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Arts Council’s liaison program connects artists in rural, Indigenous communities

When Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) announced they were looking for a liaison to support the arts in Wood Buffalo’s Indigenous communities, Jules Nokohoo’s interest piqued.

He is now one of two rural arts support liaisons hired in the past two months. The positions are funded with a municipal grant aimed at strengthening the bonds between rural and urban artists.

“As support liaison, I look around and see what I can find,” said Nokohoo, who lives in Janvier and has done liaison work with the municipality. “I’ll showcase people’s art and possibly help them to promote it and to become self-sustaining.”

Liana Wheeldon, executive director for ACWB, said the organization’s small staff makes it difficult for them to give support to rural artists.

Even if they could get out to those communities, Wheeldon said staff lacked local cultural knowledge. Relating to a community that was not their home and finding barriers to practicing the arts would be difficult.

ACWB felt the best decision would be to hire people already living in those communities to act as their eyes and ears.

“We really want the person to co-design and co-envision what the arts programming will look like in their community with the community,” said Wheeldon. “They can leverage all the knowledge and workshops that we have built up in our toolkits if they want them.”

Nokohoo will focus on the Janvier and Conklin area. He hopes the ACWB will pursue a partnership with the Father R. Perin School, which is overseen by the Northland School Division.

Workshops held at the school could give young artists access to a pottery machine, a kiln and a welding machine for woodworking.

“In a small community like this, people can fall through the cracks. Kids have to be engaged,” he said. “We have to find creative ways to make this work.”

Jules Nokohoo, the rural art support liaison for the Janvier and Conklin area, in a supplied image from Arts Council Wood Buffalo. Supplied Image/Sharon Heading

Donna Aubichon, the rural art support liaison for Fort Chipewyan, hopes to bring that same creativity to her own community. She says the hamlet is packed with strong artists with a talent for sewing, beading and music.

“I had a stepping stone coming into my job. I knew who to go to for workshops,” she said. “It’s not like I have a hard time finding an artist to do a job in Fort Chipewyan.”

Activities organized by Aubichon have included a beading workshop that she instructed. Youth in Fort Chipewyan also had the opportunity to write and produce their own music video.

“I never thought picking up two needles and a thread would change my life but it has,” said Aubichon. “I love gathering and bringing people together to make something.”

As a result of Aubichon’s work, Wheeldon said a larger number of artists from Fort Chipewyan have been recognized for the first time in the Buffy’s, ACWB’s annual arts awards.

Aubichon says her position has provided an outlet for local artists to showcase skills in a new way.

“This is how they were raised, this is their culture and it’s their whole life,” she said.

Article published in Fort McMurray Today by Sarah Williscraft
Published on: September 10, 2020

September 14, 2020

2020 Arts Awards: Get your Gear Bag & collectible Buffy Stuffy

Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) is inviting artists, supporters and residents to order their Buffy Stuffy and Steampunk Gear Bag.  Visit Eventbrite to buy Steampunk Gear in preparation for the 2020 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards on October 17. 

“This year, the Arts Awards are going to be a little different,” said Programs Manager, Luay Eljamal.  “Arts Council is hosting a cinematic Steampunk Buffys experience that will be broadcast online through Facebook, YouTube and Shaw Spotlight as a way of as respecting physical distancing while still celebrating and acknowledging all of the amazing talent in the Wood Buffalo region.”

Tickets for the event are free, but viewers are encouraged to visit Eventbrite to reserve their free ticket, buy a Steampunk Gear Bag and Buffy Stuffy (sold separately), or support the Arts Awards by making a donation. 

“We know how important the Awards Showcase event is to artists, sponsors and supporters,” said Executive Director, Liana Wheeldon. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for everyone to participate in the Buffys while they watch the event. This year, we are bringing the Buffys to our audience instead of asking them to come out to the event.”

Arts Council is also introducing the Buffy Stuffy, a brand new Arts Awards tradition. Buffy Stuffys are limited edition, collectible plush toys modelled off each year’s event theme. This year’s Buffy Stuffy is Wendell the Raven, who is modelled off one of the Midnight Steampunk characters designed by local artist Rob Hickey.

The Midnight-Steampunk-themed canvas gear bags are loaded with a candy sack (in the style of the annual candy bar), drink coaster, face mask, Buffys pin, event program and sticker. Buffy Stuffy sold separately.

Buy Steampunk Gear Bags through Eventbrite, and visit artscouncilwb.ca/buffys to learn more about this year’s 2020 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards, check out the nominees, shortlisted artists, and event sponsors. 

As the October 17 event date approaches, Buffy followers are encouraged to participate by gearing up with steampunk-themed costumes, and sharing photos, congratulations and creations by using #buffys2020 and #ymmartstogether.

September 4, 2020

September 2020’s Centre Stage with Carla White

Spotlight on Carla White by Will Collins, ACWB Communications Coordinator

Local humourist and storyteller, Carla White, shares her philosophy with this quote from George Burns: “Someone who makes you laugh is a comedian. Someone who makes you think and then laugh is a humourist.”

White is a proud Alberta farm girl who moved to Edmonton for university, then lived and worked in London, England. She settled in Fort McMurray in 1991, where she has had a fruitful career, raised her family, and more recently discovered her artistic side.

As a storyteller, White published her first literary work in 2018, Reignite Your Spark: Simple Steps to Extinguish Stress and Go from Burned Out to Fired Up.

Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul® and The Success Principles™, wrote this about White’s book: “Reignite Your Spark is an insightful and relatable book, in which Carla recounts her journey from the darkness of depression to the light of love and laughter, in which she shares the powerful and meaningful lessons she learned on her search for happiness and fulfillment.”

“For a long time, I never considered myself creative, let alone an artist,” says White. “I did creative projects, but I continuously told myself I wasn’t creative. The idea of self-expression and artistry didn’t happen until I did a LOT of personal development and redefined my idea of both creativity and artist.”

“After writing and publishing my book,” says White, “I attended a writing workshop by Charmaine Hammond in partnership with ACWB. I started to broaden my perspective and realized I was a literary artist.”

Others may know Carla White as the Angry Housewife, her original comedic persona and also the name she gave to her inner critic. Her debut one-woman show called Shut the F❤k Up: Confessions of an Angry Housewife launched in 2018, and is a show of truth, vulnerability and outrageous stories to illustrate the realities and struggles of the modern-day working woman.

White is also the founder of Healing with Humour, a deeply transformational 90-day experience where participants unleash their personal power to heal inner doubts, fears and worries as a way to learn emotional mastery and experience more fun, ease, happiness, and effortless success.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, she continues to find opportunity to grow as an artist. “Not being able to have live events has had me pivot to do more online work, which has a bit of a learning curve.”

From September to December, White is ACWB’s Artist in Residency and will be presenting two workshops: Finding the Funny Faster and Writing & Publishing. Plans are in the works for White’s residency to culminate in a staged reading, so stay tuned for more information. Learn more about White’s projects and performances at www.carla-white.ca, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

Connect to the local arts community and follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn (@artscouncilwb).

August 26, 2020

August 2020’s Centre Stage with Shantelle Davidson

Shantelle Davidson’s first memories of being an entertainer made her feel nervous and very excited all at the same time. Even from a young age she knew that music was her purpose, and she needed to pursue it.

“I started singing onstage with my Grandma and her band when I was 6,” said Davidson. “I enjoyed piano, voice and guitar lessons.” She hasn’t looked back in her musical rearview mirror ever since.

Hailing from Rainy River, a small town in Northern Ontario bordering on Minnesota, she grew up singing in church and at local talent shows. Davidson moved to Fort McMurray with her family in 2005. “I remember being so excited to live in a ‘big city.’ I became a part of the arts community, singing in choir, musical theatre, and Keyano Theatre. I’ve been here 15 years.”

Growing up so close to America, it was almost like it was her destiny to spend some time in the south. “One day at Westwood [Community High School], I saw a poster for auditions to The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in Los Angeles, California. I thought I would give it a shot. I couldn’t believe it when I got the acceptance call from AMDA offering me a scholarship.”

Davidson graduated from AMDA in 2008, and spent time in Vancouver working as an actress and recording original music. She later returned to Alberta to record her solo debut album in Calgary, which was released in 2015, earned impressive reviews, and was played on radio stations across Canada and the United States.

As part of her busy musical career, Davidson performed some of her original music at ‘Around the Campfire: Music, Stories & Songs’ in May 2020. Inspired by the traditional Nashville-style guitar pull, she took turns playing songs, and swapping stories and personal recollections with a number of local singer/songwriters, which was streamed live from the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts.

The Guitar Pull “was so fantastic,” said Davidson. “I loved hearing the songs and stories from the other artists, as well as sharing my own. I was just over the moon to take part.”

“I feel so privileged to work and play here,” says Davidson. “Inspired by so many great people in our community, it makes it easy to create. There are so many opportunities. Most of all, I love the way our community supports the arts.”

Despite the uncertain times, Davidson had been recording new music with help from her friends at the District Recording Studio (before the flood), and continued recording new vocals for the project down in Edmonton with Dan Davidson, as well as Clayton Bellamy of The Road Hammers. “It’s a challenging time for everyone. As an artist, I feel called to inspire more than ever.”

Stay tuned for Davidson’s new single “Looking Up,” coming this summer on Canadian Country radio. Keep up to date and listen to her music by following @shantelledavidsonmusic on Instagram, Facebook
and YouTube.


Connect to the local arts community and follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn (@artscouncilwb), or visit the brand new website at www.artscouncilwb.ca.

July 24, 2020

July 2020’s Centre Stage with Kritsana Naowakhun

Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, Kritsana Naowakhun has been fascinated with art from a very young age. While his true passion is for painting and visual arts, he is a man of many talents, including cooking Thai and Asian cuisine. 

“To me, culinary arts and visual art can draw many parallels.”

Naowakhun’s first exposure to art was through his grandfather, who had an artistic background as a temple painter in China. “My grandfather would take me to Chinese opera, create beautiful ink drawings of magical creatures, and tell fascinating stories of faraway lands.”

“My mother saw that art gave me joy and purpose.” 

Naowakhun’s family supported him as he studied art through elementary and high school, and he eventually studied sculpture at Silpakorn University, the most prestigious art university in Thailand. “Only 55 people are selected out of thousands who apply, and luckily for me, I was one of those students who was accepted on my first try.”

Kritsana Naowakhun in the studio (Photo supplied by Kritsana Naowakhun)

He came to Fort McMurray in 2012 to start a new life with his Canadian wife, supporting her dream of teaching and creating dance while providing a good life for their children.

“In my artistic journey here in Canada, my first impressions were about the amazing new landscapes and animals I would encounter. After moving to Fort McMurray, I saw the beauty in how so many cultures can coexist while keeping their heritage and connection to the land. I want to express my impressions of the world around me through my Buddhist outlook on life and human nature.”

For the past seven years, Naowakhun has been teaching painting classes at Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts (SECPA) and has developed programming for artists of all ability levels and ages ranging from six to adult. 

Under normal circumstances, he teaches eight classes a week at SECPA. However, he has adapted to the physical distancing practices and teaches virtual painting and drawing classes from home.

Naowakhun has been busy in the local arts community. He has been part of two art shows with local artist, Shauna Kelly, three solo shows at The Kirschner Family Community Art Gallery, two art installations for the igNIGHT public art exhibition, he has painted a fox sculpture along the TOTAL Aboriginal Interpretive Trail at MacDonald Island Park, and he has participated in the local Artist in Residency program.

He has also been active on a provincial scale, participating in the Best of Northern Alberta by Alberta Society of Artists, Beyond the Patch by the Art Gallery of Alberta travelling show, and the New Wave by CARFAC. You can see his show online, or purchase his art at the Bugera Matheson Gallery in Edmonton.

To see or purchase his work, visit Kritsana Naowakhun’s website at www.kritsana2005.wixsite.com/kritsana-art, or follow him on Instagram: @artbykritsana. Find his art or classes on Facebook at Art by Kritsana Naowakhun, or Art Class with Kritsana Naowakhun at Suncor Energy for Performing Arts. 

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

July 2, 2020

Statement of Solidarity

Arts Council Wood Buffalo has spent time listening, learning, and reflecting on the events in the United States, in Canada, and in our own community, with respect to equality and diversity. As an organization, we continuously strive to better our systems to be inclusive, equitable, and support diversity.  We have made some progress, but we are complicit in the systemic racism that exists when we do not speak out against it.

We support and will show our solidarity for Black and Indigenous artists and acknowledge the trauma that has and is experienced by all BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+, and persons with disabilities. We recognize that intergenerational trauma is real and commit to being part of the change needed to achieve justice and equality.

Our organization has taken time to reflect and identify the most meaningful way to inform and equip our team to recognize the struggles that are very real for so many members of our community, and to respond in a way that demonstrates our commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity.  

The Board of Directors and Staff of Arts Council Wood Buffalo commit to the following:

  • Staff and Board will participate in Indigenous Awareness Training, led by an Indigenous educator and an Elder in July 2020.
  • Staff and Board will participate in Cultural Awareness Training, led by the Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo in October 2020.
  • Staff and Board will continue our reconciliation journey as led by the recommendations of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the teachings of Elders and Indigenous artists who have generously provided counsel.
  • Staff and Board will continue developing policies and practices that allow no room for racism, misogyny, or any other form of discrimination in the execution of our work. ACWB will apply the learnings from the Indigenous and Cultural Awareness Trainings, and from reviewing the Alberta Human Rights Act, into these policies.
  • Staff and Board will actively listen, learn, and continue the conversation.

The arts are a powerful tool to educate us and give a voice to those affected by the struggles of institutionalized discrimination. The arts empower, activate, heal, inspire, and enrich us. The arts connect us and are an integral part of healthy communities. Arts Council Wood Buffalo will continue to work with all artists and community members to support the growth and success of a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive arts community.

Please also see ‘Acknowledgements’ from our website.

June 18, 2020

June 2020’s Centre Stage with Tiffany Antinozzi

Considering all that has been happening in the world, artists like Tiffany Antinozzi are essential to the community. “I believe we can heal through creativity, and that’s what I want to share.”

This local visual and healing artist uses her talents to connect with the community and support others. “If I can inspire one person to follow their dream, to try something they always wanted, or to heal a wound, then I am on the right track. I want to inspire people to believe in themselves!”

Antinozzi was born in Montreal and travelled across Canada many times as a youngster. It was through these experiences that she first got into the arts: “When I was younger, we travelled quite a bit, and one of the easiest things I could do anywhere was drawing.”

She spent hours and hours of her youth drawing while on the road. When she was 18 and living in Montreal, her aunt encouraged her to get into painting, gifting Antinozzi with oil paints and canvas. “I have been madly in love with painting ever since.”

She has also been using art to explore and open her mind. “I use essential oils and sacred geometry along with sacred teachings,” says Antinozzi. “My goal is to inspire people to ask the tough questions and to seek out wisdom and authenticity.”

Her family has been coming to Fort McMurray since the 70’s, and in 2007, she moved to the region with her “new little family.” “Since being in Fort McMurray, I have received so much love and support through different projects I have done.”

One such project was a large mural at the Bill Woodward School in Anzac. She painted another project for Pata’s Playhouse, a loving learning space for children on the Fort McMurray No. 468 First Nation Gregoire Lake Reserve. She also completed window paintings for the Salvation Army to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“This project gave me an opportunity to connect with many people I might not have. The gratitude and love I felt from these souls was so special.”

Through her art, she was able to connect to people, to a cause, to her community, and more. “Doing large projects really fuels my fire. I help others by making someone’s vision come to life, but also being part of the community working on important causes.”

Keep an eye out for Antinozzi’s upcoming shows. She’ll be taking part in Alberta Cultures Days in September and has an upcoming show in The Kirschner Family Community Art Gallery at MacDonald Island Park. Follow Tiffany Antinozzi on Facebook to see her art and healing activities: @the-artsy-oiler. 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.

June 8, 2020

ACWB Annual General Meeting: June 25, 2020

Please join ACWB Board of Directors and Staff at our 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday, June 25, 2020. This year, we’ll be hosting our AGM via Zoom webinar from 6:30 – 8 p.m.

Link to the AGM Zoom Meeting

Save the date and bring some snacks as we highlight the successes of 2019 and look forward to what’s in store for 2020. There will be a special presentation revealing the theme of our 5th Annual Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards (a.k.a. Buffys), as well as a Member Q&A session at the close of the event.

All members in good standing (i.e., membership must be active and up to date) will receive a link to the AGM Zoom webinar via a reminder email sent out June 18, 2020, and again on the day of the AGM.

Click the following links to find the 2019 AGM Agenda Package and 2019 Approved Financial Statements. View the 2019 Annual Report and previous reports on the About Us page and scroll to the bottom under Publications & Reports.

Thank you to those who completed a Proxy Voting Form and returned it by June 24 via email to [email protected].

Any questions? Contact [email protected]

Please be sure your membership is up to date and active. If you’re not sure, please contact Hanna Fridhed at [email protected].

We look forward to seeing you there.

Link to the AGM Zoom Meeting

June 5, 2020

COVID-19 restrictions have Fort McMurray artists concerned about long-term support

Original post from Fort McMurray Today on June 3, 2020 and written by Laura Beamish. View original article HERE.

Local arts organizations are concerned about their long-term survival as public health restrictions meant to fight COVID-19 remain. It is not known when those restrictions will lift.

“A lot of theatre artists rely on the theatre arts for their mental health and general well-being. It’s a crucial component in many people’s lives. When we don’t know what the future holds… it can be really difficult,” said Hanna Fridhed, artistic director of the local theatre company Theatre; Just Because.

At the same time, the quarantines have stressed how important the arts are, she argues, as people consume more music, movies and TV shows during the pandemic.

Others have embraced new hobbies, such as photography, painting or playing an instrument. People have posted messages and drawings in the windows of homes or on sidewalks with chalk.

Locally, many artists play live shows or showcase their artwork online.

“That’s where we’ve looked now during this pandemic and isolation and quarantine,” she said. “We look to the arts for an outlet for a means to escape, for a means to connect, to keep us all on the healthier side of the mental health spectrum.”

Financially, Fridhed says the arts scene is going to be facing a tough battle. Support for theatre programs has slowly declined during the past few years, she said, affecting their budgets. At Keyano College, for instance, the theatre cannot afford its $2-million annual operating costs.

“I don’t think it’s because the support isn’t there,” she said. “I think a lot of people don’t know how desperately the support is needed right now and we’re trying to support so many.”

Liana Wheeldon, Executive Director of the Arts Council Wood Buffalo, also hopes the pandemic rouses the community to support local arts.

Wheeldon said competing for grant funding funding in 2021 will be difficult. Fort McMurray will have to compete with the arts scenes in larger cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary for dwindling federal and provincial grants.

The shutdown has also impacted people who make a full-time living off the arts.

When the pandemic shut down Kim Hurley’s Generation Dance Studio she was worried she would be unable to pay more than $10,000 a month for rent.

Some government resources have helped, but she’s had to look at alternative ways to keep her programming going.

Hurley started hosting four daily zoom classes for students. She’s also working with students one-on-one.

However, the studio is located in the basement of the River City Centre, which flooded in April. Hurley says rebuild costs are estimated to be roughly $400,000. Insurance will only cover approximately $60,000.

Some online fundraisers have started, but Hurley is concerned about where she will have classes if the studio has not been repaired when it becomes safe to reopen. For now, Hurley expects the studio to be ready in September.

“It scares me because I think, well I’ll need the clients to have seasonal monthly income in order to afford any place,” she said.

Hurley is looking at other options, including spaces at Keyano Theatre or MacDonald Island Park.

Despite some worries, parents still want to register their children. She is confident the studio will survive, even if the near future is going to be a struggle.

“I need space, I need human interaction. We’re artists, this is what we crave for and you’re not getting fulfilled right now,” she said.

For now, organizations such as Theatre; Just Because and Arts Council Wood Buffalo continue moving programs online.

Along with online courses, the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts is looking at having small, in-person groups as measures get lifted. They’ve also hosted live performances and discussions with musicians.

“If the arts can’t be creative and problem solve, we’re really in trouble, so we’ve been able to rise to that,” said Wheeldon.

June 4, 2020

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

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