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January 2019’s Centre Stage with ACWB

By Hanna Fridhed, Engagement Coordinator

Last year included major progression within both the arts community and Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and 2019 is
kicking off with a bang! The Government of Alberta named January the inaugural Month of the Artist, which
includes a province wide Artist in Residency program. We also see positive development of the arts within our
region: arts and culture is specifically named in the municipal strategic plan, and ACWB received Red Cross funding
to address the issues facing artists highlighted in our Post Fire Recovery in the Arts Strategic Plan. The most
prominent challenge presented in this plan is the lack of arts infrastructure – studios, makerspaces, exhibition
opportunities, materials and equipment. Another challenge is the lack of affordable commercial space. Artists are
entrepreneurs and small business owners who share concerns over empty space kept out of reach by exorbitant
rental rates. Municipal council has committed to addressing these issues in their strategic plan, as well as in
developing a Culture Master Plan and a Downtown Revitalization Plan. Major institutions in the community, such
as Keyano College, are looking at how to address these needs as well. The introduction of the Arts District as an
ACWB arts tour led to widespread enthusiasm for an artistic and cultural specific area downtown. With the
feedback received, we hope the momentum will continue leading to an established arts district in Fort McMurray!

There is a lot of exciting things happening within ACWB this year. For example, we are expanding our learning
series with the launch of a new program focused on the creative development of artists. The program's goals are
developing artistic practice and creative work, as well as networking and connecting artists with each other and
their peers in the wider Canadian artistic community. 2019 also marks the fourth annual Wood Buffalo Excellence
in Arts Awards, which celebrates the achievements and work of the region's artists, arts administrators, arts
educators, and arts champions. We are developing a new initiative in partnership with St. Aidan’s Society that will
bring art and seniors together, and we are reaching into the rural communities to identify and engage artists. This
year will see a revamp of our website and membership program to make it easier for artists, media,
key stakeholders and general community to know and understand who ACWB is and what we do. We are also
working on more online tools for artists and community groups to grow their capacity in the arts.

ACWB is proud to celebrate the Month of the Artist by highlighting our diverse arts community, featuring artists of
all experience levels and disciplines. “Artist” covers all artistic disciplines including visual arts, dance, music,
performing arts, fine craft, literary arts, performance, photography, and alternative or new forms including
multidisciplinary arts, multimedia and circus arts. An artist is a maker and a storyteller, a connector even at their
most introverted. Artists remind us to take a moment and see the beauty of our existence, even with all our flaws.
It’s about building future generations on a history of celebrating the arts and making it not just a luxury but a part
of everyday life.

Here’s to a brilliantly creative 2019!