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May 2020’s Centre Stage with Ashley Freimark

Ashley Freimark has a simple approach to the arts: “My theory has always been, try everything!”

Nowadays, Freimark mostly focuses on visual and performing arts, but over the years she has been passionate about all of the elements of theatre: acting, directing, writing, stage managing, and costuming. She even dabbles in guitar and vocal performance. “I’ve written three songs so far, my first regarding my experience losing my grandfather.” 

Freimark moved to Fort McMurray for the first time in 1996, when she was two-years old, and spent the majority of her childhood and teenage years in the region. Freimark was introduced to the arts through the school’s music program while attending Dr. K. A. Clark School. 

Following that experience, she wanted to be involved in the arts and began exploring writing and acting. She even considered a career as an arts teacher. “No matter what path I took, theatre and the arts were right there all along.”

She left Fort McMurray in 2008, but her love of the arts continued to flourish in Edmonton. Eventually however, her experiences in Fort McMurray brought her back. “Truth be told, I never imagined I would ever move back,” said Freimark, “but after meeting my current boyfriend (who, fun fact, was my school crush from grade 6 to 9), I ended up moving back in 2018 to be closer to him.”

“Fort McMurray has been such an integral part of my life,” says Freimark. “It was such a wonderful surprise to find so many more opportunities when I moved back to the community that first fuelled my love of the arts.”

Freimark is astounded by the growth and support she has seen in the local arts community. “Everyone is so welcoming and open to new ideas and new faces. It’s like I found my family away from home all over again, which is very motivational to just go out there and do what I want to do.”

Freimark has wasted no time since she came back to the community. As a multi-disciplinary artist, she started to get into painting as a hobby, but nowadays, is looking at painting more seriously. She also spends her time volunteering for the local theatre community. 

Until local events were cancelled or postponed in March due to social-distancing efforts, she was an assistant stage manager for “The Great Gatsby” at Keyano Theatre, and directing a self-written play entitled “Embrace” for the ADFA One-Act Theatre Festival. 

“I’m a big mental health advocate,” says Freimark, “having dealt with anxiety and depression ever since I was a teenager.” The theme of mental health inspired Freimark’s play, “Embrace,” and she wrote parts of the script in the midst of anxiety attacks. “It’s been a really freeing experience writing the script.”

Stay tuned for the rescheduled ADFA One-Act Theatre Festival to see her play, or follow Ashley Freimark on Facebook and Instagram to see her art: @fantasiefreimarkcreations. 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.

May 1, 2020

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday – May 5, 2020

#GivingTuesdayNow is a global day of giving and unity. On May 5, 2020, all Canadians are invited to demonstrate the power of kindness and generosity as part of an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.

Giving Tuesday through the Arts in Wood Buffalo

ACWB is inviting Wood Buffalo residents, businesses, and organizations to participate in Giving Tuesday on a local scale by becoming an Arts Champion. This movement aims to support the ongoing response to COVID-19, recovery from flooding in downtown Fort McMurray, and the well-being of residents across the region.

Creativity and artistic activities are effective strategies for making sense of chaos. You can support yourself and others through the arts by being an ACWB member, sponsor, donor, or volunteer. Take part in this regional movement and ACW-Be an Arts Champion for Wood Buffalo.

What is an Arts Champion?

An Arts Champion for the Wood Buffalo region is an ACWB member, sponsor, donor, or volunteer. See below for the six ways you can become an Arts Champion.

Why be an Arts Champion?

Countless studies show that the arts contribute to a better quality of life. Arts and creativity also provide opportunity for professional development, and healthy ways to bring communities together – even at a distance.

The arts help make a space for everyone’s voice. We can all be part of the conversations that will make our lives better and create equal access to programming in our region, so we are all on equal footing to be successful.

The support of Arts Champions will help ACWB advocate to all levels of government for the arts. In addition, Arts Champions help ACWB to work with other arts organizations across the province and country to support the Wood Buffalo region. 

Not an Artist, but want to be an Arts Champion?

You don’t need to be an artist to be an Arts Champion. All you need is a passion for making our artistic community more inclusive. You don’t even need to identify with the word ‘artist’ to support creativity, culture, conversation, and connection for everyone in the region.

ACWB Membership Bank

Everyone can be an Arts Champion, but not everyone has the financial means to support the arts. So we have created a new Membership Bank to help ensure everyone can be an Arts Champion. Financial donations made to ACWB in May 2020 will go towards the Membership Bank. This will help make memberships barrier-free, so anyone in the region can have access to the benefits of ACWB membership and be a part of the unified voice for the arts in Wood Buffalo.

How to Access the Membership Bank

Are you a Wood Buffalo resident with a desire to be an Arts Champion? Send an email to the ACWB Engagement Coordinator, Will Collins, at [email protected] or call 587-674-1625 x.104 to access the bank of free 1-year memberships. He will get in touch with you so you can register (for free), and we can get your contact information to activate your membership.

Tax Benefits for Donations

Financial donations to the Membership Bank will result in two things: 1) membership opportunities for those that don’t currently have a membership; 2) a tax receipt for donations of $50 and more, so it can be claimed on your tax return.

Six Ways to be an Arts Champion

1) Donate to ACWBWe’re a registered charity and you’ll get a tax receipt for donations of $50 and above. Plus that donation will go towards our Membership Bank. Click on the PayPal icon below to donate.

2) Sponsor programs or Awards. You can sponsor an award for the annual Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards (held in the Fall each year). You or your business can sponsor one of our existing programs, or pitch a new program that supports the arts community. To pitch a new program idea, contact the ACWB Programs Manager, Luay Eljamal, at [email protected] or (587) 674-1625 ext. 102. To sponsor an award or program, visit our Support Us page to see opportunities.

3) Buy a membership. Buy a membership for yourself or your organization. New memberships purchased between now and November 30, 2020, will receive an additional two months for free. (That’s 14 months in total.)

4) Renew your membership.Due to the financial pressures on the community from the COVID-19 situation, we are deferring active membership renewal payments until November 30, 2020. You will remain an active member until then, and we’ll follow up with you in November to help you stay connected to the arts community. However, you’re also welcome to pay for your membership renewal should it come up before November.

5) Apply to the Membership Bank. Do you want to become a member, but can’t afford membership fees? Send an email to the ACWB Engagement Coordinator, Will Collins, at [email protected] or call 587-674-1625 x.104 to access the bank of free 1-year memberships. He will get in touch with you so you can register (for free), and we can get your contact information to activate your membership.

6) Volunteer with ACWB. Sometimes we need volunteers help to deliver programs and events. Sign up to be added to our volunteer database. We’ll contact you when we have opportunities.

Thank You for being an Arts Champion

On behalf of the ACWB Board of Directors and Staff, thank you for contributing to a remarkable quality of life through the arts by being an Arts Champion.

Questions about how to ACW-Be an Arts Champion?

Contact the ACWB Engagement Coordinator, Will Collins, at [email protected] or 587-674-1625 ext.104

Apply to sit on ACWB Board – Position: Director – Métis

Deadline for applications: Monday, May 25, 2020

Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) is currently looking to fill one position on its voluntary Board of Directors representing the following portfolio: Director – Métis. ACWB is a charitable organization with a mandate to support the success and growth of the Arts. The Board is made up of eleven members from the Wood Buffalo region, representing different aspects of the arts and business sectors. 

The Board meets in-person once per month to set the policy and direction of the organization with the long-term vision that the arts are integral to a remarkable quality of life. 

Qualifications 

  • At least 18 years of age 
  • Resident of Wood Buffalo 
  • Must be committed to the principles, vision, and goals of ACWB 
  • A combination of education and experience in their respective area with an understanding and passion for the arts in Wood Buffalo
  • Must hold a membership card with one of the Wood Buffalo Métis Locals; or, hold Métis Membership card and be a permanent resident in Wood Buffalo; or, self-identify as a Métis person and be a permanent resident in Wood Buffalo

This position will be elected by the ACWB Membership at the Arts Council Wood Buffalo Annual General Meeting in June 2020 as per ACWB by-laws.


Questions? For more information on Arts Council Wood Buffalo, please contact Executive Director, Liana Wheeldon at [email protected] or 587-674-1625 x.100. 

To apply, please complete the Board Application Form under the Careers section on or website by Monday, May 25, 2020.

April 8, 2020

April 2020’s Centre Stage with James Ritchie

“Some of the hardest workers in the world are in Wood Buffalo,” says local visual artist, James Ritchie. Work ethic is one of the biggest lessons he has taken from being an artist in the region. 

While some professionals get up early (or late, depending on the shift) to catch a bus out to site, this professional artist is also known to get up as early as 4 a.m. to go out to his garage studio and work for up to 12 to 14 hours a day. 

“I figure that if I’m going to live here, I need to bust my butt just like everyone else does,” says Ritchie. 

Nowadays, he’s making a living as a visual artist in Wood Buffalo. His home studio offers privacy and few distractions, so he’s very productive even though he says he still has a lot of work to catch up on. Some of his current projects include commissioned paintings, works for local non-profits like Fuse Social’s Timeraiser event, or an ongoing project for the Fort McMurray Golf Course.

Working with oils and acrylics, Ritchie takes a visionary, surrealistic approach to painting abstracts, animals and nature. Growing up in Nova Scotia, he spent a lot of time outdoors. “I’ve always had a special relationship with the forest and wildlife.”

After studying graphic arts out east, a two-week vacation to Vancouver morphed into a ten-year stay. While in Vancouver he continued to practice his art, participated in live painting competitions (with two Golden Brush wins), hosted corporate paint nights, and taught painting classes to at-risk youth.

“The crazy thing is, some of the kids with the most potential didn’t believe in themselves,” said Ritchie. “I was one of those kids once, so I get it. I’d like to start teaching classes in the community to gain [a better] understanding [of my own work], and eventually lead art retreats. I feel that I’ve taken punches that I can help aspiring artists avoid.” 

Not only does he want to continue growing as an artist, he also wants to continue growing as a professional. Ritchie moved to Fort McMurray about one and a half years ago to be closer to family, and taking the plunge as a full-time artist has helped him to take his work more seriously. 

He used to sell his art for relatively low prices, because he didn’t feel like he was at a professional level yet. Now that he is coming into his own as an artist, he is treating his art more like a business and learning to charge accordingly for his work. This has helped him to fund his craft and sustain a living. It also shows his audience that they are investing in quality. 
Plans are in the works for his first exhibition in Fort McMurray for later in 2020. Follow James Ritchie on Facebook and Instagram to see his art, inquire about sales, and get updates: @dr_ritchie. 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.

April 1, 2020

ACWB Hiring Rural Arts Support Liaison

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY: RURAL ARTS SUPPORT LIAISON

Job Status: Fixed term through December 2020, 40 hours per week, $28 per hour

Deadline to apply: April 5, 2020


Does the idea of connecting with community and using your organization skills, humour, and passion for sharing the arts, cultures, and traditions on a daily basis excite you? Are you looking for a meaningful job in the nonprofit world supporting the rural and Indigenous communities in sharing their knowledge, traditions, and values? Are you an idea person who takes the time to turn those ideas into set plans that you enjoy executing? Apply to join the ACWB team and use your skills to make a difference in a growing arts community today!

About the Role:

ACWB is seeking a motivated, multi-task oriented individual, comfortable working independently and in a team environment, with experience working in rural and Indigenous communities, including knowledge of Indigenous culture, traditions, and values, to fill the fixed-term position of Rural Arts Support Liaison.

Working closely with the Arts Recovery Project Coordinator, this individual will work with rural residents to co-envision and develop new initiatives, programs, and services to meet the unique needs of the rural communities, while enabling community-at-large to engage with the arts, crafts, traditions, and values of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Click here to download full position description.

Responsibilities:

Community Engagement –

  • Act as a resource and liaison for the arts, working closely with local artists, artisans, knowledge keepers, traditional teachers, arts and non-arts organizations, as appropriate in matters related to program creation and delivery.
  • Coordinate advisory and consultative requests from ACWB Members and non-members.
  • Identify appropriate partnerships and events to help build ACWB’s community profile and its programs in the rural communities.

Program Planning and Development –

  • Working with rural residents, develop meaningful supports, programs, and services to support artists’, artisans’, knowledge keepers’, and traditional teachers’ needs.
  • Ensure that program activities respect and integrate the knowledge, culture, traditions, and values of the First Nation and Metis peoples by working closely with those community members.

Staff and Partner Management –

  • Working with the Arts Recovery Coordinator, supervise any program staff, contractors, or volunteers that may be hired to assist with program initiatives

This position might be for you if:

  • You have the ability to collaborate on several projects at once, and you have no problem managing multiple assignments simultaneously.
  • You are a team player, keeping effective communication with management, and able to organize your time to meet deadlines with ease.
  • You enjoy collaborating, learning, and sharing with diverse groups.

DESIRED QUALITIES

Strong candidates will possess a combination of the following:

  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Experience with program delivery and evaluation, and proficient in the use of computers
  • Excellent interpersonal relationship and communication skills (both written and oral)
  • Knowledge of First Nations and Metis cultures, traditions, and values is an asset
  • Knowledge of the Wood Buffalo arts scene
  • Arts enthusiast with a strong sense of fun!

HOW TO APPLY

To apply, please submit the following by email:

  • A one-page letter of application that addresses the position expectations
  • A resume of no more than four pages

Email to: [email protected]

If email is unavailable, please call 780.381.6898 and speak to Sharon to make other arrangements.

Arts Council Wood Buffalo thanks all applicants for their interest in this employment opportunity. Only those candidates considered for the position will be contacted. The position will remain open until the successful candidate is hired.

Arts Council hires on the basis of merit and we are committed to the principle of equity in employment. We welcome diversity and encourage applications from all qualified persons. Preference will be given to Indigenous residents of Wood Buffalo’s rural communities.

About Arts Council Wood Buffalo:

Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) was established to raise the profile of the arts and artists in our region. Our mission is to support the growth and success of the arts in recognition that they are integral to a remarkable quality of life.

ACWB offers a variety of services and events that: build the capacity of our local artists to compete and thrive; create collaborations between artists, arts organizations, non-profits, and business; and, provide opportunities for the community to express itself through the arts.

Click here to download full position description.

March 11, 2020

March 2020’s Centre Stage with Dorothy Bentley

There has been a surge of awareness of the literary arts in Wood Buffalo over the past few years. It’s not that there are more literary artists in the community, but rather more literary artists are coming out of their writer’s dens to showcase their work and contribute to the local arts community.

One such artist is Dorothy Bentley. Since the 80’s, Bentley has called Fort McMurray home, and throughout her education, she excelled in creative writing. A high school English teacher noticed Bentley’s talents and pointed her toward courses at Alberta Arts and Culture. Bentley was also encouraged to prepare a children’s book manuscript to submit to an agent. That encouragement spurred her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts  in English Literature. 

While her working life took her down the path of writing articles, columns, and producing web content, she wanted to focus on poetry and prose. “It has taken a large shift in my thinking to allow myself to write that which satisfies my own heart. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable. As a result, I am now an emerging writer of poetry, short stories, a children’s picture book, (and I have several unpublished novels in a drawer).”

When asked what it’s like to be an artist in Wood Buffalo, Bentley says, “allowing the landscape and the community to shape one’s artistic practice has been part of my writer’s journey, which is what my picture book, Summer North Coming, is about. The poetry recounts the seasonal changes and activities specific to this area. Part of what most creatives do, I believe, is find beauty and significance of place wherever they find themselves.”

Bentley boasts about the local literary arts community: “There have been and there continue to be some great things happening in Wood Buffalo for writers, such as calls, contests, and fairs through Arts Council, the Words in Motion Poetry Contest, the Library’s (WBRL) writing classes, the ongoing opportunity to submit to NorthWord Literary magazine, of course, and Multicultural Association’s upcoming offering (Western Perspectives Festival).” 

Up until a few years ago, Bentley never had a consistent writers’ group or attended regular poetry workshops. Now she’s part of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta (WGA) and has been to several conferences outside of the region. She’s also a WGA advocate: “I found belonging to the Guild connected me to a larger, vibrant writing community.” Once a writer becomes a member of the WGA, they receive a bi-weekly newsletter with training and publication opportunities (many accessible online) and a whole range of other services such as help with manuscripts and the submission process. This brings connectivity and equipping to a new level.”

Bentley was recently appointed the Regional Facilitator for the WGA and will be hosting a variety of literary workshops in Fort McMurray, including weekly Write Nights on Tuesday evenings at the WBRL, which provides time and space for writers to create. Those interested in learning more about the upcoming workshops can connect through the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Wood Buffalo Facebook group and through the WGA website.

If you’re interested in connecting to the local arts community, follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn. Visit the website at www.artscouncilwb.ca

March 1, 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

February 2020’s Centre Stage Mitchell Steeves

Fearless, curious, respectful, and giving, may not be the words that come to mind when we think of the general stereotype of youth in society, but are appropriate when describing Mitchell Steeves, a youth in Wood Buffalo worth highlighting. Mitchell was born in Langley, BC and spent his early years in Salmon Arm, BC. At the age of nine, with an impressive and growing resume in the arts, Mitchell moved with his mother to Fort McMurray. His accomplishments to that point included a first place prize in the Shuswap Writers’ Guild Competition for his written and illustrated story “The Little Boy and the Giant Rat” and graduating from the Music for Young Children program where he first experienced the joy of music, while learning the basic skills necessary to build a strong future in music. 

Not one to bask in the limelight, Mitchell may seem like an average teenager. However, his interests are expansive and achievements are notable. Now, as a youth attending Westwood High School, his interests include acting, painting, drawing, fabricating three-dimensional art, story writing, piano, bagpipes and his new found interest in filmmaking. He has participated in a youth theatre production with local theatre company Theatre; Just Because, spent a year in teen hip hop class at Generation Dance Studio, has displayed his visual art at McMurray Experience and the Timeraiser art exhibition, plays the bagpipes in the Legion Pipes and Drums Band, and has many small projects on the go. Most recently, Mitchell has partnered with an individual in Janvier for a video project that aims to share their incredible stories and show how we can respectfully learn from each other.

In addition to his vast interest in the arts, one of Mitchell’s favourite things to do is volunteer in the region. Mitchell has spent countless hours volunteering with the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, the Legion, Emergency Social Services, Wood Buffalo Recreation Society, and Arts Council Wood Buffalo. When reflecting on volunteering, Mitchell says, “The best part about being an avid volunteer is seeing the smiles on people’s faces and the great feeling of being useful.”

As someone who doesn’t always feel as though he fits in, he’s found his place within the arts. Mitchell explains, “When I am immersed in art, I don’t feel isolated, I know there’s a vibrant arts community thriving here in the RMWB, of which I am a proud member.” Mitchell goes on to say, “I am beginning to understand that art is life and life is art. Art is everywhere I look and it’s in everything I do… For me, art isn’t just simply making fancy objects, art is a way of life, a language, a way to connect people together regardless of age, gender, colour or religion. Art is the foundation of our society, and must grow to produce a rich and meaningful life.”

Many look at youth like Mitchell and see the potential our community has, where he looks at what the community is doing and sees the potential it has for him to prosper. “Being an artist here in the RMWB allows me the freedom to express myself creatively and to be accepted as a valuable community member who contributes culturally with the ability to fearlessly share my talents with others.”

As Mitchell has boasted, there is a vibrant arts community in Wood Buffalo! If you’re interested in being involved in the arts, connect with Arts Council Wood Buffalo through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn and on their website at www.artscouncilwb.ca

February 1, 2020

December 2019’s Centre Stage with Kim Blatchford

Many people in Fort McMurray will recognize, if not already have it on their walls, the wood cut resin art in the shape of Alberta with a heart on Fort McMurray. Kim Blatchford, the artist behind the creations, has lived in Fort McMurray since 2006 and although Kim enjoyed painting throughout her life, she didn’t actively pursue Art until 2016. Once she started Kim says, “painting was something that was just flooding out of me, I could do 3 pieces in one night. I wanted to do it all day, every day.”

It all started when she noticed resin “Flow Art” online. She was instantly hooked and decided to order epoxy resin to give it a try. Kim recalls “I fell in love with my first pour. It was kind of like a science experiment, every time I created an art piece, I learned something about the medium and how things mix with it. I would run into problems and have to learn from my experience.”

Kim did not pursue resin art with the intention of making a business from it. “I can’t believe how far I have come. My art was simply something that I enjoyed, but people liked it. They were offering to buy my pieces and commission me for specialty ones. So it kind of just took off. I would create a piece and post it online and somebody wanted it or wanted one like it. It literally just flowed. I enjoyed doing it and people enjoyed having my art, so I kept going with it.”

It hasn’t been hard for Kim to find her place in the Arts Community in Wood Buffalo as her experience has been nothing but supportive. “I feel that it is really unique experience being an artist in Fort McMurray, because it is a small community but a big city with so many opportunities,” she says. “I feel like in a city like Edmonton I would have to fight for space at a market or compete against other artists, but in Fort McMurray, I feel encouraged and welcomed.”

This summer Kim attended Arts Council Wood Buffalo’s Arts Match, a speed networking event for artists, where she got to talk to other local artists and collaborate on ideas or future pieces. The support has continued, as she states, “the local art community has been excellent and very supportive. Everyone is so willing to share their time, ideas and experiences. I have had locals cut my wood, photograph my art, share market tables with me, etc.”

View Kim Blatchford’s artworks on her Instagram and Facebook pages @kimblatchford.art. To learn more about Arts Council Wood Buffalo and our programming, visit www.artscouncilwb.ca and find out how you can be involved in the vibrant Wood Buffalo arts community! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn for updates and news.

December 1, 2019

November 2019’s Centre Stage with Twisted Gears Studios

Interview with Twisted Gears Studios for our monthly snapd Wood Buffalo artist feature Centre Stage with Arts Council Wood Buffalo!

Twisted Gears Studios is an Audio/Video Production Company that specializes in Role Play Game (RPG) content, run by Zachary Barrett and Derek Snow, and they are celebrating their one-year anniversary of producing content! “Twisted Gears Studios is a brain-child of mine and Derek’s,” explains Zachary. “We both love tabletop RPGs, like Dungeons and Dragons, and board games. The thing we both loved about them was the improvised narrative aspect of it, where players make snap decisions that can (and often do) go horribly awry.”

Zachary was born and raised in Fort McMurray, and first became involved in the arts through theatre in high school, both as an actor and on the technical side. He left home to pursue film school and acting, but moved back after finishing his degree. He is currently the Stage Manager at Keyano Theatre, and spends a lot of his time producing Audio Video content. “In high school I played a game that had an awesome story,” Zach says. “It inspired me to go to film school and make something like that a reality.  When Derek and I got to talking about recording our own games, it seemed to be a perfect blend of all of the things I had been doing the past two decade, and Derek’s even longer experience, running games.”

Twisted Gears Studios is currently running two live cast RPG shows, and is working towards expanding the operation: “We are hoping to get a consistently streamed game on the go,” says Zachary, “and we are creating more video content. Over the summer, we put together two competition pieces that are available online.  We would love to organize RPG events, which is a great opportunity to get involved in the arts. I want to reach the people who are the age that I was when I first discovered acting and Dungeons and Dragons. Having those artistic outlets available at that age helped me a lot socially.”

As they are beginning their second year, Zachary reflects on the process: “It is an interesting thing starting an arts business in Wood Buffalo. Returning on the tail end of the boom allowed me to save up to purchase the equipment we needed. What has proven difficult is the work schedules; both from a broadcasting and a recording point of view.” Something that has stuck with him is the versatility of the Wood Buffalo arts: “I personally think the arts community here is insane!” he muses. “The amount of work opportunities once you start looking is huge. When I got back from school, I had one non-arts related job, but since then I have only been working in arts-related fields since. It was a goal I set out for myself when I was younger, and I feel like I have accomplished that here in Wood Buffalo.”

TGS comes out with a new podcast every Tuesday. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram: @TheTwistedGear and on their Facebook Page.  You can search their shows on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and YouTube. Do not forget to leave a comment or review!

To learn more about Arts Council Wood Buffalo and our programming, visit www.artscouncilwb.ca and find out how you can be involved in the vibrant Wood Buffalo arts community, and follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterLinkedIn and YouTube.

November 1, 2019

2019 Buffys a Rousing Success!

Midnight Coffeehouse: A Showcase of Wood Buffalo Talent

(Fort McMurray, AB – October 21, 2019) Saturday October 19 marked the annual Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards presented by Arts Council Wood Buffalo; a cool and classy evening that celebrates local artists and showcases the diversity of the arts community in our region. Artists, art groups, supporters and – of course – those nominated for an award, gathered at the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts, which was transformed into the weird and wonderful artistic era of the Beat Generation.

The 2019 Arts Awards, also known as the Buffys, were once again a showcase of the arts, celebrating almost 70 nominees through 14 award presentations, and presenting several live performances, taking place in two locations within SECPA. The black box theatre, renamed “The Club” and decorated to be more intimate, hosted the pre- and post-show performances and festivities, while the gymnasium was transformed into “The Coffeehouse”, a place where great minds came together to connect and share. Everywhere you looked, the space was alive and buzzing with things to see, hear, and eat. Guests even dressed in the funky style of the beatniks, berets included!

“We are so pleased with this year’s awards! The Buffys are an awareness program as much as they recognize the incredible impact the arts have in our community, and we’re proud to have showcased the variety of artists and creative professionals that live and work right here in Wood Buffalo,” says ACWB Executive Director Liana Wheeldon.

Throughout the evening, guests were treated to the abundance of talent present in our community. The diverse and uniquely collaborative performances included dance, comedy, flow arts, spoken word, pantomime, and multiple musical genres. Special behind-the-scenes video shorts gave guests a glimpse into the artistic process of getting ready for the awards event. The Buffys continue to be a place for artists to experiment and perform in ways you often can’t see anywhere else.

The awards themselves were beautifully handcrafted dolls, created by local artist Sedef Uzer Prakash. The awards were handknitted in the Japanese amigurumi style of small, stuffed yarn creatures. They were a whimsical tribute to the contributions of our arts community. There were fourteen awards handed out altogether, including the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Valerie Gondek and the Arts Champion Award presented to Rick Kirschner.

“It’s so inspiring to organize the Buffys each year. Learning about all the nominees, seeing the artists showcase their talents, and watching the delighted reactions of the audience makes the long hours of preparations all worthwhile” says Diana Moser, the ACWB Programs Manager.

Thank you to our sponsors and partners for making the 2019 Buffys possible! Thank you to our Midnight Sponsor Fort McMurray International Airport; Presenting Sponsors Suncor, Syncrude, Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation, and the Friends of the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts; Media Sponsors Country 93.3 and 100. 5 Cruz FM and Mix 103.7; Arts Supporter MLA Tany Yao; and Supporting Sponsors Boston Pizza, Campbell’s Music, LaPrairie Crane, Staples, and UNIFOR.

October 22, 2019

October 2019’s Centre Stage with All Imaginary

Interview with All Imaginary for our monthly snapd Wood Buffalo artist feature Centre Stage with Arts Council Wood Buffalo!

All Imaginary is a group that writes and performs something a little bit different; they create spoken word art. This is structured music with spoken poetry written from personal experiences and emotions to create a song that sounds beautiful, yet packs a punch with its lyrics. All Imaginary consists of Xach Edward, Meghan Whitmore and Ruben Rotar, three friends who decided to try something new. “Our group kind of came out of nowhere” Meghan explains. “One day Ruben and Xach suggested that we add music to my poems to make it less slam poetry, and instead more spoken word art. That was in early 2018, and it just grew from there. We like to joke and call this our passion project but in reality, that is exactly what it is!” Their artistic backgrounds are rather different. Ruben plays a slew of different instruments, Xach plays guitar, while Meghan is the one behind the lyrics.

They started out by performing poetry in the park and at open mic nights. They then took a leap and performed at last year’s Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards (the Buffys). This proved a thrilling venture for the newly formed group: “performing at the 2018 Buffys was the scariest thing we have ever done,” says Meghan. “It was the first time we were doing a show that wasn’t at a bar, or in a field with our friends. We spent more time on the one song we performed than we had on anything else at that point. It was terrifying and the most soul filling moment at the same time.”

One of the goals with the Buffys awards and showcase is to give local artists a new venue to perform, and encourage new artwork, collaboration and artistic innovation. “When we were chosen to perform last year, it meant that we were able to share our vision with more people,” Meghan explains. “We got to show people that music is about how you feel it, not just using your ears. When we were asked to return this year, we were over the moon! Trust me, you’re in for an adventure this year!”

The art of spoken word is still a fairly new addition to the Wood Buffalo art scene, but All Imaginary has had a good experience. “Being an artist here is a different experience for sure, especially when you do something like we do,” says Meghan. “The art community has been very inviting to us, and it is a great feeling to be a part of something that is always growing and changing.”

When looking to the future, the group aims to reach an even wider audience with their art. “Our goal is to share what we create with others. We would like to release an album, and perform as much as we can. Some of us have goals to be openers for spoken word bands all over the world, and some of us have goals to just touch people with the songs we create.”

All Imaginary will be performing a brand new piece at the 2019 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards on October 19, 2019. Follow the group on social media: @allimaginaryymm and check out their recordings at allimaginary.bandcamp.com/releases. Get your tickets to the 2019 Buffys at buffys2019.eventbrite.ca. Don’t forget to check out Ruben’s band Olorin and Xach’s band Zero Loss. To learn more about Arts Council Wood Buffalo and our programming, visit www.artscouncilwb.ca and find out how you can be involved in the vibrant Wood Buffalo arts community, and follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterLinkedIn and YouTube.

October 1, 2019