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Introducing: Arts Inc – The Spot for Creativity

As we move forward with our plans to transform the former Landmark Cinema into an arts incubator for the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region, we are proud to announce the latest milestone in the process. Introducing Arts Inc.

New logo and brand for Arts Inc, created by Christina Rolufs, former ACWB Communications Manager

Arts Inc is the brand we have given to the arts incubator project. This brand will provide a tangible foundation as we continue moving forward into planning, fundraising, designing, engaging with communities, networking with stakeholders and elected officials, and transforming dreams into reality.

Project Background

Arts Council Wood Buffalo has begun the process of creating an arts incubator space in the former Landmark Cinema building in downtown Fort McMurray. Arts Inc, which will be designed to support and nurture a diverse range of arts and culture for residents across the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region. 

This multi-year project began in 2018 with the Arts Recovery Project, funded by the Canadian Red Cross following the 2016 wildfire. Engagement with artists and community-at-large demonstrated the need for an affordable space for artists to work and create. Review the Post Fire Recovery in the Arts Strategic Plan to learn more about the history and process that planted the seed for Arts Inc.

In early 2020, ACWB received funding from Community Foundations of Canada via the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) to conduct a feasibility study to determine if and how the cinema building could be repurposed for an arts incubator, identify opportunities and challenges, and begin the process of envisioning and designing the project. Arts Council worked with Akron Engineering on this feasibility study, and engaged with artists, residents, stakeholders, and businesses to get feedback on the project to evaluate the benefits for everyone in our region.

The study was completed in early 2021.

Feasibility Study Findings: Former Landmark Cinema Building

After engaging with the public in Fall 2020 and completing a feasibility study with Akron Engineering in March 2021, the findings are now available. Review the Arts Incubator Feasibility Study.

“To conclude, based on Akron’s comprehensive research, which is summarized in the Feasibility Study Report, we confirm that the former downtown Landmark Cinema Building is an excellent choice to be repurposed to an arts incubator for Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.  When completed, this great initiative will be a value-added asset for the community and the fruition of Arts Council Wood Buffalo’s Strategic Priorities.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. XI)

“The Cinema Building can be efficiently remodeled to fit the needs of ACWB to house an arts incubator space that can be used as a centre for artists to gather and work, a venue for performances, workshops and galleries, a community gathering space and to host special events.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. 113)

Public Engagement Findings

“Based on the many positive responses to the engagement survey, it is evident that many of our community residents appreciate the need for an arts incubator space and want to participate in it. Having this project come to fruition will be a red-letter day, as there will be a time when forces come together to create something not only creatively impressive, but economically vibrant and self-sustaining.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. 113)

Highlights – Survey Response Statistics:

  • Public engagement survey ran from Sept. 16 – Oct. 6
  • 410 individuals responded to the survey
  • 83.9% agree that an arts incubator would be beneficial for the Wood Buffalo region
  • 67.5% were not satisfied with the types of arts facilities currently available in the Wood Buffalo region
  • 58% were not satisfied with the arts, cultural and entertainment opportunities in the region
  • 45.9% did not self-identify as an artist
  • 43.4% self-identified as an artist

Review more Engagement Survey Findings here.

Community Benefits

“It has been proven in other communities in Canada, and around the globe, that art spaces create huge benefits to the residents economically, socially, and ensure sustainable growth. Our October 2020 engagement survey revealed the excitement of the community to have an arts incubator space developed in the region.

Communities that have embraced art incubators…are driving new business, spurring innovation, attracting talent and investment and, in the process, accelerating community development and improving the overall quality of life for their residents.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. 113)

In addition, the Arts Incubator project is in line with a number of goals and objectives as identified by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo:

Fund Development Planning

ACWB has begun developing a Fund Development Plan to raise funds and pay for Arts Inc. This plan will outline an annual and multi-year strategy for fundraising, anticipated revenues and expenses, policy development, and timelines.

Once this plan has been finalized and approved by ACWB’s Board of Directors, we will launch the fundraising campaign and share opportunities with the community to sponsor, donate, contribute, volunteer and work together to make this project a reality for our community. 

The first milestone will be to purchase the former Landmark Cinema on Manning Avenue in downtown Fort McMurray. After this, formal design and planning will be needed to repurpose the cinema into the arts incubator as envisioned by our community.

Based on the Feasibility Study, the current cost estimate for this project is $14.7M to purchase and repurpose the cinema and get it into operation.

Stay Up to Date

Follow us on our website or on social media (@artscouncilwb) for ongoing updates, news and more as ACWB works through the process of making the arts incubator a reality for Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

Help Make the Arts Incubator a Reality

You can be a part of this vision for our community by sponsoring the arts incubator, making a donation, or volunteering in fundraising activities and events.

Sponsor: Sponsorships of all shapes and sizes are welcome. For more information, contact Executive Director Liana Wheeldon at [email protected] or call 587-674-1625 x.100. 

Donate: Anyone wishing to donate to this project or other ACWB initiatives may do so through our website – donations of $50 and over are eligible for a Charitable Donation Receipt. Donors can specify which program, project, or service they wish their donation dollars to support, including the arts incubator.

Volunteer: This project is going to take a lot of work, and we’ll need the support of volunteers from the community. Sign up for our volunteer email list and we’ll notify you when opportunities are available. 

Learn More About This ProjectFAQs

Q – What’s an arts incubator?

– An arts incubator is a purpose-built space that can be used as a centre for artists to gather and work, a venue for performances, workshops and galleries, a community gathering space, and even host events and festivals. Examples include cSPACE King Edward in Calgary or Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design in Nova Scotia.

Q – Where will the arts incubator be located?

– ACWB is looking to purchase the Landmark Cinema 6 Building, located in downtown Fort McMurray on Manning Avenue, with the goal of remodelling the building into an arts incubator space that can support arts, culture, business, and the community at large. We have not purchased this property yet. This process is in the works as we begin fund development planning.

Q – Why did you choose that location?

– The former movie theatre building is no longer in use and up for sale. The property presents many options and opportunities that are closely linked to the arts incubator concept, including a theatre, movie and rehearsal space, large rooms, and outdoor space for parking, markets, and events.  

In addition, the building is located in the downtown area, which has been identified by local government as an area for redevelopment. Findings from public engagement by the Municipality has shown that this area is ideal for arts and cultural space as well as economic development.

Q – What is a feasibility study?

A – A feasibility study will help determine if and how the cinema building could be repurposed for an arts incubator, identify opportunities and challenges, and begin the process of envisioning and designing the project.

Q – Where did you get funding for the feasibility study? 

A – In early 2020, ACWB received funding from Community Foundations of Canada via the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) to conduct a feasibility study to determine if and how the cinema building could be repurposed for an arts incubator, identify opportunities and challenges, and begin the process of envisioning and designing the project. Arts Council worked with Akron Engineering on this feasibility study, and engaged with artists, residents, stakeholders, and businesses to get feedback on the project to evaluate the benefits for everyone in our region.

Q – Where do you plan to get money to pay for the arts incubator?

A – Part of the feasibility study is determining the cost of this project. From there, Arts Council will create a Funding Development Plan. 

Additionally, there are a number of grants available provincially, federally, and through private corporations that support the development of arts infrastructure.  Examples of potential funders could be Canadian Heritage and Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Q – Will any you be using municipal tax dollars to fund the arts incubator?

A – Arts Council has not requested or received municipal funding to pay for this project. Arts Council is always open to discuss opportunities and synergies with individuals and organizations that could benefit everyone in the region.

Q – I live in a rural community. How will the arts incubator benefit me?

A – Arts Council has proposed an arts incubator to be located in Fort McMurray, but we welcome participation from all communities and groups from across the region. 

Once established, the arts incubator will use a “spoke and hub model” to provide services to rural and Indigenous communities.  The Artist in Residency program, for example, could be inclusive of the rural areas – artists would spend time mentoring residents in rural communities, but the artists would create their work at the incubator facility in Fort McMurray.

Q – How can I help make this project a reality?

A – Anyone wishing to donate to this project or other ACWB initiatives may do so through our website – donations $50 and over are eligible for a Charitable Donation Receipt and donors can specify which program, project, or service they wish their donation dollars to support, including the arts incubator.

Q – How much will the arts incubator cost to build?

A – Based on the Feasibility Study, the current cost estimate for this project is $14.7M to purchase and repurpose the cinema and get it into operations.

Q – How much does the cinema property cost?

A – A fair market assessment will determine the value of the property. This assessment is done by an independent third-party assessor.

Q – How much will the arts incubator cost to operate?

A – It is difficult to know what the operation costs would be before a detailed design of the arts incubator has been finalized. We are working with funding professionals to better understand costs in greater detail.

Q – Will the arts incubator earn revenue? If so, how much?

A – Yes. One of Arts Council’s financial goals for this project is that this arts incubator be self-sustaining within 4-5 years of opening doors to the community. This means that the arts incubator would eventually operate based on revenues earned from serving the community, as well as from sponsorships and donors.

Q – What will happen with the profits/revenue earned by the arts incubator?

A – The arts incubator will be based on a business model known as a ‘social enterprise.’ Social enterprises are revenue-generating businesses with a twist. A social enterprise is a revenue-generating business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to deliver profit to shareholders and owners. (Definition provided by BC Centre for Social Enterprise.)