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April’s 2021 Centre Stage with Emmalyn Soriano

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

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

Emmalyn in her art studio

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

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

Emmalyn’s artwork

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

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

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

At the Lake by Emmalyn Soriano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 25, 2021

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

June 2020’s Centre Stage with Tiffany Antinozzi

Considering all that has been happening in the world, artists like Tiffany Antinozzi are essential to the community. “I believe we can heal through creativity, and that’s what I want to share.”

This local visual and healing artist uses her talents to connect with the community and support others. “If I can inspire one person to follow their dream, to try something they always wanted, or to heal a wound, then I am on the right track. I want to inspire people to believe in themselves!”

Antinozzi was born in Montreal and travelled across Canada many times as a youngster. It was through these experiences that she first got into the arts: “When I was younger, we travelled quite a bit, and one of the easiest things I could do anywhere was drawing.”

She spent hours and hours of her youth drawing while on the road. When she was 18 and living in Montreal, her aunt encouraged her to get into painting, gifting Antinozzi with oil paints and canvas. “I have been madly in love with painting ever since.”

She has also been using art to explore and open her mind. “I use essential oils and sacred geometry along with sacred teachings,” says Antinozzi. “My goal is to inspire people to ask the tough questions and to seek out wisdom and authenticity.”

Her family has been coming to Fort McMurray since the 70’s, and in 2007, she moved to the region with her “new little family.” “Since being in Fort McMurray, I have received so much love and support through different projects I have done.”

One such project was a large mural at the Bill Woodward School in Anzac. She painted another project for Pata’s Playhouse, a loving learning space for children on the Fort McMurray No. 468 First Nation Gregoire Lake Reserve. She also completed window paintings for the Salvation Army to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“This project gave me an opportunity to connect with many people I might not have. The gratitude and love I felt from these souls was so special.”

Through her art, she was able to connect to people, to a cause, to her community, and more. “Doing large projects really fuels my fire. I help others by making someone’s vision come to life, but also being part of the community working on important causes.”

Keep an eye out for Antinozzi’s upcoming shows. She’ll be taking part in Alberta Cultures Days in September and has an upcoming show in The Kirschner Family Community Art Gallery at MacDonald Island Park. Follow Tiffany Antinozzi on Facebook to see her art and healing activities: @the-artsy-oiler. If you’re interested in connecting to the local arts community, follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn or visit the website at www.artscouncilwb.ca.

June 8, 2020

COVID-19 restrictions have Fort McMurray artists concerned about long-term support

Original post from Fort McMurray Today on June 3, 2020 and written by Laura Beamish. View original article HERE.

Local arts organizations are concerned about their long-term survival as public health restrictions meant to fight COVID-19 remain. It is not known when those restrictions will lift.

“A lot of theatre artists rely on the theatre arts for their mental health and general well-being. It’s a crucial component in many people’s lives. When we don’t know what the future holds… it can be really difficult,” said Hanna Fridhed, artistic director of the local theatre company Theatre; Just Because.

At the same time, the quarantines have stressed how important the arts are, she argues, as people consume more music, movies and TV shows during the pandemic.

Others have embraced new hobbies, such as photography, painting or playing an instrument. People have posted messages and drawings in the windows of homes or on sidewalks with chalk.

Locally, many artists play live shows or showcase their artwork online.

“That’s where we’ve looked now during this pandemic and isolation and quarantine,” she said. “We look to the arts for an outlet for a means to escape, for a means to connect, to keep us all on the healthier side of the mental health spectrum.”

Financially, Fridhed says the arts scene is going to be facing a tough battle. Support for theatre programs has slowly declined during the past few years, she said, affecting their budgets. At Keyano College, for instance, the theatre cannot afford its $2-million annual operating costs.

“I don’t think it’s because the support isn’t there,” she said. “I think a lot of people don’t know how desperately the support is needed right now and we’re trying to support so many.”

Liana Wheeldon, Executive Director of the Arts Council Wood Buffalo, also hopes the pandemic rouses the community to support local arts.

Wheeldon said competing for grant funding funding in 2021 will be difficult. Fort McMurray will have to compete with the arts scenes in larger cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary for dwindling federal and provincial grants.

The shutdown has also impacted people who make a full-time living off the arts.

When the pandemic shut down Kim Hurley’s Generation Dance Studio she was worried she would be unable to pay more than $10,000 a month for rent.

Some government resources have helped, but she’s had to look at alternative ways to keep her programming going.

Hurley started hosting four daily zoom classes for students. She’s also working with students one-on-one.

However, the studio is located in the basement of the River City Centre, which flooded in April. Hurley says rebuild costs are estimated to be roughly $400,000. Insurance will only cover approximately $60,000.

Some online fundraisers have started, but Hurley is concerned about where she will have classes if the studio has not been repaired when it becomes safe to reopen. For now, Hurley expects the studio to be ready in September.

“It scares me because I think, well I’ll need the clients to have seasonal monthly income in order to afford any place,” she said.

Hurley is looking at other options, including spaces at Keyano Theatre or MacDonald Island Park.

Despite some worries, parents still want to register their children. She is confident the studio will survive, even if the near future is going to be a struggle.

“I need space, I need human interaction. We’re artists, this is what we crave for and you’re not getting fulfilled right now,” she said.

For now, organizations such as Theatre; Just Because and Arts Council Wood Buffalo continue moving programs online.

Along with online courses, the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts is looking at having small, in-person groups as measures get lifted. They’ve also hosted live performances and discussions with musicians.

“If the arts can’t be creative and problem solve, we’re really in trouble, so we’ve been able to rise to that,” said Wheeldon.

June 4, 2020

Flashdance the Musical Hits Keyano Theatre Stage

You don’t need a hot tub or a time machine to go back in time — just head to Keyano College Theatre & Arts Centre from Feb. 14 – 22 for a flashback of 1983 with Flashdance The Musical.

Featuring local talent – both veterans and newbies to the Keyano stage – garbed in glitter, glam, denim and even legwarmers, the costumes themselves are enough to transport audiences to the early 80’s.

We can’t forget the hair – oh, the hair! The musical’s lead actors, Helen Killorn (Alex), and T.J. Carabeo (Nick), who play star-crossed lovers, bantered at the Media Showing on Feb. 12 about whose hair gets more attention in the dressing room. The actors’ playfulness reflected both their chemistry and the energy of the show.

The stage production is magical as it transforms from an industrial sweatshop to exotic bar to lunchroom to ballet studio, literally setting the stage for the countless performers to move effortlessly through choreographed dancing, dramatic action, romance, and comedy, all fueled by high-octane energy and music.

One cannot listen to the soundtrack of this musical without tapping toes, bopping heads or singing along with the performers. Just don’t sing too loudly.  The performance is too good to miss, so save your singing for the shower after you get home. No doubt, these familiar tunes will stick in your head for days after the production has wrapped up.

Based on the super successful 1983 film, Flashdance The Musical boasts an iconic score and pop hits including “Gloria,” “I Love Rock & Roll,” and the sensational title track “Flashdance… What a Feeling.”

You’d be a “Maniac” to miss this musical.

Presented by Keyano Theatre Company

Dance like you’ve never danced before! Flashdance The Musical tells the inspiring and unforgettable story of Alex, a welder by day and ‘flashdancer’ by night, who dreams of becoming a professional dancer. When a romance complicates her ambitions, she harnesses it to drive her dreams.

Event Details

  • Opening Night – Friday, Feb. 14 (great Valentine’s Day opportunity, folks)
  • Saturday, Feb 15 @ 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 20 @ 8 p.m. – Talkback
  • Friday, Feb. 21 @ 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb. 22 @ 2 p.m. – Matinée
  • Saturday, Feb. 22 @ 8 p.m. – Closing Night

Rating – Mature (Drug and Sexual references)

Tickets

  • Regular tickets: Adult $45
  • Student $32
  • Senior $38

Get tickets:  http://bit.ly/KTFlashdance

February 13, 2020