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Woman who was driving force in Sudbury's francophone arts scene passes away at 62

Paulette Gagnon was the director of development for Place des ArtsĀ 
Paulette Gagnon has passed away at the age of 62. She was known for her work with francophone arts organizations. (Supplied/Facebook)

A Sudbury woman who was the driving force behind the Place des Arts project has passed away.

Paulette Gagnon, the director of development for Place des Arts, was known for her work with francophone arts organizations.

She was head of the Franco-Ontarian section of the Ontario Arts Council and executive director of the Associations des theatres francophones due Canada.

Locally, she was involved with Le Regroupement des organismes culturels de Sudbury (ROCS) and Le Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario (TNO).

An obituary and funeral information for Gagnon is not yet available, but other media outlets say she was 62 years old, and was survived by three children. She passed away Wednesday. interviewed Gagnon in December 2016, shortly after Greater Sudbury city council approved $5 million for Place des Arts, a downtown shared arts facility for francophones. 

“We couldn't believe it, truly,” said Gagnon at the time. “For us it was a really important moment, because we've been working on this for six years.”

Ironically, Gagnon's passing was just days before a major funding announcement for Place des Arts, scheduled for Friday.

Minister of Heritage Melanie Joly will be in town for the press conference, set for 11:30 a.m. at the McEwen School of Architecture.

Those in Greater Sudbury's arts community and beyond have taken to social media to post tributes to Gagnon.

“Shock, dismay and sadness that our friend, this dynamo of energy, warmth and passion for Franco-Ontarian culture, theatre in particular, and the arts in general and has left us,” said Scott Merrifield, a former artistic director with Northern Lights Festival Boréal.

“Since she first came to Sudbury from Hearst in the 70s to work at the TNO, she has been a huge part of the Franco-Ontarian renaissance that has enriched our community and our nation. A consummate arts administrator and a great lady, she will be sorely missed. Adieu Paulette.”

Mayor Brian Bigger said in a written statement issued Thursday he was deeply saddened to hear of Gagnon's passing, calling her a “true leader and ambassador of arts and culture in our community. 

“Paulette leaves behind a powerful legacy as a dedicated visionary of arts and culture, who thrived on celebrating our community’s successes,” he said.

“Paulette’s strategic thinking and inquisitive nature was instrumental in helping us develop our City’s Cultural Plan. 

“She was also a driving force behind the development and advancement of Place des arts and Le Regroupement des organismes culturels de Sudbury (ROCS).

She will be fondly remembered by many staff at the City of Greater Sudbury as a kind, positive and passionate collaborator and friend.

“Paulette will be remembered for her drive and creativity, and her tireless efforts to support artists and creative professionals across all sectors. We thank her for her numerous impactful contributions to this community. 

“Our thoughts are with Paulette’s family and friends as we mourn the passing of a true friend and community champion.”

We Live Up Here has produced a video based on an interview they did with Gagnon. Click below to watch it.