Obituary: Jonas Emmanuel Blanchet-Fricke, 1981-2023 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Jonas Emmanuel Blanchet-Fricke, 1981-2023

Artist's legacy lives on in the people he loved, the communities he fostered and the works of art he created

Published July 21, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
Updated July 21, 2023 at 10:25 a.m.


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Jonas Emmanuel Blanchet-Fricke - COURTESY
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  • Jonas Emmanuel Blanchet-Fricke

Jonas Fricke died of a heart attack on March 5, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla., after performing his own brand of "Radical Courage Music" as If Not I Than Who Then, his “one human choir, drum-brigade and performance art theater troupe.”

When he was a small child, Jonas said he intended “to continue being an artist” when he grew up. In this lifelong pursuit, he was wildly successful, and produced an immense body of work in many often-overlapping mediums, including, painting, drawing, sculpture, screen printing, tattoos, puppetry, performance art, textiles and music. In his own words, Jonas believed “wholeheartedly in the ability of artwork and creative pursuits to start fires of meaning, illuminate paths of quandary and curiosity, inspire change, make life more colorful and vibrant, as well as inspire others to live more creative lives.” Jonas also labored tirelessly at creating space and opportunities for other artists, as a curator, promoter, organizer, and founding or contributing member of several art collectives, including the Tinderbox, the Future Collective, the Buoyant Heart and Harmony Art Collectives in Brattleboro.

Jonas gave of his body, mind and soul to promote social change, while continuing activist traditions from both the American Quaker and German-Jewish parts of his ancestry. He was passionately committed to anti-racist, pro-indigenous, feminist and queer liberationist causes. Inspired by the political theater of Bread and Puppet, where he interned in his youth, Jonas brought joy and imagination to public demonstrations around the country. In his daily life, Jonas practiced mutual aid and lived by his belief in communal care outside of unjust systems of power.

Jonas is survived by his parents Sylvia Blanchet and Thomas Fricke; his sister, Lucia Blanchet-Fricke; his partner, Jocelyn McElroy; six aunts and uncles; a growing number of cousins; as well as innumerable friends, bandmates and creative collaborators—hundreds of whom paraded down the streets of Brattleboro to the beat of a brass band soon after Jonas’s death and flooded the town with ecstatic fanfare in celebration of his life. Jonas also leaves behind countless young people he nurtured, taught and played with for more than two decades as an early childhood educator.

Jonas lives on in the people he loved, the communities he fostered and the works of art he created.

Jonas’ family and friends will be hosting a memorial festival on Saturday, July 29, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Retreat Farm in Brattleboro that will be open to all who love Jonas or love someone who loves Jonas. This will be followed by live music at the Stone Church, performed by Jonas’ friends from 7 p.m. to midnight. A suggested donation at the door will benefit the Jonas Legacy Fund, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. In lieu of flowers, those who wish to may make a donation to the River Gallery School (rivergalleryschool.org/), where Jonas took art classes as a child.

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