As we approach the end of December, it’s almost time to turn the pages of our calendars and begin a new year. For me, I’m excited about what’s to come next year, but I’m also feeling a little emotional as I wrap up 2021 and get ready to start a new chapter of my life.
What’s this new chapter? Well, after nearly two years of working at Arts Council Wood Buffalo, I am leaving my role as Communications Manager and moving on to a new career in public engagement at a different organization.
Before turning the page, I’d like to reflect on the chapter I’ve just finished. If I were to describe this chapter, it would be an inspirational romance. Why? Because I love Arts Council. I love what the organization stands for, I love the people at Arts Council, and I love our arts community (including you, dear reader).
I started at Arts Council in February 2020, just before the pandemic. I had only been working with ACWB for a month when we began working remotely. Oddly enough, I believe that the pandemic inspired us to work harder and smarter, creating programs like Art of Conversation, the cinematic version of the Buffys, and an online Marketplace. We were all very passionate about supporting the community through crazy uncertainty.
You’d think that working remotely would have made it more difficult for us to jell as a team, but I think our mutual love of the arts and our desire for the world to know about the power of art brought us together.
It didn’t take long for me to start building new skills. I began managing the website (including coding, which is pretty scary for an old man like myself), aggregating data into Luay’s super spread sheets, populating a customer relationship management system, learning more about social media and graphic design, and I even got to experience the thrill acting. Yes, acting. I haven’t created an IMDB profile yet, but let’s just say that it was pretty exciting to play the character of Westcott Indigo in Buffys 2021.
Fortunately, I was also able to utilize some of my well-established skills, including dorky puns and terrible jokes. I’m happy to inform you that Akshaya has been practising, so she can carry on the torch of terrible humour into the future. Bravo! I’m proud of you, Lakshmi! “Why don’t you take the rest of the day off?” As Akshaya’s manager, I would often ask her to take the rest of the day off – but would only ask her when the work day had already finished.
We had lots of laughs – often at Luay’s expense, as we would jokingly use one of his favourite words, “aggregate,” and turn it into a virtual drinking game, where we would pretend to drink every time we would use “aggregate” in a sentence. Fortunately, Luay is incredible at making critical paths, but is never critical of anyone. Lucky for us.
We also made fun of Sharon each time she would accidentally pocket-dial us. She quickly earned the nickname of “Instananna” simply because she isn’t afraid of wrestling new technology into submission while maintaining her grandmotherly nature of taking care of everyone.
As far as bosses go, Liana has always been much more of a friend, leader, and inspiration than a boss. “You’re doing a fantastic job, mi Padrona.” I often refer to her as “mi Padrona,” which is Spanish for “my Godmother,” and I actually should have been saying “mi Patrona,” which is Spanish for “my employer” – I guess I had better brush up on my Spanish.
It was only months after I started at ACWB that the team began to grow. Soon, Donna Aubichon joined the team as the Rural Arts Support Liaison in Fort Chipewyan. She’s also our resident firecracker. With Donna advocating for ACWB, the future of the arts is bright in Fort Chipewyan. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for her community.
Nick Vardy also joined the team not long ago, and at 6’6”, Nick is already taking Arts Council to new heights – especially when compared to his manager, Sharon, who stands in at a solid 5-foot 3/4 of an inch. When Nick joined the team, I immediately felt a connection. Not only are we from the same area in Ontario, we’re also both drummers. Right on, brother!
It has been a pleasure working with the team at ACWB (including the Board of Directors, previous staff, and those who went on maternity leave – Christina and Hanna). Nearly everyone I have met in connection with Arts Council has made an impression: ACWB members, collaborators, volunteers, hired artists, and everyone in our creative community.
You have all had some sort of impact on my life story. Before working at Arts Council, I had no idea there were so many artists and creative people in this region. You have inspired me personally, professionally, and in my own artistic practise.
Thank you, Arts Council Wood Buffalo and everyone I have encountered in our arts community. I have gained a new respect for all arts disciplines, and for those who dedicate their time and energy to being creative. You make our region a super cool place to live and be an artist. And for that, I thank you.
As I turn the page to start my next chapter, rest assured that the arts will always be an important theme in my story, and you too, will always be supporting characters.
Even though I won’t be working for Arts Council, I am a proud Arts Champion and ACWB member, and I hope to see you all soon at Arts Inc, the spot for creativity for our community. Don’t forget to donate.