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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

September 28, 2020

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.

FAQ’s

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

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

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

Wood Buffalo Named Feature Celebration Site

Wood Buffalo is proudly named a Feature Celebration Site for the 2019 Alberta Culture Days! 

“This is an honour for our region,” says ACWB Executive Director Liana Wheeldon. “We take a truly collaborative approach to the planning and execution of events for this initiative, as is the hallmark of the Arts, Culture, and Heritage champions in our community. Showcasing our breadth of talent through creative programming, along with highlighting the history and multiculturalism of our region, allows us to demonstrate that the arts are essential in creating a balanced, happy, and healthy community.” 

Thank you to MLA Laila Goodridge, RMWB Acting Mayor Mike Allen, Deputy Mayor Jane Stroud, Keyano College President and CEO Trent Keough and Vice President, Academic Fred Russell, Sheri Donovan with Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts, Alan Roberts, Director of Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre, along with members of the Alberta Culture Days in Wood Buffalo Planning Committee for joining us for the Feature Celebration Site placard presentation. The Divine Group of India invited participants to try their hand at a Rangoli art demonstration.

September 24, 2019

MOU to foster growth of community culture, arts, heritage

FORT MCMURRAY, AB, May 20, 2019

Wood Buffalo’s Multicultural Association and Arts Council Wood Buffalo sign agreement to work together to increase cultural capacity, celebrate creativity and inclusion

Addressing community cultural issues and providing joint opportunities to foster awareness of culture, arts and heritage in the community of Wood Buffalo is the focus of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo (MCA) and the Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB).

“We are excited to be working with the Arts Council, particularly following the RMWB’s recent adoption of a new Culture Plan for our region,” said Dango Gogo, President of the MCA. “Cultural diversity and inclusion is a major concern for both of our organizations. We are looking forward to collaborating on long-term sustainable approaches to celebrating and nurturing this important aspect of our region.”

“Signing this MOU makes it possible for us to work even more closely together on joint issues of importance,” said Dave Boutilier, President Board Chair of ACWB. “Formalizing our relationship with MCA is the first step in working even more closely together to foster culture, heritage, and arts awareness by building relationships and creating community connections for the short- and long-term benefit of our region.”

The signing of the MOU is the first step in creating a collaborative framework for addressing common issues, which include:

  • The building of collaborative, sustainable and long-term relationships that promote the growth of awareness of culture, heritage, and arts;
  • The building of institutional capacity with regard to awareness of culture, heritage, and arts;
  • Facilitating communication between individuals, groups, industry, businesses and government with respect to culture, heritage, and arts groups within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
  • Working collaboratively and proactively to identify the appropriate resources, including but not limited to financial resources, required to address the need to foster awareness of culture, heritage, and arts in Wood Buffalo.

Among the next steps for the groups is to create a joint action plan and to work as members of the implementation committee for the RMWB’s Culture Plan.

For more information about the MOU, contact ACWB Executive Director Liana Wheeldon at [email protected] or (587) 674-1625 ext. 100.

May 20, 2019

Council passes Wood Buffalo Culture Plan

On Tuesday, May 14, Council unanimously passed the Wood Buffalo Culture Plan, which is designed to promote arts and heritage initiatives in Wood Buffalo during the next ten years. ACWB Executive Director Liana Wheeldon has been a part of the WB Culture Plan committee, and says:

 

“ACWB supports the proposed plan’s stated vision, that ‘Wood Buffalo is a culturally diverse and socially inclusive municipality in which arts and heritage are vital to its social, economic, and environmental well-being.’

 

We look forward to moving ahead in partnership with key organizations such as Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray Heritage Society, McMurray Métis, and other important community cultural organizations as the RMWB Administration works with the established community-based advisory committee to transition from development to implementation and evaluation of the Culture Plan.”

 

The plan has five priorities, including promoting the region’s cultural environment, developing cultural facilities and resources, supporting collaboration and innovation, encouraging inclusivity and accessibility, and improving cultural awareness.

 

Other proposals include a public art plan, supporting rural cultural programming and increasing support for cultural facilities.

 

“What we want to do is embrace that diversity and ensure that all regions of this municipality are well represented and their definition of culture is showcased,” said Dave Boutilier, Chair of the Arts Council Wood Buffalo. “This plan is the vehicle that will drive that.”

 

Read the full article in Fort McMurray Today HERE.

May 14, 2019