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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

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 To learn more about Arts Council Wood Buffalo and our programming, visit 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 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 Get your tickets to the 2019 Buffys at 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 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

August 2019’s Centre Stage with Luay Eljamal

Interview with Luay Eljamal for our monthly snapd Wood Buffalo artist feature Centre Stage with Arts Council Wood Buffalo!

Theatre has been a prominent part of Luay Eljamal’s life since the tender age of 12, when he first performed in elementary and high school productions. He viewed his theatre practice as a hobby, but after gaining provincial acclaim directing a one-act play, Luay was encouraged to pursue the arts into his post-secondary degree studies. In 2015, he moved to London, UK to complete his Master of Arts in Contemporary Performance Making, remained in London, working with various theatre artists as an assistant director, audiovisual designer, as well as general managing an independent theatre. Luay is now bringing his wealth of theatre experience to the stages of Wood Buffalo, launching his new theatre company called Symmetree Theatre.

“To start my own theatre company has been a dream of mine for 9 years now. I have always felt that the beauty in theatre is that it shows the world through a lens that looks beyond what we can or have already achieved in reality,” he says. “It has the power to show us what a more inclusive world would look like and inspires audiences across the world to work towards achieving and celebrating those ideals. I also think it’s important to empower audiences to think and feel.”

Symmetree Theatre’s debut performance is a new play called Freeing Heaven’s Secrets, written and directed by Luay. This immersive audio theatre performance follows Scheherazade, a young blind girl on her deathbed, who promises her father that she will visit him in his dreams and let him know what her heaven is like. On her journey to the other side, Scheherazade passes her blindness onto the audience, and gifts herself with sight, inviting the audience to experience her heaven through the element of sound alone, and allowing them to experience her heaven the way she would have experienced our earth.

“A lot of the time, theatre operates showing us the hardships that marginalized groups have had to endure in order to thrive in our society,” explains Luay. “This is important—plays such as Rent, and Angels in America exposed audiences to new groups of people and the hardships that the struggles that they were fighting to overcome. While it is important to shine a light on these issues, I also felt it was important to show people what the world would look like should these people be seen in stories that are not about those hardships. Stories where, despite their differences, they fight to overcome issues that plague us all as humans.”

When first arriving in Fort McMurray, Luay was surprised to learn that this small town had a state-of-the-art theatre, and expresses pride to see our arts community continue to grow: “I have always felt fortunate to be exposed to the theatre world through the Wood Buffalo arts community” he says. “We have been blessed to have the support of the oil and gas industry here, which has given a lot of our artists the agency to explore their own skills and talents, whatever their medium may be.”

Freeing Heaven’s Secrets will be performed on November 1st and 2nd, 2019, at the Suncor Energy Centre for Performing Arts. For more information on Freeing Heaven’s Secrets and Symmetree Theatre, visit If you would like to learn more about Arts Council Wood Buffalo, our programs and events, visit, and follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterLinkedIn and YouTube.

August 1, 2019

July 2019’s Centre Stage with Noize

Interview with Shane Carbery aka Noize for our monthly snapd Wood Buffalo artist feature Centre Stage with Arts Council Wood Buffalo!

Growing up in Fort McMurray with his uncle and grandfather as his first musical inspirations, rapper Shane Carbery, also known as JustNoize, is taking his career to the next level this year. His debut album, Trouble, was released in April, with his second album, Problem Solver, set to come out in July. JustNoize’s third album, Trouble’d, is already scheduled for release in October. This summer, he is opening for the underground group Twiztid on their The Generation Nightmare Tour.

Carbery has been a musician and lyricist all his life, but it is only for the past year that he has been taking his music career seriously: “I had a few jam bands with my good friend Tyler Brown,” he says. “We played all original songs in a punk rock/hip-hop hybrid band. I paint and dabble in many different art mediums, but music is my one love and main focus. I set deadlines for myself and try to work harder than anyone else, telling myself that ‘no one wants this more than me’ or ‘it’s do or die, and we don’t die’. My focus is on being successful, strengthening my craft, and accomplishing my goals.”

Growing up as an artist in Wood Buffalo was not always easy, but Carbery has found great support and opportunity as well: “Being an artist here is to be an oddity, but also to believe in your dreams. If you are interesting enough the community will take notice and support you. I have been encouraged by so many different people, and it is possible to reach a wide demographic thanks to the diversity of the community. With businesses like Tavern on Main, Campbell’s Music, and Wood Buffalo Media Group, it is not hard to find support and resources to help artists grow in both talent and recognition.”

Finding inspiration has never been an issue for Carbery: “Everything is inspiration for me, as I can’t turn my brain off. Being able to occupy myself with lyrics and melodies is almost a natural coping mechanism. A bad day becomes a three verse, no- chorus song that hits like a Black Sabbath riff, a beautiful walk in the summer time becomes a ballad, and a break up with a girlfriend becomes a country song. Life is inspiration. We are all just experiencing a moment in time, and if you don’t create in that moment, you might let it go by while you are busy thinking about the future.”

For artists out there, who are dreaming of making it in the music industry, Carbery encourages: “try until you can’t try anymore, then keep going! Many people might not understand your drive, but you are not alone. Seek like-minded people and build your name into a brand. Create a team of people who believe in your passion as much as you do. If you can make people believe in you as you believe in yourself, you will succeed!”

Find JustNoize on YouTube (Justnoize) and on Instagram (@justnoize.shane). His album Trouble is now available on all digital streaming platforms. If you would like to learn more about Arts Council Wood Buffalo, our programs and events, visit, and follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterLinkedIn and YouTube.

July 1, 2019

June 2019’s Centre Stage with Alex Durocher

Interview with Alexandra Durocher for the monthly snapd Wood Buffalo artist feature; Center Stage with Arts Council Wood Buffalo! To view the full article online visit snapd Wood Buffalo’s website.

Born and raised in Fort McMurray, Alexandra Durocher was exposed to a variety of performing arts experiences that jump-started her own artistic career. Alexandra started dancing when she was twelve years old and also found her way onto the Keyano Theatre stage as a young actor. She fell in love with all of it and pursued her development in the arts as she grew older. Alexandra studied Visual and Performing Arts – Drama at Keyano College, and then went to Edmonton to study Arts and Cultural Management at Grant MacEwan University. She returned to Fort McMurray and joined the inaugural team that opened the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts (SECPA), where she is currently the Assistant Manager. Alexandra was also instrumental in opening UpTown! Music & Dance Studio at SECPA, where she now teaches dance part-time.

Alexandra joined the ACWB Board of Directors in 2018, something she says has been a learning experience: “Being on the board has allowed me to see that all of the Arts have the same needs, and that we all need to come together to make them happen. I decided to become involved because I wanted to make a difference in my discipline but have learned that we all need to work together to make a difference everywhere.”

Being a part of this community her entire life, Alexandra has experienced all the ups and downs. This has only strengthened her belief in the connectedness of the arts and the community: “The arts community here is strong, resilient, and ever-growing, but it can be a struggle at times as there aren’t many readily available opportunities. However, the people of Fort McMurray are always ready to help bring or create different opportunities to our community.”

In addition to her role as an arts administrator, Alexandra is happy to be a working artist in this community: “Being a dancer and choreographer in Wood Buffalo is exhilarating! With Fort McMurray being such a transient town, so many different choreographers have come in and out spreading their knowledge to all they teach. I have been blessed to teach here for many years and learn from many of these different instructors to add to my repertoire, so that the love of dance can be carried on in all that I teach.”

Arts Council Wood Buffalo is hosting their 2019 Annual General Meeting on June 13, 6 PM – 8 PM at The District Recording Studio in Composite High School. There will be light refreshments, live entertainment, and we will be announcing the theme for the 2019 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards! We will also be electing new Directors to the Board. To find out more about ACWB and our programs, visit

June 1, 2019

May 2019’s Centre Stage with Nerdvana: The Web Series & Erin Schwab

Written by Hanna Fridhed, Engagement Coordinator


This month, for the very first time, Fort McMurray will host Tri-Level Meetings. These quarterly meetings, typically held in Edmonton or Calgary, bring together different levels of government related to arts funding- municipal, provincial and federal. May 8 through 10, ACWB is proud to welcome the Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Edmonton Arts Council and Calgary Arts Development to Fort McMurray as part of these meetings. The visitors will have the opportunity to see: ‘Suddenly Mommy’ which is a one-woman show at Keyano’s Recital Theatre, view We Heal: An Exhibition in the Keyano gallery and meet with local artists, heritage, and arts organizations from around our region. Also, Canada Council will host one-on-one sessions with artists from any discipline to discuss the organization’s grant opportunities and best practices to utilize while applying for grants. These sessions are a continuation from the information session and artist one-on-ones Canada Council held last month. This is a great opportunity for local artists to learn more about obtaining funding, provincial level grants and how they can help further their artistic development and bring visions to life.
The evening of May 8, residents will have an opportunity for informal discussions with representatives from the different areas during the Meet and Greet Event held from 5:30pm-8:30pm in the Keyano Rehearsal Hall, hosted in partnership between ACWB and Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre.


Learning opportunities such as these are valuable to artists to further their practice. Even if an artist feels they are not ready to apply for a grant, having made connections to different organizations and hearing first-hand some ‘tips and tricks’ for successful application is a great to have when the time comes.


Erin Schwab, a visual and woodwork artist in Fort McMurray, received funding for her professional art practice from Alberta Foundation for the Arts grants and local municipal grants that helped cover the cost of workshops for her students. “Without access to the funding the work would not happen or be substantially reduced in scope and access for participants,” says Erin. “Artists often bear the financial burden to start projects that can reach far into the community and have continuing impact for years, with only the hope of recovering costs, let alone making a profit. Grants allow the artist to make choices not burdened by personal affordability but what will have the greatest impact on their work and participants.”


Local artist group NERDVANA has also benefitted from receiving grants. NERDVANA: The Web Series, which was made possible through the Telus STORYHIVE program, has been nominated for the Miami Web Series Awards, and has prompted the group to begin writing Season 2. The group behind NERDVANA has applied for and received funding on several occasions, culminating in 2017 when they received $100,000 to create NERDVANA: The Web Series Season 1. “The funding was a tremendous help that allowed us to compensate all the artists involved in our projects. It literally saved us from dying from exposure as we were able to rent generators to keep us warm during the cold Fort McMurray shoots,” says director Tito Guillen.


Learning how to write grant proposals can be an arduous process: “It’s not fun. The process varies between funding bodies, but they often ask for many of the same things,” explains Schwab. “Budget, project proposals, statements about the work, resume, portfolio, and then the final reporting once the project is complete. The more you do it the easier it gets, and you begin to build relationships with the funding bodies which is important.”


If you are interested in learning more about Canada Council and their New and Aspiring Artist program, visit

May 2, 2019

April 2019’s Centre Stage with Sedef Uzer Prakash

Written by Hanna Fridhed, Engagement Coordinator


Sedef Uzer Prakash is a graphic designer hailing from Turkey, Istanbul. After moving to Vancouver, BC in 2001 as an ESL student, she came to Fort McMurray in 2012 with her husband. Sedef is the Art Exhibit Coordinator with Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo at the Kirschner Family Art Gallery at MacDonald Island Park. An artistic person with thirteen years’ experience as a professional graphic designer, Sedef has always been interested in the arts and design, and expresses it through multiple disciplines, including music.


“Creating is my method of release. I am able to release all my emotions, thoughts and feelings by creating art or craft projects,” says Sedef. “Especially living in a place like Fort McMurray (and by that, I mean living with temperatures below minus 20), I would recommend everyone to pick up a hobby in visual arts and add some more meaning to their life other than working and watching TV. I would like to encourage hidden artists in town to come out from their houses, attend gallery receptions, and socialize with artists and art lovers in town.”


On April 11, 2019, the 8th Annual Timeraiser auction event will be at the Kirschner Family Art Gallery. This is a program by FuseSocial in partnership with Arts Council Wood Buffalo and the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo.


“Timeraiser is a silent auction with a twist. Instead of bidding with art, participants bid with volunteer hours,” explains Sedef. “It’s always a well-attended event by the local arts community, volunteers and the social profit sector. Everyone interested in attending can get free tickets on Eventbrite.”


Last year’s event showcased 31 art pieces in the main gallery and 12 budding youth artist’s pieces, with almost 175 guests in attendance to bid their time. An event such as Timeraiser is beneficial for the local artists, the social profit sector, as well as the community: “The art is purchased from local artists for a fair market price and is showcased at the gallery for a month,” she says. “Through the bidding process over 3,000 volunteer hours are being generated that help the local social profit organizations, which provide programs and services to the populations that are in need of support. That’s a great impact and such an amazing initiative by FuseSocial!”


Visit the FuseSocial webpage to read more about Timeraiser and their other programs. The 2019 Timeraiser happens on Thursday, April 11, starting at 6:00 PM. To learn more about Arts Council Wood Buffalo follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn for updates and news.

April 2, 2019

March 2019’s Centre Stage with Jennifer Dahl

Written by Hanna Fridhed, Engagement Coordinator


Jennifer Dahl has played the piano since she was five years old. Having grown up in Fort
McMurray, she moved away for a few years for school and travel, but returned in 2004 with her
Grade 9 Piano Certificate from the Royal Conservatory of Music. The Royal Conservatory
Certificate Program provides a recognized national standard and sequenced program for people
studying music, as well as supports independent teachers with innovative, high-quality
resources. Jennifer has also been trained in Kindermusik, and is a Music For Young Children
(MYC) teacher. She now teaches piano in Fort McMurray through her program Music with


“Babies sing, toddlers bounce along with the beat, preschoolers learn with action songs,
children memorize lyrics so quickly, and teenagers find meaning in the musicians of their
generation,” says Jennifer. “Music is integral to our daily life.”


An opportunity Jennifer offers her students is participation in the annual Oilsands Rotary Music
Festival. Entering into its 44 th year, this music festival aims to develop amateur musicians in
Wood Buffalo. It is a chance for musicians to hear each other play, to learn from experienced
professionals, and to learn the process of preparation, practice, and performance. “It brings
expert artists into the community,” explains Jennifer, “and it brings together music students from
across various disciplines (speech arts, band, etc.). The students get to meet others who share
the same interests. Art is a fun way to work on memory, logic, research, thinking in categories,
and fine and gross motor development.”


The Oilsands Rotary Music Festival, who works to develop and foster love and appreciation of
classical music and speech arts primarily, offers classes in guitar, piano, choral, speech, and
musical theatre. “It takes a lot of work, but I still involve my students because it offers
professional development for me as I hear the adjudicator’s comments, and see the other
wonderful selections performed by students who aren’t my own,” says Jennifer. “It takes many
hands to make the festival come together, but the volunteers and the board are very dedicated.
The awards are donated by local businesses and individuals who support the arts.”


As an arts educator, Jennifer has experienced the positive impact of music on children and
youth. She says “understanding music, and other arts, teaches us patterns, systems, how to set
goals and achieve them, continuous improvement, and ultimately how to connect with our
emotions. It connects us with each other. Art is expression of emotion. It connects us from
human to human. Children are naturally emotive and art is a creative outlet for emotional


If you want to get involved in the Oilsands Rotary Music Festival, or would like to make a
donation, visit

March 2, 2019

February 2019’s Centre Stage with Andre Wilcox

Written by Hanna Fridhed, Engagement Coordinator


Many of us recognize his voice from the radio or have seen him at events around town as the energetic
emcee – Andrew Wilcox is the Program Director for Mix 103.7 and 100.5 Cruz FM. Originally from a farm
outside Camrose, Andrew moved to Fort McMurray five years ago. The things that made him fall in love
with the Wood Buffalo region are the strength and diversity, and the welcoming nature of the people
here. In 2018, Andrew launched his new podcast Wander w/ Andrew Wilcox, where he interviews
people who explore unique ways of looking at particular things.


“It's a podcast for minds that like to wander,” says Andrew. “The topic can be almost anything, but the
hope is that it creates new perspectives from meaningful conversations. One thing I have always loved
about radio is its ability to have fun, human conversations between the songs, to say things that make
you think and reflect. The podcast format seems like a natural progression of that aspect.”


Topics covered on Wandering w/ Andrew Wilcox so far are open-mindedness, self-control, and living
with wildlife. In “How to look back to help moving forward”, an episode about Greek history, philosophy
and democracy, Andrew and Matthew Sears of the University of New Brunswick talked about how
taking a deeper, more well-rounded look at the past can help us approach the future.


The podcast ties into his love for radio, both being great mediums for promoting other artists: “My
artistic background is a healthy mix of trying and failing. I’m a huge fan of music and film and I love to be
a part of it any way I can, but it took me a long time to find where I fit in,” he says. “I have attempted
everything from theatre to roadie to stand-up comedy and found the best place for me was professional
fan. I like giving a platform or voice to people more talented than myself.”


His love and support for the local music scene, and our community, is evident: “The YMM Music scene is
a close-knit group of incredibly talented musicians who are working very hard to keep live music going in
Fort McMurray. We have many local pubs that are very supportive of having live music in their venue,
which is great. I would love to see more artists come here and experience our great community,” says
Andrew. “I think that Fort McMurray has an incredible arts community that too many people are missing
out on.”


There are many ways to be an artist. Sometimes, by being an arts enthusiast, you become an artist
yourself. “What I love about Fort McMurray is that it attracts hard working people who want to create,”
says Andrew. “If you are one of those people, and I believe we all are in our own way, do your thing,
make your art, and get out there.”


The podcast Wander w/ Andrew Wilcox is available through iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify. Tune into
local radio to keep up with what’s going on in your community, for local information and support, and –
of course – music.

February 27, 2019