ACWB Blog

Home » Community » ACWB Blog

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