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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 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

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