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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: www.ambreenehtisham.com.

Visit artscouncilwb.ca/buffys 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 www.artscouncilwb.ca for arts information, resources and opportunities.

October 23, 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 www.artscouncilwb.ca.

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 www.kritsana2005.wixsite.com/kritsana-art, 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 www.artscouncilwb.ca.

July 2, 2020