the Order of Arts and Letters.