Charles Eugene Gagnon was born on February 24, 1934, to Eugene and Inez Gagnon in Minneapolis, MN. From an early age, Chuck expressed a love for art, often drawing and carving soap, wood, clay, and even potatoes. When he wasn't experimenting with art, Chuck competitively played golf, baseball, and speed skated. After Chuck reached high school age, the Gagnon family strictly kept their tradition that all their boys go to De La Salle High School. Chuck created his own job - diving into golf course ponds to retrieve golf balls - to help pay for his education. After graduating high school in 1952, Chuck joined the Navy and later earned his Master’s (1960) degree from the University of Minnesota. In 1957 through 1958, he was one of ten US students chosen to teach in military-dependent schools in Germany.



At the start of his career, Dr. and Mrs. Rome offered Chuck their carriage house to use as his first studio. He worked mainly with figurative sculpture, focusing on the poise and grace of dancers. Sculptures such as Dancer Stretching and Dancer at Rest emphasize how dancers carry their bodies. Chuck hosted his first showing of these figurative sculptures in Dr. and Mrs. Hill’s yard. The concentration and use of simple bases can be seen in the sculptures found on the Italian crates made during the Gagnons’ time in Tuscany after he married Arlyn in 1964. Later, in the 1960’s, Chuck completed a commission to create Saint Francis and the Birds, which expanded his work to incorporate doves. The sculpture captures the relationship between humans and the natural world that Saint Francis characterized as a patron saint of nature.


As his career advanced, Chuck received a commission to create a sculpture in gratitude for an exceptional education at Kenyon College. The Renaissance Man and Woman were to inspire future graduates to enlighten themselves in scholarship and equality, and it was installed in 1973. The latter part of this decade began Chuck's work on commissioned portraits for personal and public display. Both the Mrs. M and Young Boy sculptures were commissioned for individual collections. Mayo Clinic commissioned a bust of Conrad N. Hilton for placement in the lobby of the Hilton Building upon its completion. The one hundred and twenty-seven distributors of Anderson Windows commissioned a bust of the business founder, Fred C. Andersen, for corporate headquarters in Bayport, Minnesota. While working on his sculpture, Chuck was acknowledged in the Documentary of International Biography, Who’s Who in American Art, Who’s Who in the Midwest, and Who’s Who in America.



The 1980's ushered in the rhythm of roots in Chuck's sculpture. As seen in Metamorphosis, Chuck drew roots  onto the bronze to show life reaching upwards to expand. Similarly, he used the movement of roots to show the growth of life in the Celebration/Emergence of Life. Chuck was awarded the Rochester Mayor’s Gold Medal of Honor for Artistic and Cultural Achievement and was honored by having his sculpture in the Vatican Art Collection in Rome. At the end of this decade, Chuck received a commission from the city of Rochester to enlarge his Peace Fountain into a focal point of downtown. The Peace Fountain was unveiled in the Peace Plaza in 1989 during Rochesterfest.


Following his iconic work on the Peace Fountain, Chuck continued to use doves to create the uplifting tones of his pieces. In the Spirit of Peace, a figure releases doves upward with an exhilarated expression on her face. A family from Texas commissioned Chuck to create the Guardian Angel as a family legacy. As in many religious scriptures, Chuck used the angel he created to symbolize protection from malicious forces. In Smokescreen, a dove float upon an plume of smoke and signifies light beyond the darkness. The 1990's also brought mention of the Peace Fountain in the United Nations Educational Science and Cultural Organization’s UNESCO Courier, and a publication in Bonn, Germany, printed the fountain on its cover piece. Chuck was also honored by the Smithsonian Institution and Garden Club of America.



At the end of his career, Chuck received a commission to create an enlarged Peace Fountain for a German company’s international headquarters. The fountain purpose was to inspire peace in future generations across the globe. Years of concerts and performances and inspired Chuck’s personal project, the String Quartet. In it, he strove to capture the unforgettable experience of watching musicians play classical "water" music. Chuck’s final commission was for the Flying Hawk. The hawk embodies the spirit of flight as the sculpture soars toward the sky. The Flying Hawk was installed on St. John Island of the US Virgin Islands. Today, Chuck’s sculptures remain a part of private and public collections across the United States and worldwide.

Charles E. Gagnon Museum & Sculpture Garden

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