ACWB Blog

Home » Community » ACWB Blog

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.)

November 30, 2020

Intern(net) Celebrity:

My Summer with Arts Council Wood Buffalo

Written by Hunter Pratt, ACWB Communications Intern

As my summer internship comes to an end, I prepare for the one question asked as soon as a single leaf hits the ground: How was your summer?  My answer: educational! I spent my summer with Arts Council Wood Buffalo where I was quickly integrated into their family feeling atmosphere. Hired as a Communications Intern, I had the pleasure of being able to work along all of their team’s great personalities. The inside jokes created make it one of the reasons it is sad for me to leave (not to be dramatic). Well, my time here has almost come to an end, and I want to share with everyone a bit of what it was like to work at Arts Council as a Communications Intern. 

To begin a lookback at my summer I must say, my duties as a Communications Intern were not your typical tasks. Here is an example of one of my responsibilities,

Presented here is the #HunTea series, one of the most fun projects of the summer. With HunTea, I had the complete creative freedom to make high quality video productions (via TikTok) on any topic of my desire. Also launched on Instagram Reels, I would write scripts and film these videos, which were posted weekly. The best part of making these videos was seeing people enjoy them as much as we did when filming. Trust me, the filming of these videos made for a lot of laughter. 

To bring me back to earth once my TikTok fame went to my head, I assisted in preparing for Buffys 2021 (Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards.) As Buffy season rolled around, tasks were given to me such as transcribing audio nominations, assembling nominee graphics, and creating a social media post schedule for all the nominees. As I completed various tasks, I began to witness excitement for the Buffys grow in the office. 

I also sat in many meetings like the interns you see in the movies. Except I didn’t get that full experience: I never got kicked out, or sent to pick up dry cleaning. Whew! Though, I would say I fulfilled my duties of being the pesky intern, as shown in this TikTok: How not to get in the way of filming. 

TikTok never lied. I truly had to badger everyone to participate in them. It was great to have natural actors at hand. A perk of working among artists! 

Additionally, I wrote a couple of blog posts for the ACWB blog (including this one). My first blog post was a highlight of why art is crucial to rural communities. As a person who grew up in a rural community, I was pleased to see other rural community members reciprocate their passion towards the arts. Here is me shamelessly linking to my beautifully written story.

On a serious note, a huge benefit of working at Arts Council was being able to see artists in their element. Many artists stopped by to drop off their artwork. Some even performed for an upcoming documentary and I was fortunate enough to see artists loving what they do. Watching artists at their craft enabled me to appreciate every artistic discipline.  

While working at the Arts Council, I gained an understanding of many different programs that I didn’t know they offered. There are many opportunities for artists to be showcased, such as Art of Conversation, Arts Incubator (coming soon), Marketplace, and more that I had no clue about. It was fascinating to learn about all of them – they really offer something for everyone. 

This brings me to my last order of business. Before I leave Arts Council, I truly want to promote it. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the arts, start at Arts Council Wood Buffalo. They have created a supportive environment for all artists and will encourage your growth. This is me speaking from experience. To learn more go to their website (artscouncilwb.ca) or follow them on social media: @artscouncilwb. 

Thank you to all of the staff, especially the ones that participated in the TikTok-making process! Thank you for having me! 🙂

September 7, 2021

Celebrate Alberta Culture Days in Wood Buffalo

Arts Council Wood Buffalo is excited to announce Alberta Culture Days and Month of the Artist celebrations running in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo for the month of September.

Alberta Culture Days is a province-wide celebration of arts, heritage, diversity and community spirit, and includes a series of free online and in-person events. Local events include workshops, live music, theatre, video, masquerades, and more. Visit rmwb.ca/culturedays to see event details.

“Alberta has a rich and diverse culture worth celebrating and sharing with others,” said Ron Orr, Minister of Culture for the province. “The arts community and municipality have put together an exceptional lineup of events for the Wood Buffalo region. I encourage everyone to get out, enjoy the fun and support local artists this month.”

September is also Month of the Artist in Alberta. Alberta is the first and remains the only province in Canada to dedicate a month to artists. It is an annual celebration of artists, and the value they bring to the province, both socially and economically.

“We’re proud to take part in this collaborative celebration of arts and culture,” said Liana Wheeldon, Executive Director for Arts Council Wood Buffalo. “ACWB has been identified as a Feature Celebration Site for Alberta Culture Days, and we also sit on the Alberta Culture Days Community Planning Committee. This year, we secured grant funding to support 10 different groups who will be putting on events throughout September.” 

Arts Council Wood Buffalo will be recognizing Alberta Culture Days and Month of the Artist through social media (@artscouncilwb), as well as celebrating Art of Conversation participants with St. Aidan’s Society at an event on Arts & Aging Day, which falls on September 24.

Funding for Alberta Culture Days has been provided by the Government of Alberta and Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) is a non-profit society and charitable organization that supports the growth and success of the arts in Wood Buffalo. ACWB was established to raise the profile of the arts in our region and to provide support to all facets of the arts community.

September 1, 2021

Five Reasons Why Art is Crucial to Rural Communities

By Hunter Pratt, ACWB 2021 Summer Communications Intern

Gregoire Lake – Photo supplied by Nicholas Vardy Photography

Growing up in the rural community of Anzac, I have learned the importance of having art around. Anzac, as small as it is, makes up for its size with the people that live here. My community has had many art-related events in the past, which prove time and time again how art brings us together. However, I believe that these events should not just be for special occasions. I believe rural communities should have year-round access to the arts. Local artists in the area should not have to wait months for the next dance class or market just to express themselves. Living in a rural community should not be cause for limited creativity. If anything, living in a small community should enhance creativity.

Here are five reasons why art is crucial to rural communities:

  1. Art creates bonds.  Depending on situations, elders and seniors in rural communities often live alone. Having an outlet for community members, like a painting class, can improve one’s mental health. Art allows people to meet others where they can bond over shared interests. Not to mention certain arts like beading and cooking can create bonds between old and young, which is crucial to rural communities for passing down traditions.
  1. Art tells the stories of our rich history. Rural communities often have the most interesting stories as to how they came to be. Having artists in our communities can allow them to learn the history and create art that encapsulates it. It is important to keep the history known, and art plays a crucial role in how younger generations can learn from it.
Anzac – Photo supplied by Hunter Pratt

3. Art captures the beauty of our surroundings that only locals see.  Small communities do not get enough praise for keeping natural habitats preserved. Not only are wetlands and lakes key for species’ survival, they are natural art pieces that are often overlooked. These natural art pieces are often in rural areas. I encourage anyone that lives near to these, to use their creativity and make art of them. For art is the only way to truly capture the beauty of nature.

Gregoire Lake – Photo supplied by Nicholas Vardy Photography

4. You never know where you’ll find your passion. Having access to the arts in local areas can allow people to find their passion. People in rural areas are often overlooked for opportunities due to their isolated location. By giving people in rural communities a chance to try different arts, new passions will surely be discovered. This is crucial for boosting community morale and creating improvement.

5. Mental health.  Mental health is important, especially when you live in a rural area. It is important to take care of yourself, and art is a perfect way to do so. Art is more than just enjoyable. Art can act as a stress reliever. Art conveys emotions for you when you feel unheard and need to express yourself. Having opportunities to practice art forms should not be neglected in rural communities. Having more accessibility to art can make a community thrive and improve mental health and quality of life.

What can we do?  In order to implement the significance of these principles, we must take action. I strongly urge everyone to create from the resources available. Community members, natural habitats, and history are all great resources to be put to use. Find your inner artist and create from your community. As stated previously, living in a rural community should not be cause for limited creativity, it should enhance it. In closing, art is crucial to all rural communities for growth, culture, improvement and many more reasons. We have the space to create, now we must do so!

Learn more about the arts in Wood Buffalo and opportunities for local artists (including our rural communities) at artscouncilwb.ca, or follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on social media @artscouncilwb.

August 3, 2021

ACWB Annual General Meeting: June 24, 2021

Please join us at our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday, June 24, 2021, via Zoom webinar from 6:30 – 8 p.m. Save the date and bring some snacks as we highlight the successes of 2020 and look forward to what’s in store for 2021. 

Register for free through Eventbrite

Your participation is essential to vote on brand new bylaws for Arts Council. Participate by attending the AGM or by sending in your Proxy Voting Form

Link to AGM Zoom Meeting

Why Attend the AGM?

In addition to learning about what Arts Council has been doing for the local arts community, here’s what you can expect and why you should attend:

Register for free through Eventbrite

Is Your Membership Up to Date?

All members in good standing (i.e., membership must be active and up to date) will receive a link to the AGM Zoom webinar via a reminder email sent out June 21, 2021, and again on the day of the AGM.

Only active members are eligible to vote. Please be sure your membership is up to date and active. If you’re not sure, contact Akshaya Lakshmi at [email protected].

Agenda Package & Documentation

Click the following links to find the 2020 AGM Agenda Package2020 Approved Financial Statements and 2020 Annual Report.

New Bylaws – Priority

This year, ACWB will be voting on a new set of bylaws to help streamline the organization and make Arts Council even better. (Yes, it seems hard to believe that Arts Council can get better, but there’s always room for growth). The way the current bylaws are written, it is necessary that at least 156 members be in attendance or vote by proxy for Arts Council to pass the new bylaws. See the proposed new bylaws in the 2020 AGM Agenda Package.

Why does Arts Council need new bylaws?

As Bob Dylan would say, “the times they are a-changin.'” New bylaws will help ACWB adapt to the changing trends in board governance and technology to allow for things like electronic communication and voting. New bylaws will also help the ACWB Board of Directors to more efficiently transact their business while continuing to follow the legislation outlined by the Provincial Government.

Why is this important for you as an ACWB member?

As an ACWB member, it is your right to vote on new bylaws and understand what new bylaws will mean for Arts Council and its membership. You are entitled to attend the AGM and vote, or you can submit a Proxy Voting Form.

View a summary of changes highlighting the difference between the current bylaws and the proposed bylaws.

Proxy Voting Forms

All ACWB Members are encouraged to submit a Proxy Voting Form even if you plan to attend the meeting. The way the current bylaws are written, it is necessary that at least 156 members be in attendance or vote by proxy for Arts Council to pass the new bylaws. 

Complete your Proxy Voting Form and return it by June 24 at 12 p.m. (NOON) via email to [email protected].

Any questions?

Contact [email protected]

We look forward to seeing you there.

Link to AGM Zoom Meeting

June 1, 2021

Statement of Sympathy

Arts Council Wood Buffalo has spent time listening, learning and reflecting on the recent discovery at a former Indigenous Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia. We’ve taken time to think about the impact of this news on Indigenous people across Turtle Island and in our own community.

There are no words that can truly address the loss and hurt associated with this discovery, but we feel the need to say something just the same.

With respect and sympathy from the Board of Directors and Staff of Arts Council Wood Buffalo, we wish to express our sincere condolences to the families of the children and to the people of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community. 

We also extend our respect and sympathy to all of the communities, families and children that have been affected by losses due to residential schools. This discovery in Kamloops reflects 215 children, but there are many more that have been found and countless that have not. 

We continue to listen to your stories. 

We are committed to taking the time to reflect and identify the most meaningful way to inform and equip our team to recognize the struggles that are very real for so many members of our community, and to respond in a way that demonstrates our commitment to truth and reconciliation.

The arts are a powerful tool to educate us and give a voice to those affected by residential schools. The arts empower, activate, heal, inspire, and enrich us. The arts connect us and are an integral part of healthy communities. Arts Council Wood Buffalo will continue to work with all artists and community members to support the growth and success of a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive arts community.

May 31, 2021

Virtual Red River Jigging Contest Swings Through Fort Chipewyan

From February 1 until February 14, virtual jigging videos filled the Facebook dance floor in the Arts Council Fort Chipewyan Community Group. 

Living rooms turned into virtual dance halls with gorgeous fiddle music and cheers from virtual audiences filming the dancers competing for cash prizes in Fort Chipewyan’s very first Virtual Red River Jigging Contest.

Arts Council Wood Buffalo partnered up with Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation to host the contest and encourage some healthy competition between community members to see who has the best jigging skills. 

During the competition, 24 jigging videos were submitted for five categories including Elders, Adults, Teens, Youths, and even Tiny Tots. Dancers’ ages ranged from 72 years old to 9 months old. One submission included a jigging puppy. (The puppy was disqualified for going over the limit of two legs per dancer.)

Some dancers chose a more subdued performance, wearing moccasins and sweatpants, or having the camera focused on their fancy footwork. Other dancers took the opportunity to showcase their traditional attire and proudly displayed their Nation’s flags, banners and artwork. 

Throughout the videos, sashes and tassels swayed to the jiggers’ feet, and dancers’ smiles blazed as they swung to the fiddles for virtual audiences.

The contest kicked off with a virtual dancing lesson on the Red River Jig by Donna Aubichon, Rural Arts Support Liaison for Arts Council Wood Buffalo.

The Red River Jig is a proper name attributed to both the Canadian Métis and the First Nations in reference to a traditional dance and accompanying fiddle tune. 

Jigging is influenced by the dance styles of the Métis, Scottish, Irish, French and First Nations ancestors. The Red River Jig, accompanied by a single fiddle or a larger band, is up-tempo and energetic, with extra and irregular beats to make the music lively and fast.

Métis jigging originated in the Red River area, which straddles the North Dakota-Minnesota border and flows northward into Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

The jig a combination of First Nations dancing, and Scottish and French-Canadian step-dancing, and reel, jig and quadrille steps. Some of the more popular jigs are the “Red River Jig,” the “Rabbit Dance,” the “Broom Dance” and the “Sash Dance.”

The Red River Jig means a lot to the community of Fort Chipewyan. Elders love to watch the young ones dance and the young ones love to watch and learn from their Elders when they dance. The Red River Jig is a tradition for the community and a huge part of the local culture.

“At any gathering you can be sure that some jigging is going to happen,” said Donna Aubichon. “It’s one of the highlights of the night, so to be able to host a virtual jigging contest for our community was very exciting. We had great feedback from the community.”

Winners were announced on February 19 and $1,400 was awarded in prizes thanks to the generosity of Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation who donated the prizes.

Even though the dances were filmed separately from the homes of participants, as social media filled with videos, the community came closer together in the spirit of dance, music and friendly competition. 

Teen winner, Rayelle Lizotte and Elders Winner, Marina Stewart

Connect to the local arts community and follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn (@artscouncilwb), or visit ACWB’s website and become a member at artscouncilwb.ca for arts information, resources, opportunities and benefits.

May 27, 2021

ACWB and St. Aidan’s Society Launch another round of Art of Conversation

Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) is teaming up with St. Aidan’s Society for another round of Art of Conversation, a collaborative project that brings Artists, Seniors, and Elders together to create art from a distance.


Opportunities are now open for Artists of all disciplines, as well as Seniors and Elders (+60 years of age). ACWB will be commissioning Artists based on accepted applications, and registering Seniors and Elders until all spots are filled.

This project provides an opportunity for Wood Buffalo Artists to work together with Seniors and Elders across the region over the phone to create artistic projects of their choosing based on their conversations.


“In April 2020, we teamed up with St. Aidan’s Society to launch Art of Conversation with the goal of engaging Seniors and Elders in the arts,” said Programs Manager, Luay Eljamal. “Based on the artwork created, and the reactions from participants, we soon knew we were on to something special for our community.”


The pandemic made the project more important than ever as art helps participants make personal connections, enhance their health and mental well-being, and overcome feelings of isolation — despite physical distancing.


Since the project was launched, there have been 36 pairings (31 artists and 34 Seniors and Elders), works of art have been installed in the Art of Conversation virtual art exhibit, local production company Twisted Gears Studios produced 14 testimonial videos, and a one-hour documentary by Bamboo Shoots and Telus has just been released on Arts Council’s YouTube channel.


Perhaps most importantly, 89% of surveyed participants felt more connected to the community as a result of Art of Conversation. All Artists expressed an improved understanding and appreciation of Seniors and Elders.


“I thought I was doing it to support the artists, not realizing how much I would gain from the discussions and the resulting poetry,” said Hope, participating Senior. “I probably wouldn’t have signed up in normal times, but in the early self-isolation times of spring 2020, and with so many of my friends and relations still working or teaching from home and with limited time to offer me, the chance to meet an artist for a chat was very appealing.”

“We couldn’t have brought Art of Conversation back to the community without the generous support of Suncor and the New Horizons for Seniors Program by the Government of Canada,” says Executive Director, Liana Wheeldon. “It has been incredibly rewarding to see the impacts of this project on participants, and we look forward to seeing what grows out of this round of conversations.”

Eligibilities
● Artists must be Wood Buffalo residents for the duration of the project.
● Seniors and Elders must be Wood Buffalo residents, 60 years of age and over.

Learn more about the Art of Conversation initiative and application requirements in the Opportunities & Calls section of Arts Council’s website.


Help support this project by purchasing an Art of Conversation mug through Arts Council’s Marketplace. Choose from five mugs featuring art created during the project.


See what the conversation is all about and admire the artwork created during this project in the Art of Conversation Virtual Exhibit.

Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) is a non-profit society and charitable organization that supports the growth and success of the arts in Wood Buffalo. ACWB was established to raise the profile of the arts in our region and to provide support to all facets of the arts community.

May 19, 2021

Applications Now Open for Fall Residency: Suncor Indigenous Artist

Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) is now accepting applications for the Suncor Indigenous Artist Program until June 30, 2021 at 12PM.

The Suncor Indigenous Artist Program supports one Indigenous artist within ACWB’s Artist in Residency program. This iteration of the program will run for three to four weeks between September and December, 2021.

ACWB is encouraging Indigenous artists from across Wood Buffalo and Canada to apply for this opportunity.

“We would like to thank Suncor for their generous support of the Suncor Indigenous Artist Program,” said Executive Director, Liana Wheeldon. “We are proud to be part of a collaborative project that supports the preservation and expression of Indigenous art and culture in our region.”

Much like the Artist in Residency program, the Suncor Indigenous Artist Program follows the traditional residency model and is based on the idea of making art and engaging with the community through art. Applicants’ artforms could range from Dance, Literary Arts, Media, Music, Performance or Visual Arts. ACWB also welcomes applications from artists who feel that they belong to other artforms. The selected artist may choose to focus on traditional or non-traditional Indigenous art forms.

“We are excited to welcome the incoming artist to our region and support them with the development of their original work while they mentor local artists at the same time,” said Programs Manager, Luay Eljamal. “This is an excellent opportunity to expose our community to Indigenous cultures both within and beyond the boundaries of Treaty 8 Territory.”

The selected artist will spend time creating work inspired by the environment, culture and people of Wood Buffalo. The selected artist will have an artistic career based on using traditional knowledge, skills and materials to create new works of art.

Arts Council will act as host to the selected artist for their time in the Wood Buffalo region. This typically includes arranging long-term accommodations, providing creative/studio space (in partnership with other organizations), administrative support, consultative services, and covering costs for the aforementioned items, as well as a per diem, and any materials and supplies that the artist may need for the duration of their residency.

Health and safety best practices to reduce the risks of COVID-19 will also be followed based on recommendations from the Government of Alberta.

Visit the ACWB’s Artist in Residency webpage for details, timelines, submission criteria, FAQ’s and the Artist in Residency Handbook. For more information or submit a proposal, please contact Nick Vardy at [email protected] or (780) 742-5887.

May 7, 2021

May 2021 Centre Stage with Tasheena Rae

Tasheena Campbell comes from a very strong, talented family. “They taught me that if I want something bad enough, I need to go for it and claim what is mine.”

Taking her family’s advice to heart, Tasheena has a simple recipe for her success: “First, I see it. Second, I learn it, and then I do it.”

“When I was young, I always knew I was destined for something great,” said Tasheena. She began by expressing herself through writing. Now at age 26, she has blossomed as an artist, and feeds her passion for creativity through beauty and esthetics, as well as music, theatre and videography. 

Based out of Fort Chipewyan, Tasheena is a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, and has been living in the Wood Buffalo region her whole life. “Growing up in Fort Chipewyan isn’t easy for artists. We don’t have many resources, so I taught myself through YouTube and learned from Indigenous artists on social media.”

“I focus on keeping the traditional lifestyle alive by incorporating Indigenous ways and current lifestyle into how I do my business,” said Taneesha. “I own a small beauty business called Beautee Vibes, and I do eyebrows and eyelashes while working on my new videography business, Big Dreams Productions.”  

Not only does Tasheena keep herself busy as an artist and entrepreneur, she also has a one-year-old daughter, “who has such a bright future ahead of her.”

Taneesha’s taste for videography began in high school. “Some of my friends introduced me to music and making videos, and that’s when it hit me that I love art.” 

In February, Tasheena was invited to collaborate with True North Aid for the Ballantyne Project, where she documented the donation of arts and craft supplies, toys and games for youth and elders. Typically, these resources are not readily available in Fort Chipewyan. 

“I was contacted by Arts Council Wood Buffalo to be the videographer,” said Tasheena. “I felt honored to get our community noticed. It was fun to work with our youth and leadership while making this video.”

Watch Tasheena’s video for The Ballantyne Project on Facebook: @TheBallantyneProject

Her reputation as an artist continues to grow, and she has also been invited to be the videographer for an upcoming event with Athabasca Tribal Council for National Indigenous Language Day. “I will be interviewing elders and others who are preserving Indigenous languages.”

“To me, being an artist in Wood Buffalo means being ambitious and getting my work out there as an Indigenous artist,” said Tasheena. “My goal is to give other Indigenous people hope and courage to take the chances to meet new people and go for any opportunity that’s given to them.”

Learn more about Taneesha’s art and beauty business on Facebook @BeauteeVibes or on TikTok @tasheenarae, and keep an eye out for updates on her new videography business, Big Dreams Productions.

Connect to the local arts community and follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn (@artcouncilwb). Become an ACWB member for arts information, artistic development, resources and opportunities!

April 27, 2021

April’s 2021 Centre Stage with Emmalyn Soriano

“I believe in the imperfection of art,” says Emmalyn Soriano. “Imperfection allows us to explore our creativity and encourages us to try arts and writing. Art is for everyone.”

This is the foundation of Emmalyn’s philosophy for her explorations as a painter, poet and photographer. 

Emmalyn in her art studio

“When I was in elementary school, I loved to draw scenery,” says Soriano. “I also joined slogan and poster-making contests, but I never won.” Fortunately, that didn’t stop her. 

Since moving to Fort McMurray in 2014, Soriano has had one of her poems published in Northword Magazine, three poems included in Words in Motion, three paintings displayed in Arts in Motion exhibits, and one of her paintings has been printed for the Municipality’s Street Banner Program. She has also been nominated for a Buffy for Literary Arts as part of ACWB’s annual Excellence in Arts Awards.

Emmalyn’s artwork

Emmalyn is from the Philippines, where she had worked as a Registered Nurse, Nursing Lecturer and Clinical Instructor. Nowadays she works as a Medical Office Assistant, which she considers supportive of her talents.

She has been living in Fort McMurray with her husband, Gudy, for seven years, but finds it very difficult being away from her parents. “That’s why I started painting and taking pictures,” says Soriano. 

“I never thought that I would be able to write poems. I’m not very good with grammar and sentence structure, but it happens. It’s like magic. Life is just full of surprises.”

At the Lake by Emmalyn Soriano

Much like Bob Ross, the classic TV painter and art instructor, Emmalyn sees happy accidents as an opportunity for improvement. 

“Mistakes with color blending, blurred shots, struggles with sentences, grammar, and facing hundreds of rejections are all part of mastering our craft. I keep on submitting my work to artist calls, entertaining rejections, and celebrating invitations for exhibits and paper publications.”

Northern Alberta is quite a different environment from her home in the Philippines, and she draws on the nature found in her new surroundings for inspiration.

“Nature is always the subject of my work,” says Emmalyn. “When I go for a walk, I pick up random pebbles, leaves, flowers and wood chips. Pebbles have unique shapes, like jigsaw puzzle pieces. It’s difficult to put them together to form a figure, but it’s fun and rewarding. I use dried leaves and wood chips as the canvas for my paintings. The challenge is to be gentle, so they don’t break into pieces.”

Emmalyn has a solid appreciation for the local arts community. “There are many opportunities for us to showcase our work and talents, and get recognition as well.”

She leaves us with a few words of wisdom:  “As an artist, don’t give up on your craft, sometimes we lose motivation and focus. Take your time, process, turn that brush/pen into a sword, face your struggles and keep going.”

Learn more about Emmalyn Soriano and her artwork on ACWB’s Artist Directory.

Connect to the local arts community and follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn (@artscouncilwb).

March 25, 2021

March’s 2021 Centre Stage with Andrew & Chris Pottie

Spotlight on Andrew and Chris Pottie

“We grew up in Nova Scotia, where our father played music his whole life,” said Chris Pottie. “That’s where it all started for us musically.”

Andrew and Chris Pottie have established some serious musical roots in Wood Buffalo. You may have seen them performing with their band, The Borderpines, at Tavern on Main, community events such as HomeTown Hockey and YMM Food Fest, or at the intimate theatre show where they released their first album in early 2019. 

“Our music scene in Antigonish, Nova Scotia was unbelievable,” said Chris. “We had an endless supply of local bands and musicians to play with, so we started organizing, promoting and running our own shows at all-ages venues. This really sparked our love for live audio production, which we continue to do here in Fort McMurray.”

Chris came to Fort McMurray in 2009, and Andrew joined him in 2013. While Chris focuses on playing guitar, singing and writing songs, his brother, Andrew, is the perfect complement filling in on drums, percussion, vocals and production.

If you haven’t seen Andrew performing, you may have seen him supplying audio, lighting, and recording services at events of all types. He’s also a drum instructor.

“Due to a lack of regular live events,” said Andrew, “I decided to offer drum lessons to aspiring and early drummers to help them reach their drumming goals.”

“In just the handful of years I’ve been here,” said Andrew, “I already have so many fond memories from being a part of this community – while on the stage, in the crowd, or on the audio controls.”

“We’d normally be performing in town at least once a month,” said Chris. “Our current focus is writing music for a few projects. We do regular livestreams on Twitch since the pandemic started last March, where we’ve been raising money for the FMSPCA.”

“We’re also recording the second The Borderpines album,” said Chris. “We’re expecting to have the album released this spring.”

The Borderpines includes local musicians Bill McCrone on bass (who hails from the same area as the Pottie brothers), Jeremy Rice on guitar, and Amanda Rice on vocals.

“Loose Change is a fun side project where we’ve been creating some drum/bass electronic songs,” said Chris. “This spawned from our Royal Blood set we did for the Tavern Tributes,” a series held at the Tavern on Main through 2018 and 2019 featuring various groups of musicians performing sets of music by preselected bands.

 “I’m also so grateful to have received the Ken Flaherty Music Award at the 2019 Buffys, after being nominated among all my music peers,” said Chris.

Follow Andrew and Chris on Facebook or YouTube (@theborderpines), or catch their shows on Twitch @twitch.tv/borderpines. For drum lessons, contact Andrew at [email protected].

Nominations and self-nominations are now open for artists or groups for the 2021 Buffys. Learn more about the arts awards at artscouncilwb.ca/buffys.

Connect to the local arts community and follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn (@artscouncilwb), or visit the website and become a member for arts information, resources and opportunities.

February 22, 2021