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Breathing Art through Pandemic 

Breathe is a collection of traditionally crafted masks demonstrating resiliency through the 21st-century pandemic.

When Métis Artists, Lisa Shepherd (BC) and Nathalie Bertin (ON), created the Breathe Facebook group, they wanted to make a safe and welcoming space for artists to be able to unpack their personal experiences while coping with isolation and the COVID-19 health crisis.  While the art masks are not meant to be medical grade gear and should not be worn for protection against the virus, it quickly became clear to everyone involved that art has the capacity to heal.

As images of the masks were uploaded from across Canada and the US, the many artist’s statements told the narrative of the COVID-19 story during its various stages and from each unique perspective. Working in isolation, artists from across the land came together in the Breathe community and found a connection through each other’s artwork.

The Indigenous worldview is so fundamental to the collective that Shepherd and Bertin are collaborating with a curriculum developer in Ontario to create a program based on the Breathe project for students across elementary and secondary schools. With the support of a team of dedicated professionals, the first iteration of the project is being rolled out this week. It is their hope that the program will help students work through some of the emotions or blocks they may be experiencing due to the new world we are living in.

Breathe has been featured on CBC and APTN. Shepherd and Bertin are currently working on a university exhibition scheduled for April 2021 to showcase the collective works, and are in talks with some museums and art galleries about other potential exhibitions. Artists wanting to create and submit a mask for the jury are asked to join the Breathe group on Facebook (where you are required to answer four questions and agree to the group rules). Exhibition submission, jury and curatorial process can be found there. The deadline for submission is June 30, 2020. 

The group is open to all people, but having been started by two Métis women, it carries a spirit of reciprocity. Group members are asked to give more than they take, offer encouragement and be kind to one another.

To join the Breathe group (or to view and enjoy the artwork) go to

Shepherd is a respected knowledge carrier, cultural presenter and Region 2 Citizen of MNBC. To view more of her work visit