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November 2020’s Centre Stage with Ambreen Ehtisham

The awards for this year’s Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards (also known as the Buffys) were created by local resin artist, Ambreen Ehtisham.

“The awards came out more beautifully than even I had expected,” said Ambreen. “I am honoured that my work has been presented to such amazing local artists in the community.” 

“I got my inspiration from natural geode rocks. I designed the sketch of each award according to the categories. Each award mimics the beauty of geode rocks in different color combinations suitable for that specific award category.”

This year’s arts awards showcase was broadcast on October 17 as a cinematic experience featuring award presentations for fourteen categories. A short video of Ambreen’s creative process and work was also aired during the show.

Originally from Pakistan, Ambreen immigrated to the community in 2005 and is proud to call Fort McMurray her home. She has a loving husband and four beautiful children, but is also keeping herself busy as an artist and entrepreneur.

“I have been passionate about the arts for as long as I can remember,” says Ambreen. “I fell in love with resin when I first saw it in one of the workshops I attended during my college life. My parents didn’t have the means to let me learn resin arts along with providing for professional education for myself and my siblings. But they certainly instilled in me the spirit of not letting your passion go.”

“After my youngest child started going to school, I was ready to follow my dreams of working with resin, and currently, most of my work is in resin mixed media.”

Locally, Ambreen has been involved in projects such as the 2020 Timeraiser event by FuseSocial, but she’s also expanding to reach an international audience.

“I recently submitted one of my pieces to the International Open Call from Boomer Gallery in London, UK, and my work was accepted into the first round of the competition.”

She is also proud to be one of six ambassadors from around the world for Mrs. ColorBerry, one of the most prestigious brand names in the resin world. 

“This has been a highlight of my work as an artist and is a dream come true,” said Ambreen. “It’s an honor to be a part of this amazing team and represent Fort McMurray and Canada on an international scale.”

Learn more about Ambreen Ehthisham, her art, ordering custom designs, and upcoming projects and events on Facebook (@ambreenehti), Instagram (@ambreen.ehtisham), or her new website:

Visit to learn more about this year’s Arts Awards. Check out the award recipients, nominees, and sponsors. Visit Arts Council Wood Buffalo’s YouTube channel to watch the full awards showcase, including performances from local talent, award presentations, and much more.

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

October 23, 2020

2020 Buffy Awards: Successful Steampunk Celebration of the Arts in Wood Buffalo

Arts Council Wood Buffalo would like to congratulate all  Buffy Award recipients and nominees, and send out a heartfelt thank you to the sponsors, performers,  volunteers, and Arts Champions that made the 2020 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards a raving  success. 

“We are so grateful to all event sponsors: In-Kind Midnight Event Sponsor, Fort McMurray International Airport; Presenting Sponsors, Suncor, and the Friends of the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts; Media Sponsors, Country 93.3, and 100.5 Cruz FM and Mix 103.7; and Supporting Sponsor, Staples. Thank you for believing in the Arts Awards and for continuing to support the community through this recognition event,” said Executive Director, Liana Wheeldon.  

The Excellence in Arts Awards (also known as The Buffys) premiered for free on October 17 as an online  cinematic experience. The full broadcast is still available on Facebook and YouTube.  

Buffys watch parties were held all across the region in place of a live event this year. In Fort Chipewyan,  Donna Aubichon, ACWB Rural Art Support Liaison, hosted a watch party for Elders in the community,  observing health and safety protocols. 

“The Wood Buffalo region has an incredible amount of talent in all shapes and sizes,”said Luay Eljamal, Programs Manager. “Thank you to everyone who nominated an artist or group for an award and to  those who took the time to submit their nomination materials. We also want to thank all the artists and  performers who responded to artist calls for this event, and the volunteers who helped while we  recorded the show. The Buffys serve as a good opportunity for everyone to reflect on their artistic  practice, and be recognized for their contributions to our region.” 

Presented by Arts Council Wood Buffalo, the theme for the awards showcase was Midnight Steampunk  and celebrated local artists and arts organizations. This year, the arts community recognized 85  nominees through 14 virtual award presentations, including the Lifetime Achievement Award that went  to Tantoo Cardinal, and the Arts Champion Award that went to Florence Weber of Points North Gallery. 

The Buffy Awards themselves were handcrafted works of resin art created by local artist, Ambreen Ehtisham. Each award mimicked the beauty of geode rocks in different color combinations suitable for  each specific award category.

The awards showcase also featured a number of collaborative performances by local talent and a  raucous steampunk storyline written by Elizabeth Wells and Zachary Barrett, who hosted the show.  Performances included a diverse range of dance pieces, original and classic music, comedy, and theatre  supported by visual arts, functional sets, costumes, props and puppets, all of which were tied together  by local video artists Matthew Lorenz, Matthew Piercey, and Neville Video Productions to create a cinematic steampunk experience. 

Midnight-Steampunk-themed Gear Bags and Buffy Stuffys are still available through Eventbrite. Buffy Stuffys are limited edition, collectible plush toys modelled off each year’s event theme. This year’s Buffy Stuffy is Wendell the Raven, who is modelled off one of the Midnight Steampunk characters designed by  local artist Rob Hickey. Canvas Gear Bags are loaded with a candy sack (in the style of the annual candy  bar), acrylic drink coaster, ACWB face mask, Buffys pin, event program, and sticker.  

Participate by buying this unique memorabilia. All proceeds will go towards supporting future Buffy Award showcase events and celebrations. Opportunities to support the 2021 Buffy Awards through sponsorships or donations are open now.  

Check out and continue to share Buffy experiences on social media using hashtags #buffys2020 and  #ymmartstogether. For the full list of award recipients and nominees, sponsors and support opportunities, and for more  information about Arts Council and the Buffys, visit

October 19, 2020

October 2020’s Centre Stage with Rob Hickey

The 2020 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards are set to air on October 17, and the graphics for this year’s steampunk theme were created by local illustrator and comic artist, Rob Hickey.

“I was very excited to work on the Arts Awards, because steampunk is such a cool and challenging theme,” said Hickey, “but I knew I could nail it. I wanted to find a balance between honouring the chaos and detail demanded for a steampunk aesthetic, while creating graphics that were clear, readable and easy on the eyes.”

Rob Hickey was born and raised in Fort McMurray. “Other than some college courses in Toronto, I’ve lived and worked here my whole life.”  

As an artist, the medium that interests Hickey the most is storytelling and comics. “I am an illustrator and sequential artist with a specific focus on telling stories with LGBT characters.”

“I loved cartoons as a kid and I’ve been drawing as far back as I can remember. I was introduced to a large and diverse artist community online as a teen, and I’ve been involved with and inspired by it ever since.”

When Hickey isn’t doing freelance digital illustrations for productions such as the 2020 Buffy Awards, they are also the Art Director for Twisted Gears Studios, a local production company. 

“We have two ongoing projects that are returning from COVID-related hiatus. They’re great fun for me because they are ‘actual play’ podcasts, which means the work I create for them is decided by the players’ choices and rolls of the dice.”

“Additionally,” says Hickey, “we are planning to film a short, which I am co-writing and directing.”

Working in a smaller community has allowed Hickey to connect with and get to know folks more personally than they would elsewhere. Hickey is also getting more exposure to different kinds of art. 

“I know painters, crafters, musicians, and videographers here. I’ve had the opportunity to try out different things because of this, like the above mentioned short film. This small community has been a great help in regards to looking for work and projects as well. Word of mouth certainly goes far here.  That’s how I’ve gotten most of my work.”

“We are facing such tough times here,” says Hickey, “but there are many incredible people pushing for more engagement and connection between different groups of artists and with the city at large.”

See Hickey’s geared-up graphics and characters embedded throughout the 2020 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards on October 17. You can also keep up to date with their projects and artistic endeavours at or

Visit for details on where to watch this year’s cinematic steampunk Buffy Awards experience via Facebook, YouTube, or Shaw Spotlight. Connect to the local arts community and follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn (@artscouncilwb).

September 28, 2020

Month of the Artist

Did you know September is Month of the Artist in Alberta?

Did you also know that Alberta is the first and remains the only province in Canada to dedicate a month to artists?

Month of the Artist is an annual celebration of artists and the value they bring to the province, both socially and economically.

Now let’s take a few minutes to do what artists do best: use our imagination!

Can you imagine space in Wood Buffalo that is a dedicated centre for artists to gather and work on their craft? What if that same space was also a venue for performances of all disciplines? How about a workshop space for artistic and professional development, a place to showcase the creations made by local talent, and for the community to gather and celebrate creative energy?

Are you still with me? 

Now let’s imagine that same place could also be used to host events, festivals, markets, and offer opportunities for the community to engage in the arts together.

Can you envision that?

What we have just imagined is an arts incubator. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our community had an arts incubator that could support the arts in the ways we’ve just imagined?

Arts Council Wood Buffalo is currently working on realizing this for our region. We are in the early stages, and you can participate in this process and help shape this idea into a reality. 

You can help by exercising your imagination and sharing your thoughts in ACWB’s Arts Incubator survey.  Open until October 6th, 2020, you can take the Arts Incubator survey and share it with your friends, family, colleagues, and social media followers. Your feedback will help identify what is needed in this arts incubator and who will use it. This information can then be used as we study the former Landmark Cinemas theatre on Manning Avenue to see if that space could be re-purposed into an arts incubator for the community.

Your feedback will help show potential funders, community leaders and decision makers that we need an arts incubator in the community. Your feedback will help Arts Council Wood Buffalo when we apply for grants, funding opportunities, sponsorships and other support needed to realize this arts incubator we have just imagined.

Let’s celebrate Month of the Artist by showing Alberta and Canada that it’s a year-round event in Wood Buffalo.

Fill out the survey here by October 6.  Learn more about our plans for the arts incubator here

Arts Incubator Survey – Share Your Feedback on Proposed New Facility for Wood Buffalo

From Sept. 16 until Oct. 6, Arts Council is inviting artists, residents, businesses and industry to take a short survey and share feedback on an arts incubator facility proposed for the Landmark Cinema 6 building in downtown Fort McMurray.

The survey runs until Oct. 6, and feedback will help inform plans to remodel the old cinema into an arts incubator space that can support and nurture a diverse range of arts and culture.

“An arts incubator is a purpose-built space that can be used as a centre for artists to gather and work,” said Special Projects Manager, Sharon Heading, “but it’s much more than that. We envision it as a venue for performances, workshops and showcases, as a community gathering space, and as a place to host events and festivals that offer a broad opportunity for engagement with the arts.”

“Earlier this year we began working with Akron Engineering on a feasibility study,” said Executive Director, Liana Wheeldon. “Funding has been provided by Community Foundations of Canada via the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) to determine if and how the cinema building could be repurposed for an arts incubator. Now we’re ready to engage with the public to get feedback on the project and evaluate the benefits for everyone in our region.”

Feedback from the community will help identify ways to complement strategic goals and priorities for economic development and downtown revitalization, enhance artistic and cultural outlets, and provide more local options for education and entertainment.

The survey will also help Arts Council learn more about the demographics of the arts community, assess needs for programming and infrastructure, and share information about how arts incubators can benefit communities and local economies. Examples of arts incubators include cSPACE King Edward in Calgary, or Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design.

ACWB is not able to include feedback made on social media in the engagement results. Everyone is encouraged to provide feedback in the survey, so it can be included in engagement results and help inform decision making. 

Next steps for the proposed arts incubator include evaluating feedback from the community and the feasibility study provided by Akron Engineering due in fall 2020. Results will be shared when available.

Follow ACWB on social media (@artscouncilwb) or visit the Arts Council Wood Buffalo website regularly for ongoing updates and news about the proposed arts incubator.


Q – What’s an arts incubator?

A – 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.

Q – Where will the arts incubator be located?

A – The feasibility study is based on the former Landmark Cinemas building in the heart of downtown on Manning Avenue.

Q – Why did you choose that location?

A – 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 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 the municipal government’s public engagement 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 – Funding for the feasibility study has been provided by Community Foundations of Canada via the Investment Readiness Program (IRP).

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 Fund Development Plan and Capital Fundraising Campaign. 

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 or funding to pay for the arts incubator?

A – Arts Council has not requested or received municipal funding to pay for this project. However, Arts Council is always open to discuss opportunities, synergies and ways to complement strategic planning for the benefit of everyone in the region.

Q – I live in a rural Indigenous 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 the “spoke and hub model” to provide services to rural and Indigenous communities.  The Artist in Residency program could be inclusive of the rural areas. For example, 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.

You can also help by participating in the Arts Incubator Survey (open until Oct. 6, 2020) or in any other potential public engagement opportunities. Follow Arts Council on social media (@artscouncilwb) or visit the ACWB website regularly for updates and information.

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

A – Part of the feasibility study is determining the cost of this project, including renovations, purchasing the property and operations.

Q – How much does the cinema property cost?

A – Fair market value will be assessed if the feasibility study indicates that this project is viable.

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, sponsorship and donors.

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

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.)

September 16, 2020

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday – May 5, 2020

#GivingTuesdayNow is a global day of giving and unity. On May 5, 2020, all Canadians are invited to demonstrate the power of kindness and generosity as part of an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.

Giving Tuesday through the Arts in Wood Buffalo

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 ongoing response to COVID-19, recovery from flooding in downtown Fort McMurray, and the well-being of residents across the region.

Creativity and artistic activities are effective strategies for making sense of chaos. You can support yourself and others through the arts by being an ACWB member, sponsor, donor, or volunteer. Take part in this regional movement and ACW-Be an Arts Champion for Wood Buffalo.

What is an Arts Champion?

An Arts Champion for the Wood Buffalo region is an ACWB member, sponsor, donor, or volunteer. See below for the six ways you can become an Arts Champion.

Why be an Arts Champion?

Countless studies show that the arts contribute to a better quality of life. Arts and creativity also provide opportunity for professional development, and healthy ways to bring communities together – even at a distance.

The arts help make a space for everyone’s voice. We can all be part of the conversations that will make our lives better and create equal access to programming in our region, so we are all on equal footing to be successful.

The support of Arts Champions will help ACWB advocate to all levels of government for the arts. In addition, Arts Champions help ACWB to work with other arts organizations across the province and country to support the Wood Buffalo region. 

Not an Artist, but want to be an Arts Champion?

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.

ACWB Membership Bank

Everyone can be an Arts Champion, but not everyone has the financial means to support the arts. So we have created a new Membership Bank to help ensure everyone can be an Arts Champion. Financial donations made to ACWB in May 2020 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.

How to Access the Membership Bank

Are you a Wood Buffalo resident with a desire to be an Arts Champion? Send an email to the ACWB Engagement Coordinator, Hanna Fridhed, at [email protected] or call 587-674-1625 x.101 to access the bank of free 1-year memberships. He will get in touch with you so you can register (for free), and we can get your contact information to activate your membership.

Tax Benefits for Donations

Financial donations to the Membership Bank will result in two things: 1) membership opportunities for those that don’t currently have a membership; 2) a tax receipt for donations of $50 and more, so it can be claimed on your tax return.

Six Ways to be an Arts Champion

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. Click on the PayPal icon below to donate.

2) Sponsor programs or Awards. You can sponsor an award for the annual Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards (held in the Fall each year). You or your business can 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. Due to the financial pressures on the community from the COVID-19 situation, we are deferring active membership renewal payments until November 30, 2020. You will remain an active member until then, and we’ll follow up with you in November to help you stay connected to the arts community. However, you’re also welcome to pay for your membership renewal should it come up before November.

5) Apply to the Membership Bank. Do you want to become a member, but can’t afford membership fees? Send an email to the ACWB Engagement Coordinator, Hanna Fridhed, at [email protected] or call 587-674-1625 x.101 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.

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.

Thank You for being an Arts Champion

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 about how to ACW-Be an Arts Champion?

Contact the ACWB Engagement Coordinator, Hanna Fridhed, at [email protected] or 587-674-1625 ext.101.

May 1, 2020

Arts Council’s liaison program connects artists in rural, Indigenous communities

When Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) announced they were looking for a liaison to support the arts in Wood Buffalo’s Indigenous communities, Jules Nokohoo’s interest piqued.

He is now one of two rural arts support liaisons hired in the past two months. The positions are funded with a municipal grant aimed at strengthening the bonds between rural and urban artists.

“As support liaison, I look around and see what I can find,” said Nokohoo, who lives in Janvier and has done liaison work with the municipality. “I’ll showcase people’s art and possibly help them to promote it and to become self-sustaining.”

Liana Wheeldon, executive director for ACWB, said the organization’s small staff makes it difficult for them to give support to rural artists.

Even if they could get out to those communities, Wheeldon said staff lacked local cultural knowledge. Relating to a community that was not their home and finding barriers to practicing the arts would be difficult.

ACWB felt the best decision would be to hire people already living in those communities to act as their eyes and ears.

“We really want the person to co-design and co-envision what the arts programming will look like in their community with the community,” said Wheeldon. “They can leverage all the knowledge and workshops that we have built up in our toolkits if they want them.”

Nokohoo will focus on the Janvier and Conklin area. He hopes the ACWB will pursue a partnership with the Father R. Perin School, which is overseen by the Northland School Division.

Workshops held at the school could give young artists access to a pottery machine, a kiln and a welding machine for woodworking.

“In a small community like this, people can fall through the cracks. Kids have to be engaged,” he said. “We have to find creative ways to make this work.”

Jules Nokohoo, the rural art support liaison for the Janvier and Conklin area, in a supplied image from Arts Council Wood Buffalo. Supplied Image/Sharon Heading

Donna Aubichon, the rural art support liaison for Fort Chipewyan, hopes to bring that same creativity to her own community. She says the hamlet is packed with strong artists with a talent for sewing, beading and music.

“I had a stepping stone coming into my job. I knew who to go to for workshops,” she said. “It’s not like I have a hard time finding an artist to do a job in Fort Chipewyan.”

Activities organized by Aubichon have included a beading workshop that she instructed. Youth in Fort Chipewyan also had the opportunity to write and produce their own music video.

“I never thought picking up two needles and a thread would change my life but it has,” said Aubichon. “I love gathering and bringing people together to make something.”

As a result of Aubichon’s work, Wheeldon said a larger number of artists from Fort Chipewyan have been recognized for the first time in the Buffy’s, ACWB’s annual arts awards.

Aubichon says her position has provided an outlet for local artists to showcase skills in a new way.

“This is how they were raised, this is their culture and it’s their whole life,” she said.

Article published in Fort McMurray Today by Sarah Williscraft
Published on: September 10, 2020

September 14, 2020

2020 Arts Awards: Get your Gear Bag & collectible Buffy Stuffy

Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) is inviting artists, supporters and residents to order their Buffy Stuffy and Steampunk Gear Bag.  Visit Eventbrite to buy Steampunk Gear in preparation for the 2020 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards on October 17. 

“This year, the Arts Awards are going to be a little different,” said Programs Manager, Luay Eljamal.  “Arts Council is hosting a cinematic Steampunk Buffys experience that will be broadcast online through Facebook, YouTube and Shaw Spotlight as a way of as respecting physical distancing while still celebrating and acknowledging all of the amazing talent in the Wood Buffalo region.”

Tickets for the event are free, but viewers are encouraged to visit Eventbrite to reserve their free ticket, buy a Steampunk Gear Bag and Buffy Stuffy (sold separately), or support the Arts Awards by making a donation. 

“We know how important the Awards Showcase event is to artists, sponsors and supporters,” said Executive Director, Liana Wheeldon. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for everyone to participate in the Buffys while they watch the event. This year, we are bringing the Buffys to our audience instead of asking them to come out to the event.”

Arts Council is also introducing the Buffy Stuffy, a brand new Arts Awards tradition. Buffy Stuffys are limited edition, collectible plush toys modelled off each year’s event theme. This year’s Buffy Stuffy is Wendell the Raven, who is modelled off one of the Midnight Steampunk characters designed by local artist Rob Hickey.

The Midnight-Steampunk-themed canvas gear bags are loaded with a candy sack (in the style of the annual candy bar), drink coaster, face mask, Buffys pin, event program and sticker. Buffy Stuffy sold separately.

Buy Steampunk Gear Bags through Eventbrite, and visit to learn more about this year’s 2020 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards, check out the nominees, shortlisted artists, and event sponsors. 

As the October 17 event date approaches, Buffy followers are encouraged to participate by gearing up with steampunk-themed costumes, and sharing photos, congratulations and creations by using #buffys2020 and #ymmartstogether.

September 4, 2020

September 2020’s Centre Stage with Carla White

Spotlight on Carla White by Will Collins, ACWB Communications Coordinator

Local humourist and storyteller, Carla White, shares her philosophy with this quote from George Burns: “Someone who makes you laugh is a comedian. Someone who makes you think and then laugh is a humourist.”

White is a proud Alberta farm girl who moved to Edmonton for university, then lived and worked in London, England. She settled in Fort McMurray in 1991, where she has had a fruitful career, raised her family, and more recently discovered her artistic side.

As a storyteller, White published her first literary work in 2018, Reignite Your Spark: Simple Steps to Extinguish Stress and Go from Burned Out to Fired Up.

Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul® and The Success Principles™, wrote this about White’s book: “Reignite Your Spark is an insightful and relatable book, in which Carla recounts her journey from the darkness of depression to the light of love and laughter, in which she shares the powerful and meaningful lessons she learned on her search for happiness and fulfillment.”

“For a long time, I never considered myself creative, let alone an artist,” says White. “I did creative projects, but I continuously told myself I wasn’t creative. The idea of self-expression and artistry didn’t happen until I did a LOT of personal development and redefined my idea of both creativity and artist.”

“After writing and publishing my book,” says White, “I attended a writing workshop by Charmaine Hammond in partnership with ACWB. I started to broaden my perspective and realized I was a literary artist.”

Others may know Carla White as the Angry Housewife, her original comedic persona and also the name she gave to her inner critic. Her debut one-woman show called Shut the F❤k Up: Confessions of an Angry Housewife launched in 2018, and is a show of truth, vulnerability and outrageous stories to illustrate the realities and struggles of the modern-day working woman.

White is also the founder of Healing with Humour, a deeply transformational 90-day experience where participants unleash their personal power to heal inner doubts, fears and worries as a way to learn emotional mastery and experience more fun, ease, happiness, and effortless success.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, she continues to find opportunity to grow as an artist. “Not being able to have live events has had me pivot to do more online work, which has a bit of a learning curve.”

From September to December, White is ACWB’s Artist in Residency and will be presenting two workshops: Finding the Funny Faster and Writing & Publishing. Plans are in the works for White’s residency to culminate in a staged reading, so stay tuned for more information. Learn more about White’s projects and performances at, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

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

August 26, 2020

August 2020’s Centre Stage with Shantelle Davidson

Shantelle Davidson’s first memories of being an entertainer made her feel nervous and very excited all at the same time. Even from a young age she knew that music was her purpose, and she needed to pursue it.

“I started singing onstage with my Grandma and her band when I was 6,” said Davidson. “I enjoyed piano, voice and guitar lessons.” She hasn’t looked back in her musical rearview mirror ever since.

Hailing from Rainy River, a small town in Northern Ontario bordering on Minnesota, she grew up singing in church and at local talent shows. Davidson moved to Fort McMurray with her family in 2005. “I remember being so excited to live in a ‘big city.’ I became a part of the arts community, singing in choir, musical theatre, and Keyano Theatre. I’ve been here 15 years.”

Growing up so close to America, it was almost like it was her destiny to spend some time in the south. “One day at Westwood [Community High School], I saw a poster for auditions to The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in Los Angeles, California. I thought I would give it a shot. I couldn’t believe it when I got the acceptance call from AMDA offering me a scholarship.”

Davidson graduated from AMDA in 2008, and spent time in Vancouver working as an actress and recording original music. She later returned to Alberta to record her solo debut album in Calgary, which was released in 2015, earned impressive reviews, and was played on radio stations across Canada and the United States.

As part of her busy musical career, Davidson performed some of her original music at ‘Around the Campfire: Music, Stories & Songs’ in May 2020. Inspired by the traditional Nashville-style guitar pull, she took turns playing songs, and swapping stories and personal recollections with a number of local singer/songwriters, which was streamed live from the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts.

The Guitar Pull “was so fantastic,” said Davidson. “I loved hearing the songs and stories from the other artists, as well as sharing my own. I was just over the moon to take part.”

“I feel so privileged to work and play here,” says Davidson. “Inspired by so many great people in our community, it makes it easy to create. There are so many opportunities. Most of all, I love the way our community supports the arts.”

Despite the uncertain times, Davidson had been recording new music with help from her friends at the District Recording Studio (before the flood), and continued recording new vocals for the project down in Edmonton with Dan Davidson, as well as Clayton Bellamy of The Road Hammers. “It’s a challenging time for everyone. As an artist, I feel called to inspire more than ever.”

Stay tuned for Davidson’s new single “Looking Up,” coming this summer on Canadian Country radio. Keep up to date and listen to her music by following @shantelledavidsonmusic on Instagram, Facebook
and YouTube.

Connect to the local arts community and follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn (@artscouncilwb), or visit the brand new website at

July 24, 2020

July 2020’s Centre Stage with Kritsana Naowakhun

Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, Kritsana Naowakhun has been fascinated with art from a very young age. While his true passion is for painting and visual arts, he is a man of many talents, including cooking Thai and Asian cuisine. 

“To me, culinary arts and visual art can draw many parallels.”

Naowakhun’s first exposure to art was through his grandfather, who had an artistic background as a temple painter in China. “My grandfather would take me to Chinese opera, create beautiful ink drawings of magical creatures, and tell fascinating stories of faraway lands.”

“My mother saw that art gave me joy and purpose.” 

Naowakhun’s family supported him as he studied art through elementary and high school, and he eventually studied sculpture at Silpakorn University, the most prestigious art university in Thailand. “Only 55 people are selected out of thousands who apply, and luckily for me, I was one of those students who was accepted on my first try.”

Kritsana Naowakhun in the studio (Photo supplied by Kritsana Naowakhun)

He came to Fort McMurray in 2012 to start a new life with his Canadian wife, supporting her dream of teaching and creating dance while providing a good life for their children.

“In my artistic journey here in Canada, my first impressions were about the amazing new landscapes and animals I would encounter. After moving to Fort McMurray, I saw the beauty in how so many cultures can coexist while keeping their heritage and connection to the land. I want to express my impressions of the world around me through my Buddhist outlook on life and human nature.”

For the past seven years, Naowakhun has been teaching painting classes at Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts (SECPA) and has developed programming for artists of all ability levels and ages ranging from six to adult. 

Under normal circumstances, he teaches eight classes a week at SECPA. However, he has adapted to the physical distancing practices and teaches virtual painting and drawing classes from home.

Naowakhun has been busy in the local arts community. He has been part of two art shows with local artist, Shauna Kelly, three solo shows at The Kirschner Family Community Art Gallery, two art installations for the igNIGHT public art exhibition, he has painted a fox sculpture along the TOTAL Aboriginal Interpretive Trail at MacDonald Island Park, and he has participated in the local Artist in Residency program.

He has also been active on a provincial scale, participating in the Best of Northern Alberta by Alberta Society of Artists, Beyond the Patch by the Art Gallery of Alberta travelling show, and the New Wave by CARFAC. You can see his show online, or purchase his art at the Bugera Matheson Gallery in Edmonton.

To see or purchase his work, visit Kritsana Naowakhun’s website at, or follow him on Instagram: @artbykritsana. Find his art or classes on Facebook at Art by Kritsana Naowakhun, or Art Class with Kritsana Naowakhun at Suncor Energy for Performing Arts. 

If you’re interested in connecting to the local arts community, follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn (@artscouncilwb), or visit the website at

July 2, 2020

Statement of Solidarity

Arts Council Wood Buffalo has spent time listening, learning, and reflecting on the events in the United States, in Canada, and in our own community, with respect to equality and diversity. As an organization, we continuously strive to better our systems to be inclusive, equitable, and support diversity.  We have made some progress, but we are complicit in the systemic racism that exists when we do not speak out against it.

We support and will show our solidarity for Black and Indigenous artists and acknowledge the trauma that has and is experienced by all BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+, and persons with disabilities. We recognize that intergenerational trauma is real and commit to being part of the change needed to achieve justice and equality.

Our organization has taken 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 inclusion, diversity, and equity.  

The Board of Directors and Staff of Arts Council Wood Buffalo commit to the following:

  • Staff and Board will participate in Indigenous Awareness Training, led by an Indigenous educator and an Elder in July 2020.
  • Staff and Board will participate in Cultural Awareness Training, led by the Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo in October 2020.
  • Staff and Board will continue our reconciliation journey as led by the recommendations of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the teachings of Elders and Indigenous artists who have generously provided counsel.
  • Staff and Board will continue developing policies and practices that allow no room for racism, misogyny, or any other form of discrimination in the execution of our work. ACWB will apply the learnings from the Indigenous and Cultural Awareness Trainings, and from reviewing the Alberta Human Rights Act, into these policies.
  • Staff and Board will actively listen, learn, and continue the conversation.

The arts are a powerful tool to educate us and give a voice to those affected by the struggles of institutionalized discrimination. 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.

Please also see ‘Acknowledgements’ from our website.

June 18, 2020