ACWB Blog

Home » Community » ACWB Blog

Multicultural Association and Arts Council Condemn Racist Remarks

Wood Buffalo agencies in solidarity with targeted Indigenous communities 

The Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo (MCA) and Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) express solidarity with Indigenous communities across the region in condemning racist comments at a recent meeting of Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo City Council.

ACWB and MCA are saddened and horrified by racist anti-Indigenous remarks made during the municipality’s public budget meeting as Councillor Dogar M. Shafiq responded to Councillor Kendrick Cardinal’s motion to fund prevention initiatives for Murdered, Missing and Exploited Indigenous Peoples. 

“It is particularly upsetting that this occurred on Treaty 8 land at an official meeting that started with a land acknowledgement,” said MCA’s Vice President Robert Cree, an Indigenous Elder and residential school survivor. “Especially given the recent tragic loss of several Indigenous women in our community who were victims of violence.”

“Our region clearly needs more education,” said Elder Cree. “I ask that the people of Wood Buffalo read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls To Action and think about how they can move each one forward.”

“Hate speech will continue to defile the healing relationships in our community if it is not confronted,” said Jes Croucher, member of Fort McMurray 468 First Nation and ACWB Board Director. “Allyship through reconciliation asks you to walk with Indigenous peoples on the quest for truth. It means listening to Indigenous voices, amplifying Indigenous voices, supporting Indigenous-run initiatives, and standing up for us – even when we are not in the room.” 

“It is the responsibility of the Mayor and each Council Member present to immediately deal with racist and derogatory behaviours when they occur,” said Sara Loutitt, generational member of McMurray Métis and ACWB Board Director, “because ‘silence is compliance’ and adds another layer of injustice to the incident.”

MCA’s response reflects its commitment to Truth and Reconciliation Call To Action No. 93, to work in collaboration with Indigenous organizations to ensure information available for Newcomers to Canada reflects an inclusive history of the diverse Indigenous peoples of Canada. ACWB is committed to reflecting Call To Action 83, which calls for a national strategy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process.


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.

February 4, 2022

Fare-Will: A New Beginning for 2022

As we approach the end of December, it’s almost time to turn the pages of our calendars and begin a new year. For me, I’m excited about what’s to come next year, but I’m also feeling a little emotional as I wrap up 2021 and get ready to start a new chapter of my life.

What’s this new chapter? Well, after nearly two years of working at Arts Council Wood Buffalo, I am leaving my role as Communications Manager and moving on to a new career in public engagement at a different organization.

Before turning the page, I’d like to reflect on the chapter I’ve just finished. If I were to describe this chapter, it would be an inspirational romance. Why? Because I love Arts Council. I love what the organization stands for, I love the people at Arts Council, and I love our arts community (including you, dear reader).

I started at Arts Council in February 2020, just before the pandemic. I had only been working with ACWB for a month when we began working remotely. Oddly enough, I believe that the pandemic inspired us to work harder and smarter, creating programs like Art of Conversation, the cinematic version of the Buffys, and an online Marketplace. We were all very passionate about supporting the community through crazy uncertainty.

You’d think that working remotely would have made it more difficult for us to jell as a team, but I think our mutual love of the arts and our desire for the world to know about the power of art brought us together.

It didn’t take long for me to start building new skills. I began managing the website (including coding, which is pretty scary for an old man like myself), aggregating data into Luay’s super spread sheets, populating a customer relationship management system, learning more about social media and graphic design, and I even got to experience the thrill acting. Yes, acting. I haven’t created an IMDB profile yet, but let’s just say that it was pretty exciting to play the character of Westcott Indigo in Buffys 2021.

Fortunately, I was also able to utilize some of my well-established skills, including dorky puns and terrible jokes. I’m happy to inform you that Akshaya has been practising, so she can carry on the torch of terrible humour into the future. Bravo! I’m proud of you, Lakshmi! “Why don’t you take the rest of the day off?” As Akshaya’s manager, I would often ask her to take the rest of the day off – but would only ask her when the work day had already finished.

We had lots of laughs – often at Luay’s expense, as we would jokingly use one of his favourite words, “aggregate,” and turn it into a virtual drinking game, where we would pretend to drink every time we would use “aggregate” in a sentence. Fortunately, Luay is incredible at making critical paths, but is never critical of anyone. Lucky for us.

We also made fun of Sharon each time she would accidentally pocket-dial us. She quickly earned the nickname of “Instananna” simply because she isn’t afraid of wrestling new technology into submission while maintaining her grandmotherly nature of taking care of everyone.

As far as bosses go, Liana has always been much more of a friend, leader, and inspiration than a boss. “You’re doing a fantastic job, mi Padrona.” I often refer to her as “mi Padrona,” which is Spanish for “my Godmother,” and I actually should have been saying “mi Patrona,” which is Spanish for “my employer” – I guess I had better brush up on my Spanish.

It was only months after I started at ACWB that the team began to grow. Soon, Donna Aubichon joined the team as the Rural Arts Support Liaison in Fort Chipewyan. She’s also our resident firecracker. With Donna advocating for ACWB, the future of the arts is bright in Fort Chipewyan. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for her community.

Nick Vardy also joined the team not long ago, and at 6’6”, Nick is already taking Arts Council to new heights – especially when compared to his manager, Sharon, who stands in at a solid 5-foot 3/4 of an inch. When Nick joined the team, I immediately felt a connection. Not only are we from the same area in Ontario, we’re also both drummers. Right on, brother!

It has been a pleasure working with the team at ACWB (including the Board of Directors, previous staff, and those who went on maternity leave – Christina and Hanna). Nearly everyone I have met in connection with Arts Council has made an impression: ACWB members, collaborators, volunteers, hired artists, and everyone in our creative community.

You have all had some sort of impact on my life story. Before working at Arts Council, I had no idea there were so many artists and creative people in this region. You have inspired me personally, professionally, and in my own artistic practise.

Thank you, Arts Council Wood Buffalo and everyone I have encountered in our arts community. I have gained a new respect for all arts disciplines, and for those who dedicate their time and energy to being creative. You make our region a super cool place to live and be an artist. And for that, I thank you.

As I turn the page to start my next chapter, rest assured that the arts will always be an important theme in my story, and you too, will always be supporting characters.

Even though I won’t be working for Arts Council, I am a proud Arts Champion and ACWB member, and I hope to see you all soon at Arts Inc, the spot for creativity for our community. Don’t forget to donate.

Sincerely,

Will

December 20, 2021

A Month of Giving to the Arts: Nov. 23 – Dec 23

From November 23 until December 23, 2021, ACWB is inviting Wood Buffalo residents, businesses, and organizations to participate in Giving Tuesday on a local scale by becoming an Arts Champion. This movement aims to support the arts in an ongoing response to COVID-19, recovery from flooding in downtown Fort McMurray, and the well-being of residents across the region.

You can support yourself and others through the arts by becoming an ACWB member, sponsor, donor, or volunteer. See below for the six ways you can become an Arts Champion.

Enter to WIN $5,000 for ACWB: Nov. 18 – 29

Enter the GivingTuesday contest to help win $5,000 from CanadaHelps. Tell CanadaHelps what you plan to do to support Arts Council to give us a chance to win a $5,000 donation.

What is Giving Tuesday?

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement, taking place each year after Black Friday. The “Opening day of the giving season,” it’s a time when charities, companies and individuals join together and rally for favourite causes. In the same way that retailers take part in Black Friday, the giving community comes together for GivingTuesday.

Artwork by Liam Legault

Six Ways to Support ACWB

1) Donate to ACWBWe’re a registered charity and you’ll get a tax receipt for donations of $50 and above. Plus that donation will go towards our Membership Bank. See more about the Membership Bank below.

2) Sponsor programs or Awards. You can sponsor an award for the Buffys, ACWB’s annual Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards, held in the Fall each year. Alternavively, you could sponsor one of our existing programs, or pitch a new program that supports the arts community. To pitch a new program idea, contact the ACWB Programs Manager, Luay Eljamal, at [email protected] or (587) 674-1625 ext. 102. To sponsor an award or program, visit our Support Us page to see opportunities.

3) Buy a membership. Buy a membership for yourself or your organization. There are a number of benefits to being a member, including discounts, news and opportunities, consultation services, promotion for your arts practice, access to Marketplace, and much more . In addition, you will be adding to the voice for the arts in Wood Buffalo. Larger numbers means a louder voice when Arts Council advocates for the arts community to all levels of government.

4) Renew your membership. There are plenty of benefits to your membership, including regular newsletters with the inside scoop on opportunities, grants, and artist calls. In 2020, we introduced Marketplace as a free member benefit, so you can have your own online shop on Arts Council’s website. And don’t forget the Artist Directory, where you can upload our artistic profile for the community to see when they are looking to hire local talent.

5) Apply to the Membership Bank. Do you want to become a member, but can’t afford membership fees? Send an email to our Communications and Engagement Coordinator, Akshaya Lakshmi ([email protected]) or call 587-674-1625 x.104 to access the bank of free 1-year memberships. She will get in touch with you so you can register (for free), and we can get your contact information to activate your membership.

The Membership Bank is a “bank” of free ACWB memberships to help ensure everyone can be an ACWB member. Financial donations made to ACWB from November 23 until December 23 will go towards the Membership Bank. This will help make memberships barrier-free, so anyone in the region can have access to the benefits of ACWB membership and be a part of the unified voice for the arts in Wood Buffalo.

6) Volunteer with ACWB. Sometimes we need volunteers help to deliver programs and events. Sign up to be added to our volunteer database. We’ll contact you when we have opportunities.

Not an Artist?

You don’t need to be an artist to be an Arts Champion. All you need is a passion for making our artistic community more inclusive. You don’t even need to identify with the word ‘artist’ to support creativity, culture, conversation, and connection for everyone in the region.

Thank You for Supporting the Arts

On behalf of the ACWB Board of Directors and Staff, thank you for contributing to a remarkable quality of life through the arts by being an Arts Champion.

Questions?

Contact Akshaya Lakshmi, our Communications and Engagement Coordinator at [email protected] or 587-674-1625 ext.104.

November 4, 2020

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.

Imagine an arts incubator in our community. Watch video to spark your imagination.

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