By Logan Sander
Since her toddler years, carried by her mother and observing paintings at the Musée d’Orsay across from her Paris home, Emma Brigaud has developed a love for the arts. Today, she is herself a bona fide artist —in multiple disciplines.
Brigaud, now a senior at Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, combined two of her passions—painting and music—when she painted live during a New School for Music Study student recital in June. While a fellow student played the piano, she let inspiration take its course, creating an original work of art while she listened to the music.
The piece, now up for auction to raise money for the “Pave the Way” campaign to rebuild and expand the parking areas for the music school, consists of a piano surrounded by a myriad of colors and forms. Brigaud, who has been a piano student at the New School for 10 years, donated the artwork.
“I ended up drawing a piano with all these colorful shapes around it, which I feel represent the different tones and moods and notes of a piece surrounding the piano. It’s abstract,” she said.
She has studied art with professional artist Anna Neis at the Gemma Art Foundation in Princeton for seven years. Neis, who is also Brigaud’s neighbor, saw her potential as an artist when she brought back an autumn tree she had painted at school. She saw that Brigaud had an eye for color.
“I could always rely on Emma’s unusual creativity and her diligence to art,” Neis said. “I could see it going through her whole lifestyle, whether it be visual art or music or acting.”
Brigaud has taken part in the school play each year ever since she can remember, plays varsity tennis at Stuart, and has even sung at Carnegie Hall with the Princeton Girl Choir. But her mother, Leigh Brigaud, said she thinks it’s visual art that keeps Emma grounded.
“I think that this [art studio] is a place where she can come and she puts everything else out of her mind,” Leigh Brigaud said.
Leigh Brigaud grew up Corinth, Mississippi, and earned a bachelor of music from Millsaps College. When she and husband Olivier lived in Paris for a time—Emma and her sister Millie, a freshman at Stuart, were both born there—she owned a contemporary design studio.
Leigh Brigaud also plays piano. So does Millie, who is also interested in structural and architectural art. The Brigauds sometimes play piano together in duets, or sometimes even trios.
Olivier Brigaud grew up in Auvergne, France and has a doctorate in chemistry from Marie et Pierre Curie in Paris. He began his career at the French Nuclear Safety Authority, but has since run subsidiaries of several French companies in the U.S. Both parents can find architects, designers and artists on the branches of their family trees.
Emma Brigaud has a history of giving back through her art, whether through designing a calendar for the National Kidney Fund or helping to create a centerpiece for a Habitat for Humanity dinner, which raised money for building houses in Trenton.
“I would say that all these activities that I’m doing, especially in the arts, are my outlet,” she said. “Especially with charity events, I feel like that’s my purpose for doing art. I like doing it for myself, my enjoyment and for my creativity, but [charity] gives me a reason to do it.”
The silent auction ends on Sunday, Nov. 15. To bid on Emma’s piece, currently hanging up in the New School, email firstname.lastname@example.org.