Common Weal Community Arts

This project has created opportunities for elders to open up and reminisce… a space to share old knowledge; a gathering between young and old.

— Michèle Mackasey —


Encouraging intergenerational support and a deeply engaged cultural life.

Like many Northern communities that grapple with the ongoing impacts of Canada’s colonial legacy, Patuanak is often rocked by crisis or tragedy. The community strives to resist the discouraging effects of these negative forces by reinforcing in their children a deeper understanding of themselves and their unique culture. Through Common Weal, artist Michèle Mackasey has undertaken a two-year residency in the community with funding from the Saskatchewan Arts Board Artist in Communities Program.


During her residency Michèle has created opportunities for elders and artisans, Leona Aubichon, Mary Jane John, and Mary Jane Pakitine, to share Dene cultural practices with the community. This has included group sessions in basket making, quillwork, and moose hair tufting. Michèle has taught painting and drawing and has initiated a collaborative project honouring the memory of two youth who were tragically lost in a house fire. These activities have become valued for generating an atmosphere of creative cultural vitality in Patuanak, encouraging intergenerational support and a deeply engaged cultural life.


  • Michèle Mackasey

Elders & Artisans

  • Leona Aubichon
  • Jacob Estralshenen
  • Mary Jane John
  • Frank Maurice
  • Mary Jane Pakitine

Project Location

  • English River First Nation, Patuanak

# of Participants

  • 357 per year

Youngest & Oldest Participants

  • 6 yrs and 82 yrs

Km Driven by Artist

  • 10,204 per year

Roadkill Porcupine Gathered for Quilling Workshops

  • 1


  • hamlet of Patuanak
  • English River First Nation
  • Paved Arts


  • Community Initiatives Fund
  • Saskatchewan Arts Board
photo credit: Percy Paul

photo credit: Percy Paul


I have been hosting workshops in Patuanak as an effort to rejuvenate traditional art practices in this community. In offering this programming I have observed it as a way for elders to open up and reminisce, recollecting amongst each other things they might have otherwise forgotten on how these practices were done. The workshops have offered a space of sharing of old knowledge and a gathering between young and old.

I had borrowed a handful of grade 8 and 9 students to participate in my commemorative bottle portrait project three days in a row. I was so pleased with how focused they were at the tasks on hand that I let their teacher know. She looked perplexed, commenting that they were usually a handful. I suddenly realised that this was the difficult group I had been hearing about—the ones that no one wanted teach because of behavioral issues.