The shop is called “C’est Bon de Vivre” â€“ “It’s Good to be Alive” â€“ and one visit will convince you of the wisdom of its name. The windows are lined with beautiful hand-stencilled ceramics in pastel hues, and the fact that the windows front on the main street of a little French city called Versailles makes the display all the more delicious. Inside, the shop’s white-smocked artists keep up a merry chatter as they layer on the paint.
It’s the creation of Helene bes de Berc, whose 23-year-old daughter Sophie’s oft-repeated saying provided the shop with its name. Madame de Berc had been eager to find a place where Sophie could work, socialize and connect with her community, but was disappointed in her quest. France has few programs for young adults like Sophie, who has Down syndrome, Madame de Berc said, so she set about to build her own.
The result is a bustling store with a revolving cast of artisans, all of whom have some degree of intellectual disability. Madame de Berc, who trained as an artist before her five children arrived, has conceived of her storefront as a place where young adults can work with paint, ceramics, wood and other media, as well as develop skills in reading, computation and independent living. All the artwork they produce is offered for sale. The shop also takes advance orders for particular items.
“I did it to show that it is possible,” Madame de Berc said, adding that she was eager to demonstrate the competence of Sophie and her peers in the face of a school system that does not devote much attention to students with intellectual disabilities. “It is good for them to do something creative, because they are able to understand and to learn.”
The shop “C’est Bon de Vivre” can be found at 56 Rue d’Anjou, 78000 Versailles. To learn more about their products, contact Helene bes de Berc at +33 (0) 1 39 50 00 74, or email firstname.lastname@example.org