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Arts Council Wood Buffalo Winter Makers Market

Arts Council Wood Buffalo invites you to shop local this holiday season at our Winter Makers Market!


The Winter Makers Market features exclusively Arts Council Wood Buffalo Members as vendors, selling locally created artwork and handcrafted artisan goods. The event takes place Sunday, December 3rd at the beautiful Doug Barnes Cabin from 10:00am-3:00pm. Entry to the Winter Makers Market is by donation, in support of Arts Council Wood Buffalo. People who donate $10 and over will receive an exclusive ACWB tote bag. 


Winter Makers Market Needle Felting Workshops


As a part of the Winter Makers Market, we are offering two Needle Felting Workshops taught by Meagan Magson of Small Pals. Meagan was the recipient of the Craft Award at the 2023 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards. At the Winter Makers Market, she will teach workshop participants the art of needle felting, leading everyone in the creation of their own unique holiday ornament.




This workshop is suitable for people of all skill levels and is particularly great for families to learn together. Participants ages 10 and over are welcome to attend.



The Winter Makers Market features something for everyone – from beading and jewelry to fine art, woodworking, and more. We can’t wait to see you on December 3rd!

November 29, 2023

Uncategorized Western Perceptions: Writer’s Conference

‘Western Perceptions’, presented by Fort McKay First Nation, is Wood Buffalo’s first-ever writer’s conference, bringing together best-selling Indigenous and non-Indigenous authors to the community to share literary perspectives with the region. From December 8 – 10, 2022, the FREE three day festival will include workshops taking place throughout several locations in Wood Buffalo including Fort McMurray, Anzac and Fort McKay. The conference will conclude with a panel discussion and keynote address.



Brandon Mitchell is Mi’gmaq from Listuguj First Nations in Quebec and currently resides in the unceded Wolastoqiyik territory of Fredericton, New Brunswick. He carries a Diploma in Animation and Design from the New Brunswick Community College of Miramichi and holds a master’s degree in Education from the University of New Brunswick. He is the founder of Birch Bark Comics and creator of the Sacred Circles comic series, which explored his Mi’kmaq heritage through a contemporary lens. Brandon also sits on the board for the Mawi-Art Collective and sits as the Art Director for the Ni’gweg Collective.

He has authored six stories for Indigenous Story Studio: Lost Innocence, Drawing Hope, River Run, Making it Right, Emily’s Choice and Tomorrow’s Hope. He was approached to by the University of Alabama to script and illustrated Jean-Paul’s Daring Adventure: Stories from Old Mobile. He was also a contributing author of “Migwite’tmeg: We Remember It” for “This Place: 150 years retold” which recounts the events leading up to the infamous salmon raids that took place in Listuguj in the summer of 1981 by Highwater Press.

Brandon is also the creator and author of a new young readers series “Giju’s Gift” published by Highwater Press. In it, a Mi’kmaw girl battles an ancient giant and forms an unexpected friendship with a mythical creature, this is the first volume of an ongoing series of graphic novels inspired by traditional stories.


During the last thirty years of his career, Drew Hayden Taylor has done many things, most of which he is proud of.  An Ojibway from the Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario, he has worn many hats in his literary career, from performing stand-up comedy at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., to being Artistic Director of Canada’s premiere Native theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts. He has been an award-winning playwright, a journalist/columnist (appearing regularly in several Canadian newspapers and magazines), short-story writer, novelist, television scriptwriter, and has worked on numerous documentaries exploring the Native experience.

Drew has worked on seventeen documentaries, most recently, REDSKINS, TRICKSTERS AND PUPPY STEW and SEARCHING FOR WINNITOU. He has also served as a scriptwriter on many acclaimed series, including North of Sixty and The Beachcombers. His latest novel, Chasing Painted Horses, brings his total number of published works to thirty-three – and he has also just begun hosting Going Native, a TV series which explores a different and unique aspect of Indigenous identity in each episode.

As a playwright, Drew has proudly been a part of what he refers to as the contemporary Native Literary Renascence. An author of more than 20 plays (resulting in almost a hundred productions), his popular plays such as TORONTO AT DREAMER’S ROCK, ONLY DRUNKS AND CHILDREN TELL THE TRUTH, THE BERLIN BLUES, and COTTAGERS AND INDIANS have left their mark on the Canadian theatre scene.  The latter play is currently one of the most remounted shows in recent years.

The years of writing have brought him many accolades by his peers, including the Floyd S. Chalmers Award, Dora Mavor Moore Award  and the Canadian Author’s Literary Award, He has also been the recipient of many other varied honours; an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Mount Allison University, a Plaque of Honour on the Peterborough Walk of Fame, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award, Ontario Premier’s Award for Creative Arts and Design, and Victoria Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement in Theatre, to name a few.

Oddly enough, the thing his mother was most proud of was his ability to make spaghetti from scratch.


Michael Mankowski is a Screen Writer and Director. He was born and raised in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo. Owner and operator of Alien Kow formerly known as Wood Buffalo Productions, an Alberta, Canada based award winning production house. Michael is a graduate of University of Lethbridge Bachelor of Management and Vancouver Film School 3D & Animation Program.

Over the years, Michael has achieved many accomplishments including the 2017 Media Arts Buffy award. He has also produced passion projects on the side such as, God’s Acre, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, was the winner of the Best Short Film award at the Alberta Film and Television Awards in 2016. Most recently, he created Back Home Again which was the winner of the Best Animated Short Film at the 2021 Edmonton International Film Festival.

Back Home Again was inspired by real testimonials that Michael recorded (while working with the Canadian Red Cross) of individuals who experienced the forest fire, evacuation and the road to recovery. Extensive health research was utilized in the creation of the film, script and content including research from the University of Alberta, CMHA and a number of other studies related to mental health and resilience in disaster/post disaster situations.


Dene Plews is an Indigenous Storyteller from the Fort McMurray #468 First Nation. She writes everything from contemporary romance to YA fantasy, screenplays for short films, songs and poems, but her heart belongs to the short stories she crafts after dark in the comfort of her kitchen. Dene draws her inspiration from the woods around her home. From the sandy trails nestled in the jack pine corridors of Blueberry Hill to the snaking rivers and grand lakes where Slew Sharks lurk. Dene has a passion for folklore specific to her Cree roots and tells tales of ravenous monsters that stalk the forests of the Treaty 8 territory. Story teaches us the value of culture and lessons handed down from generation to generation.


Author Therese Greenwood’s memoir of the Fort McMurray wildfire, What You Take With You: Wildfire, Family and the Road Home, was a Finalist for the 2020 Alberta Book Publishing Awards from The Book Publishers Association of Alberta (BPAA). Nominated in the Trade Non-fiction category, What You Take With You: Wildfire, Family and the Road Home was published by the University of Alberta Press. An eyewitness account of the Fort McMurray wildfire and evacuation, the book is also about the physical and emotional artifacts we carry with us in times of crisis.

Therese’s short crime fiction has appeared across Canada and the U.S. and she won the 2019 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for her story “Buck’s Last Ride” in Kill As You Go, her 2018 short story collection. She is a three-time Finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award, Canada’s top mystery writing prize, and has co-edited two short crime fiction anthologies.

Therese has also worked as a reporter and editor and spent a decade as a weekly CBC Radio correspondent. Her feature stories and columns have appeared in publications ranging from the Globe and Mail to Cottage Life, and she has a Master’s degree in journalism.


DAY 1 (December 8, 2022)

December 8, 2022 will each feature a one-day invite-only workshop for high school students and youth in Anzac who are interested comic book and graphic novel creation. Mi’kmaw comic writer Brandon Mitchell will lead the workshop from concept to completion. If you are interested, please contact Programs Coordinator, Hanna Fridhed at or (587)-674-1625 ext. 104.

DAY 2 (December 9, 2022)

During the day, Mi’kmaw comic writer Brandon Mitchell will be leading another one-day invite-only workshop for high school students and youth located in Fort McKay. If you are interested, please contact Programs Coordinator, Hanna Fridhed at or (587)-674-1625 ext. 104.

The evening of December 9 will feature a public documentary screening of ‘Searching for Winnetou‘ directed by Drew Hayden Taylor. Searching for Winnetou explores the controversy surrounding cultural appropriation of Indigenous culture in an innovative, hilarious, unnerving, yet inspiring way. For years Drew Hayden Taylor, prolific playwright and author of dozens of Canadian-Indigenous books, has noticed a high proportion of German tourists visiting Canada, many who have come looking for a real “Indianer” experience (what Germans call the North American Native lifestyle). Inevitably, almost every one of these Germans will relate stories of Winnetou: Germany’s most famous, but mythical, Apache warrior. The film is a fascinating exploration of “cultural appreciation vs appropriation” from the perspective of one of Canada’s most beloved Native writers.

Register to attend this screening via Eventbrite. (Click image to register)

DAY 3 (December 10, 2022)

9:00 AM – 1:00 PM GRAPHIC NOVEL CREATION WORKSHOP This workshop is open to ALL residents in the Wood Buffalo region who would like to explore, learn and work with graphic novel design. Mi’kmaw Comic Writer, Brandon Mitchell, will lead the workshop from concept to completion. All materials will be provided. (Click image to register)

3:00 PM – 8:00 PM PANEL DISCUSSION, Q&A & KEYNOTE ADDRESS This first-ever Writer’s Conference will be starting with a panel discussion and Q&A Session followed by a catered gathering by Meals and Things and a Keynote Address given by Drew Hayden Taylor. Planned by festival co-directors Frederick McDonald and Therese Greenwood, this event is open to ALL writers, readers and literary enthusiasts.

This unique event will look at the idea of the ‘Western Hero’ and ‘Indian’ stereotype in popular media and how artists, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, deal with these subjects. Each artist will have an opportunity to discuss and share their perspective on either of the subjects or both.

Attendees must register on Eventbrite for the conference as space is limited. (Click image to register) 

The three-day event is made possible by presenting sponsor, Fort McKay First Nation. Arts Council Wood Buffalo would also like to thank our additional sponsors: Suncor, Syncrude, Teck, APE Maintenance and Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries. 

A special thanks to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and the Canada Council for the Arts for their continuance in their support of the arts.

Western Perspectives Co-Directors

The festival is jointly organized by an Indigenous and a non-Indigenous artistic director:

  • Frederick McDonaldCo-Artistic Director Fred McDonald is a member of the Fort McKay First Nation and is presently a full-time artist in the Wood Buffalo Region of Alberta. Despite his many travels, work experience and exhibitions, Fred’s heart is still with the community where he was born and he continues to be an active member of the Fort McKay band. Always a leader, Fred has also been the Chief Executive Officer of the Fort McKay Group of Companies and was resident of the Northern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association. Whether presenting art workshops for students of all levels or running a multi-million-dollar company, Fred keeps himself grounded through his family ties and his children are his inspiration for everything he does.
  • Therese GreenwoodCo-Artistic Director Therese Greenwood’s short fiction has appeared across Canada and the U.S. She won the 2019 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America and is a three-time finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award, Canada’s top mystery writing prize. She has worked as a reporter, editor, and broadcaster, and has appeared in publications ranging from the Globe And Mail to Queen’s Quarterly to Cottage Life. Her memoir of the Fort McMurray wildfire, What You Take With You: Wildfire, Family and the Road Home, was published last year by the University of Alberta Press. Her website is

November 3, 2022

Giving to the Arts this holiday season: November 29

This holiday, 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 arts and the well-being of residents across the region.

You can support yourself and others through the arts by becoming an ACWB member, sponsor, donor, or volunteer. See below for the six ways you can become an Arts Champion.

Enter to WIN $5,000 for ACWB: Nov. 15 – 29

Enter the GivingTuesday contest to win $5,000 from CanadaHelps. Every donation made until November 29 is an automatic entry to WIN a $5,000 CanadaHelps charity gift card that can be used to further support Arts Council Wood Buffalo or other charities and causes you care about.

What is Giving Tuesday?

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement, taking place each year after Black Friday. The “Opening day of the giving season,” it’s a time when charities, companies and individuals join together and rally for favourite causes. In the same way that retailers take part in Black Friday, the giving community comes together for GivingTuesday.

Artwork by Liam Legault

Six Ways to Support ACWB

1) Donate to ACWBWe are a registered charity and you will recieve a tax receipt for donations of $50 and above. Plus, that donation will go towards our Membership Bank. See more about the Membership Bank below.

2) Sponsor programs or Awards. You can sponsor an award for the Buffys, ACWB’s annual Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards, held in the Fall each year. Alternatively, you 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 or (587) 674-1625 ext. 102. To sponsor an award or program, visit our Support Us page to see opportunities.

3) Buy or gift a membership. Buy a membership for yourself or your organization or gift it to an artist that you know! There are a number of benefits to being a member, including discounts, news and opportunities, consultation services, promotion for your arts practice, access to Marketplace, and much more . In addition, you will be adding to the voice for the arts in Wood Buffalo. Larger numbers means a louder voice when Arts Council advocates for the arts community to all levels of government.

4) Renew your membership. There are plenty of benefits to your membership, including monthly newsletters with the inside scoop on opportunities, grants, and artist calls. In 2020, we introduced Marketplace as a free member benefit, so you can have your own online shop on Arts Council’s website. Don’t forget the Artist Directory, where you can upload your artistic profile for the community to see when they are looking to hire local talent.

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

The Membership Bank is a “bank” of free ACWB memberships to help ensure everyone can be an ACWB member. Financial donations made to ACWB from November 23 until December 23 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.

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.

Not an Artist?

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.

Thank You for Supporting the Arts

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.


Contact Akshaya Lakshmi, our Communications Coordinator at or 587-674-1625 ext.104.

November 4, 2020

Multicultural Association and Arts Council Condemn Racist Remarks

Wood Buffalo agencies in solidarity with targeted Indigenous communities 

The Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo (MCA) and Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) express solidarity with Indigenous communities across the region in condemning racist comments at a recent meeting of Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo City Council.

ACWB and MCA are saddened and horrified by racist anti-Indigenous remarks made during the municipality’s public budget meeting as Councillor Dogar M. Shafiq responded to Councillor Kendrick Cardinal’s motion to fund prevention initiatives for Murdered, Missing and Exploited Indigenous Peoples. 

“It is particularly upsetting that this occurred on Treaty 8 land at an official meeting that started with a land acknowledgement,” said MCA’s Vice President Robert Cree, an Indigenous Elder and residential school survivor. “Especially given the recent tragic loss of several Indigenous women in our community who were victims of violence.”

“Our region clearly needs more education,” said Elder Cree. “I ask that the people of Wood Buffalo read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls To Action and think about how they can move each one forward.”

“Hate speech will continue to defile the healing relationships in our community if it is not confronted,” said Jes Croucher, member of Fort McMurray 468 First Nation and ACWB Board Director. “Allyship through reconciliation asks you to walk with Indigenous peoples on the quest for truth. It means listening to Indigenous voices, amplifying Indigenous voices, supporting Indigenous-run initiatives, and standing up for us – even when we are not in the room.” 

“It is the responsibility of the Mayor and each Council Member present to immediately deal with racist and derogatory behaviours when they occur,” said Sara Loutitt, generational member of McMurray Métis and ACWB Board Director, “because ‘silence is compliance’ and adds another layer of injustice to the incident.”

MCA’s response reflects its commitment to Truth and Reconciliation Call To Action No. 93, to work in collaboration with Indigenous organizations to ensure information available for Newcomers to Canada reflects an inclusive history of the diverse Indigenous peoples of Canada. ACWB is committed to reflecting Call To Action 83, which calls for a national strategy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process.

ACWB is a non-profit society and charitable organization that supports the growth and success of the arts in Wood Buffalo. ACWB was established to raise the profile of the arts in our region and to provide support to all facets of the arts community.

February 4, 2022

Fare-Will: A New Beginning for 2022

As we approach the end of December, it’s almost time to turn the pages of our calendars and begin a new year. For me, I’m excited about what’s to come next year, but I’m also feeling a little emotional as I wrap up 2021 and get ready to start a new chapter of my life.

What’s this new chapter? Well, after nearly two years of working at Arts Council Wood Buffalo, I am leaving my role as Communications Manager and moving on to a new career in public engagement at a different organization.

Before turning the page, I’d like to reflect on the chapter I’ve just finished. If I were to describe this chapter, it would be an inspirational romance. Why? Because I love Arts Council. I love what the organization stands for, I love the people at Arts Council, and I love our arts community (including you, dear reader).

I started at Arts Council in February 2020, just before the pandemic. I had only been working with ACWB for a month when we began working remotely. Oddly enough, I believe that the pandemic inspired us to work harder and smarter, creating programs like Art of Conversation, the cinematic version of the Buffys, and an online Marketplace. We were all very passionate about supporting the community through crazy uncertainty.

You’d think that working remotely would have made it more difficult for us to jell as a team, but I think our mutual love of the arts and our desire for the world to know about the power of art brought us together.

It didn’t take long for me to start building new skills. I began managing the website (including coding, which is pretty scary for an old man like myself), aggregating data into Luay’s super spread sheets, populating a customer relationship management system, learning more about social media and graphic design, and I even got to experience the thrill acting. Yes, acting. I haven’t created an IMDB profile yet, but let’s just say that it was pretty exciting to play the character of Westcott Indigo in Buffys 2021.

Fortunately, I was also able to utilize some of my well-established skills, including dorky puns and terrible jokes. I’m happy to inform you that Akshaya has been practising, so she can carry on the torch of terrible humour into the future. Bravo! I’m proud of you, Lakshmi! “Why don’t you take the rest of the day off?” As Akshaya’s manager, I would often ask her to take the rest of the day off – but would only ask her when the work day had already finished.

We had lots of laughs – often at Luay’s expense, as we would jokingly use one of his favourite words, “aggregate,” and turn it into a virtual drinking game, where we would pretend to drink every time we would use “aggregate” in a sentence. Fortunately, Luay is incredible at making critical paths, but is never critical of anyone. Lucky for us.

We also made fun of Sharon each time she would accidentally pocket-dial us. She quickly earned the nickname of “Instananna” simply because she isn’t afraid of wrestling new technology into submission while maintaining her grandmotherly nature of taking care of everyone.

As far as bosses go, Liana has always been much more of a friend, leader, and inspiration than a boss. “You’re doing a fantastic job, mi Padrona.” I often refer to her as “mi Padrona,” which is Spanish for “my Godmother,” and I actually should have been saying “mi Patrona,” which is Spanish for “my employer” – I guess I had better brush up on my Spanish.

It was only months after I started at ACWB that the team began to grow. Soon, Donna Aubichon joined the team as the Rural Arts Support Liaison in Fort Chipewyan. She’s also our resident firecracker. With Donna advocating for ACWB, the future of the arts is bright in Fort Chipewyan. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for her community.

Nick Vardy also joined the team not long ago, and at 6’6”, Nick is already taking Arts Council to new heights – especially when compared to his manager, Sharon, who stands in at a solid 5-foot 3/4 of an inch. When Nick joined the team, I immediately felt a connection. Not only are we from the same area in Ontario, we’re also both drummers. Right on, brother!

It has been a pleasure working with the team at ACWB (including the Board of Directors, previous staff, and those who went on maternity leave – Christina and Hanna). Nearly everyone I have met in connection with Arts Council has made an impression: ACWB members, collaborators, volunteers, hired artists, and everyone in our creative community.

You have all had some sort of impact on my life story. Before working at Arts Council, I had no idea there were so many artists and creative people in this region. You have inspired me personally, professionally, and in my own artistic practise.

Thank you, Arts Council Wood Buffalo and everyone I have encountered in our arts community. I have gained a new respect for all arts disciplines, and for those who dedicate their time and energy to being creative. You make our region a super cool place to live and be an artist. And for that, I thank you.

As I turn the page to start my next chapter, rest assured that the arts will always be an important theme in my story, and you too, will always be supporting characters.

Even though I won’t be working for Arts Council, I am a proud Arts Champion and ACWB member, and I hope to see you all soon at Arts Inc, the spot for creativity for our community. Don’t forget to donate.



December 20, 2021

Arts INC – The Spot for Creativity

Arts Council Wood Buffalo is moving forward with our plans to create Arts INC, an arts incubator for the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region.

We are proud to announce the latest milestone in the process: taking possession of the property (December 2022).

Logo and brand for Arts INC, created by Christina Rolufs, former ACWB Communications Manager

Arts INC is the brand we have given to the arts incubator project. This brand will provide a tangible foundation as we continue moving forward into planning, fundraising, designing, engaging with communities, networking with stakeholders and elected officials, and transforming dreams into reality.

Imagine an arts incubator in our community. Watch video to spark your imagination.

Project Background

Imagine an arts incubator in our community. Watch video to spark your imagination.

Arts Council Wood Buffalo is IN the process of creating an arts incubator space in downtown Fort McMurray. Arts INC will be designed to support and nurture a diverse range of arts and culture for residents across the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region. 

This multi-year project began in 2018 with the Arts Recovery Project, funded by the Canadian Red Cross following the 2016 wildfire. Engagement with artists and community-at-large demonstrated the need for an affordable space for artists to work and create. Review the Post Fire Recovery in the Arts Strategic Plan to learn more about the history and process that planted the seed for Arts Inc.

In early 2020, ACWB received funding from Community Foundations of Canada via the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) to conduct a feasibility study to determine if and how the former Landmark cinema building could be repurposed for an arts incubator, identify opportunities and challenges, and begin the process of envisioning and designing the project. Arts Council worked with Akron Engineering on this feasibility study, and engaged with artists, residents, stakeholders, and businesses to get feedback on the project to evaluate the benefits for everyone in our region.

The study was completed in early 2021.

Feasibility Study Findings: Former Landmark Cinema Building

After engaging with the public in Fall 2020 and completing a feasibility study with Akron Engineering in March 2021, the findings are now available. Review the Arts Incubator Feasibility Study.

“To conclude, based on Akron’s comprehensive research, which is summarized in the Feasibility Study Report, we confirm that the former downtown Landmark Cinema Building is an excellent choice to be repurposed to an arts incubator for Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.  When completed, this great initiative will be a value-added asset for the community and the fruition of Arts Council Wood Buffalo’s Strategic Priorities.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. XI)

“The Cinema Building can be efficiently remodeled to fit the needs of ACWB to house an arts incubator space that can be used as a centre for artists to gather and work, a venue for performances, workshops and galleries, a community gathering space and to host special events.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. 113)

Public Engagement Findings

“Based on the many positive responses to the engagement survey, it is evident that many of our community residents appreciate the need for an arts incubator space and want to participate in it. Having this project come to fruition will be a red-letter day, as there will be a time when forces come together to create something not only creatively impressive, but economically vibrant and self-sustaining.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. 113)

Highlights – Survey Response Statistics:

  • Public engagement survey ran from Sept. 16 – Oct. 6
  • 410 individuals responded to the survey
  • 83.9% agree that an arts incubator would be beneficial for the Wood Buffalo region
  • 67.5% were not satisfied with the types of arts facilities currently available in the Wood Buffalo region
  • 58% were not satisfied with the arts, cultural and entertainment opportunities in the region
  • 45.9% did not self-identify as an artist
  • 43.4% self-identified as an artist

Review more Engagement Survey Findings here.

Community Benefits

“It has been proven in other communities in Canada, and around the globe, that art spaces create huge benefits to the residents economically, socially, and ensure sustainable growth. Our October 2020 engagement survey revealed the excitement of the community to have an arts incubator space developed in the region.

Communities that have embraced art incubators…are driving new business, spurring innovation, attracting talent and investment and, in the process, accelerating community development and improving the overall quality of life for their residents.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. 113)

In addition, Arts INC is in line with a number of goals and objectives as identified by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo:


The first milestone to purchase the future Arts INC property on Manning Avenue in downtown Fort McMurray has been accomplished. Now, formal design and planning will be done to repurpose the property into Arts INC as envisioned by our community.

Based on the Feasibility Study, the current cost estimate for this project is $14.7M to purchase and repurpose the property and get it into operation.

Stay Up to Date

Latest News: June 29, 2022

On June 29, 2022, RMWB Mayor and Council unanimously voted to grant $5 million to fund Arts INC. We are honoured and grateful to have the support of our municipal government for this project. Read more here.

From L to R: Board Director – Dawn Booth, Programs Manager – Luay Eljamal, Executive Director – Liana Wheeldon, Partnerships Manager – Sharon Heading

For ongoing updates and news, revisit this page or follow us on social media (@artscouncilwb). Join us on the journey as we bring Arts INC into fruition for Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

Help Make Arts INC a Reality

You can be a part of this vision for our community by sponsoring Arts INC by making a donation, or volunteering in fundraising activities and events.

SPONSOR: Sponsorships of all shapes and sizes are welcome. For more information, contact Executive Director Liana Wheeldon at or call 587-674-1625 x.100. 

DONATE: Anyone wishing to donate to Arts INC can do so through our website – donations of $50 and over are eligible for a Charitable Donation Receipt.

VOLUNTEER: This project is going to take a lot of work, and we’ll need the support of volunteers from the community. Sign up for our volunteer email list and we’ll notify you when opportunities are available. 

Learn More About This ProjectFAQs

Q – What’s an arts incubator?

– An arts incubator is a purpose-built space that can be used as a centre for artists to gather and work, a venue for performances, workshops and galleries, a community gathering space, and even host events and festivals. Examples include cSPACE King Edward in Calgary or Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design in Nova Scotia.

Q – Where will Arts INC be located?

– The future Arts INC property is located in downtown Fort McMurray on Manning Avenue. The goal is to remodel the building into an arts incubator space that can support arts, culture, business, and the community at large.

Q – Why did you choose that location?

– The former cinema building is no longer in use and has now been purchased by ACWB. The property presents many options and opportunities that are closely linked to the arts incubator concept, including a theatre, movie and rehearsal space, large rooms, and outdoor space for parking, markets, and events.  

In addition, the building is located in the downtown area, which has been identified by local government as an area for redevelopment. Findings from public engagement by the Municipality has shown that this area is ideal for arts and cultural space as well as economic development. Arts INC will be a catalyst for downtown revitalization.

Q – What is a feasibility study?

A – A feasibility study will help determine if and how the former cinema building could be repurposed for an arts incubator, identify opportunities and challenges, and begin the process of envisioning and designing the project.

Q – Where did you get funding for the feasibility study? 

A – In early 2020, ACWB received funding from Community Foundations of Canada via the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) to conduct a feasibility study to determine if and how the cinema building could be repurposed for an arts incubator, identify opportunities and challenges, and begin the process of envisioning and designing the project. Arts Council worked with Akron Engineering on this feasibility study, and engaged with artists, residents, stakeholders, and businesses to get feedback on the project to evaluate the benefits for everyone in our region.

Q – Where do you plan to get money to pay for Arts INC?

A – Part of the feasibility study is determining the cost of this project. From there, Arts Council developed a Fund Development Plan. 

Additionally, there are a number of grants available provincially, federally, and through private corporations that support the development of arts infrastructure.  Examples of potential funders could be Canadian Heritage and Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Q – Will any you be using municipal tax dollars to fund Arts INC?

A – Arts Council is honoured to have the support of our municipal government for this project. On June 29, 2022, Mayor and Council unanimously voted to grant $5 million to fund Arts INC.

Arts Council is always open to discuss opportunities and synergies with individuals and organizations that could benefit everyone in the region.

Q – I live in a rural community. How will Arts INC benefit me?

A – Arts INC is located in Fort McMurray, but we welcome participation from all communities and groups from across the region. 

Once established, Arts INC will use a “spoke and hub model” to provide services to rural and Indigenous communities.  The Artist in Residence program, for example, could be inclusive of the rural areas – artists would spend time mentoring residents in rural communities, but the artists would create their work at Arts INC in Fort McMurray.

Q – How can I help make this project a reality?

A – Anyone wishing to donate to this project may do so through our website – donations $50 and over are eligible for a Charitable Donation Receipt and donors can specify which program, project, or service they wish their donation dollars to support, including Arts INC.

Q – How much will Arts INC cost to build?

A – Based on the Feasibility Study, the current cost estimate for this project is $14.7M to purchase and repurpose the property and get it into operations.

Q – How much does the property cost?

A – A fair market assessment determined the value of the property and was completed by an independent third-party assessor.

Q – How much will Arts INC cost to operate?

A – It is difficult to know what the operation costs will be before a detailed design of Arts INC has been finalized. We are working with Project Management professionals and consultants to better understand costs in greater detail.

Arts Council has also created a 7-Year projected operating plan and budget to ensure success of the project.

Q – Will Arts INC earn revenue?

A – Yes. One of Arts Council’s financial goals for this project is that Arts INC be self-sustaining within 4-5 years of opening its doors to the community. This means that Arts INC would eventually operate based on revenues earned from serving the community, as well as from sponsorships and donors.

Q – What will happen with the profits/revenue earned by Arts INC?

A – Arts INC is based on a business model known as a ‘social enterprise.’ Social enterprises are revenue-generating businesses with a twist. A social enterprise is a revenue-generating business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to deliver profit to shareholders and owners. (Definition provided by BC Centre for Social Enterprise.)

November 30, 2020

Intern(net) Celebrity:

My Summer with Arts Council Wood Buffalo

Written by Hunter Pratt, ACWB Communications Intern

As my summer internship comes to an end, I prepare for the one question asked as soon as a single leaf hits the ground: How was your summer?  My answer: educational! I spent my summer with Arts Council Wood Buffalo where I was quickly integrated into their family feeling atmosphere. Hired as a Communications Intern, I had the pleasure of being able to work along all of their team’s great personalities. The inside jokes created make it one of the reasons it is sad for me to leave (not to be dramatic). Well, my time here has almost come to an end, and I want to share with everyone a bit of what it was like to work at Arts Council as a Communications Intern. 

To begin a lookback at my summer I must say, my duties as a Communications Intern were not your typical tasks. Here is an example of one of my responsibilities,

Presented here is the #HunTea series, one of the most fun projects of the summer. With HunTea, I had the complete creative freedom to make high quality video productions (via TikTok) on any topic of my desire. Also launched on Instagram Reels, I would write scripts and film these videos, which were posted weekly. The best part of making these videos was seeing people enjoy them as much as we did when filming. Trust me, the filming of these videos made for a lot of laughter. 

To bring me back to earth once my TikTok fame went to my head, I assisted in preparing for Buffys 2021 (Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards.) As Buffy season rolled around, tasks were given to me such as transcribing audio nominations, assembling nominee graphics, and creating a social media post schedule for all the nominees. As I completed various tasks, I began to witness excitement for the Buffys grow in the office. 

I also sat in many meetings like the interns you see in the movies. Except I didn’t get that full experience: I never got kicked out, or sent to pick up dry cleaning. Whew! Though, I would say I fulfilled my duties of being the pesky intern, as shown in this TikTok: How not to get in the way of filming. 

TikTok never lied. I truly had to badger everyone to participate in them. It was great to have natural actors at hand. A perk of working among artists! 

Additionally, I wrote a couple of blog posts for the ACWB blog (including this one). My first blog post was a highlight of why art is crucial to rural communities. As a person who grew up in a rural community, I was pleased to see other rural community members reciprocate their passion towards the arts. Here is me shamelessly linking to my beautifully written story.

On a serious note, a huge benefit of working at Arts Council was being able to see artists in their element. Many artists stopped by to drop off their artwork. Some even performed for an upcoming documentary and I was fortunate enough to see artists loving what they do. Watching artists at their craft enabled me to appreciate every artistic discipline.  

While working at the Arts Council, I gained an understanding of many different programs that I didn’t know they offered. There are many opportunities for artists to be showcased, such as Art of Conversation, Arts Incubator (coming soon), Marketplace, and more that I had no clue about. It was fascinating to learn about all of them – they really offer something for everyone. 

This brings me to my last order of business. Before I leave Arts Council, I truly want to promote it. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the arts, start at Arts Council Wood Buffalo. They have created a supportive environment for all artists and will encourage your growth. This is me speaking from experience. To learn more go to their website ( or follow them on social media: @artscouncilwb. 

Thank you to all of the staff, especially the ones that participated in the TikTok-making process! Thank you for having me! 🙂

September 7, 2021

Celebrate Alberta Culture Days in Wood Buffalo

Arts Council Wood Buffalo is excited to announce Alberta Culture Days and Month of the Artist celebrations running in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo for the month of September.

Alberta Culture Days is a province-wide celebration of arts, heritage, diversity and community spirit, and includes a series of free online and in-person events. Local events include workshops, live music, theatre, video, masquerades, and more. Visit to see event details.

“Alberta has a rich and diverse culture worth celebrating and sharing with others,” said Ron Orr, Minister of Culture for the province. “The arts community and municipality have put together an exceptional lineup of events for the Wood Buffalo region. I encourage everyone to get out, enjoy the fun and support local artists this month.”

September is also Month of the Artist in Alberta. Alberta is the first and remains the only province in Canada to dedicate a month to artists. It is an annual celebration of artists, and the value they bring to the province, both socially and economically.

“We’re proud to take part in this collaborative celebration of arts and culture,” said Liana Wheeldon, Executive Director for Arts Council Wood Buffalo. “ACWB has been identified as a Feature Celebration Site for Alberta Culture Days, and we also sit on the Alberta Culture Days Community Planning Committee. This year, we secured grant funding to support 10 different groups who will be putting on events throughout September.” 

Arts Council Wood Buffalo will be recognizing Alberta Culture Days and Month of the Artist through social media (@artscouncilwb), as well as celebrating Art of Conversation participants with St. Aidan’s Society at an event on Arts & Aging Day, which falls on September 24.

Funding for Alberta Culture Days has been provided by the Government of Alberta and Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) is a non-profit society and charitable organization that supports the growth and success of the arts in Wood Buffalo. ACWB was established to raise the profile of the arts in our region and to provide support to all facets of the arts community.

September 1, 2021

Five Reasons Why Art is Crucial to Rural Communities

By Hunter Pratt, ACWB 2021 Summer Communications Intern

Gregoire Lake – Photo supplied by Nicholas Vardy Photography

Growing up in the rural community of Anzac, I have learned the importance of having art around. Anzac, as small as it is, makes up for its size with the people that live here. My community has had many art-related events in the past, which prove time and time again how art brings us together. However, I believe that these events should not just be for special occasions. I believe rural communities should have year-round access to the arts. Local artists in the area should not have to wait months for the next dance class or market just to express themselves. Living in a rural community should not be cause for limited creativity. If anything, living in a small community should enhance creativity.

Here are five reasons why art is crucial to rural communities:

  1. Art creates bonds.  Depending on situations, elders and seniors in rural communities often live alone. Having an outlet for community members, like a painting class, can improve one’s mental health. Art allows people to meet others where they can bond over shared interests. Not to mention certain arts like beading and cooking can create bonds between old and young, which is crucial to rural communities for passing down traditions.
  1. Art tells the stories of our rich history. Rural communities often have the most interesting stories as to how they came to be. Having artists in our communities can allow them to learn the history and create art that encapsulates it. It is important to keep the history known, and art plays a crucial role in how younger generations can learn from it.
Anzac – Photo supplied by Hunter Pratt

3. Art captures the beauty of our surroundings that only locals see.  Small communities do not get enough praise for keeping natural habitats preserved. Not only are wetlands and lakes key for species’ survival, they are natural art pieces that are often overlooked. These natural art pieces are often in rural areas. I encourage anyone that lives near to these, to use their creativity and make art of them. For art is the only way to truly capture the beauty of nature.

Gregoire Lake – Photo supplied by Nicholas Vardy Photography

4. You never know where you’ll find your passion. Having access to the arts in local areas can allow people to find their passion. People in rural areas are often overlooked for opportunities due to their isolated location. By giving people in rural communities a chance to try different arts, new passions will surely be discovered. This is crucial for boosting community morale and creating improvement.

5. Mental health.  Mental health is important, especially when you live in a rural area. It is important to take care of yourself, and art is a perfect way to do so. Art is more than just enjoyable. Art can act as a stress reliever. Art conveys emotions for you when you feel unheard and need to express yourself. Having opportunities to practice art forms should not be neglected in rural communities. Having more accessibility to art can make a community thrive and improve mental health and quality of life.

What can we do?  In order to implement the significance of these principles, we must take action. I strongly urge everyone to create from the resources available. Community members, natural habitats, and history are all great resources to be put to use. Find your inner artist and create from your community. As stated previously, living in a rural community should not be cause for limited creativity, it should enhance it. In closing, art is crucial to all rural communities for growth, culture, improvement and many more reasons. We have the space to create, now we must do so!

Learn more about the arts in Wood Buffalo and opportunities for local artists (including our rural communities) at, or follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on social media @artscouncilwb.

August 3, 2021

ACWB Annual General Meeting: June 24, 2021

Please join us at our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday, June 24, 2021, via Zoom webinar from 6:30 – 8 p.m. Save the date and bring some snacks as we highlight the successes of 2020 and look forward to what’s in store for 2021. 

Register for free through Eventbrite

Your participation is essential to vote on brand new bylaws for Arts Council. Participate by attending the AGM or by sending in your Proxy Voting Form

Link to AGM Zoom Meeting

Why Attend the AGM?

In addition to learning about what Arts Council has been doing for the local arts community, here’s what you can expect and why you should attend:

  • Event theme and creative team reveal of the 6th annual Buffys: Arts Awards, as well as an exclusive short promo video by M’Guphynn Media.
  • Virtual performance by Indigenous drummers from Fort Chipewyan playing and singing an honour song
  • Vote on a Special Resolution to adopt new Bylaws for ACWB:
    • View a summary of changes in the proposed new bylaws.
    • At least 156 members must be in attendance (or by proxy) to constitute quorum for this vote on new bylaws – scroll down to see why we need to update our bylaws.
    • Be sure to fill out and send in your Proxy Voting Form (even if you plan to attend the AGM). This will ensure your vote still counts in case you can’t make it.
  • Call for Board Member – Director, Literary Arts:
    • We’ll be voting for the Director of Literary Arts.
    • Arts Council’s Board of Directors recommends that Kevin Thornton continue on as Director, Literary Arts, but this position is up for election if others wish to run.
    • Meet our current Board of Directors.
  • Member Q&A session at the close of the meeting – submit your questions in advance to
  • Last year’s AGM was Winner of Best Virtual Conference in Best of YMM 2021.

Register for free through Eventbrite

Is Your Membership Up to Date?

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 21, 2021, and again on the day of the AGM.

Only active members are eligible to vote. Please be sure your membership is up to date and active. If you’re not sure, contact Akshaya Lakshmi at

Agenda Package & Documentation

Click the following links to find the 2020 AGM Agenda Package2020 Approved Financial Statements and 2020 Annual Report.

New Bylaws – Priority

This year, ACWB will be voting on a new set of bylaws to help streamline the organization and make Arts Council even better. (Yes, it seems hard to believe that Arts Council can get better, but there’s always room for growth). The way the current bylaws are written, it is necessary that at least 156 members be in attendance or vote by proxy for Arts Council to pass the new bylaws. See the proposed new bylaws in the 2020 AGM Agenda Package.

Why does Arts Council need new bylaws?

As Bob Dylan would say, “the times they are a-changin.'” New bylaws will help ACWB adapt to the changing trends in board governance and technology to allow for things like electronic communication and voting. New bylaws will also help the ACWB Board of Directors to more efficiently transact their business while continuing to follow the legislation outlined by the Provincial Government.

Why is this important for you as an ACWB member?

As an ACWB member, it is your right to vote on new bylaws and understand what new bylaws will mean for Arts Council and its membership. You are entitled to attend the AGM and vote, or you can submit a Proxy Voting Form.

View a summary of changes highlighting the difference between the current bylaws and the proposed bylaws.

Proxy Voting Forms

All ACWB Members are encouraged to submit a Proxy Voting Form even if you plan to attend the meeting. The way the current bylaws are written, it is necessary that at least 156 members be in attendance or vote by proxy for Arts Council to pass the new bylaws. 

Complete your Proxy Voting Form and return it by June 24 at 12 p.m. (NOON) via email to

Any questions?


We look forward to seeing you there.

Link to AGM Zoom Meeting

June 1, 2021

Statement of Sympathy

Arts Council Wood Buffalo has spent time listening, learning and reflecting on the recent discovery at a former Indigenous Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia. We’ve taken time to think about the impact of this news on Indigenous people across Turtle Island and in our own community.

There are no words that can truly address the loss and hurt associated with this discovery, but we feel the need to say something just the same.

With respect and sympathy from the Board of Directors and Staff of Arts Council Wood Buffalo, we wish to express our sincere condolences to the families of the children and to the people of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community. 

We also extend our respect and sympathy to all of the communities, families and children that have been affected by losses due to residential schools. This discovery in Kamloops reflects 215 children, but there are many more that have been found and countless that have not. 

We continue to listen to your stories. 

We are committed to taking the 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 truth and reconciliation.

The arts are a powerful tool to educate us and give a voice to those affected by residential schools. 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.

May 31, 2021

Virtual Red River Jigging Contest Swings Through Fort Chipewyan

From February 1 until February 14, virtual jigging videos filled the Facebook dance floor in the Arts Council Fort Chipewyan Community Group. 

Living rooms turned into virtual dance halls with gorgeous fiddle music and cheers from virtual audiences filming the dancers competing for cash prizes in Fort Chipewyan’s very first Virtual Red River Jigging Contest.

Arts Council Wood Buffalo partnered up with Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation to host the contest and encourage some healthy competition between community members to see who has the best jigging skills. 

During the competition, 24 jigging videos were submitted for five categories including Elders, Adults, Teens, Youths, and even Tiny Tots. Dancers’ ages ranged from 72 years old to 9 months old. One submission included a jigging puppy. (The puppy was disqualified for going over the limit of two legs per dancer.)

Some dancers chose a more subdued performance, wearing moccasins and sweatpants, or having the camera focused on their fancy footwork. Other dancers took the opportunity to showcase their traditional attire and proudly displayed their Nation’s flags, banners and artwork. 

Throughout the videos, sashes and tassels swayed to the jiggers’ feet, and dancers’ smiles blazed as they swung to the fiddles for virtual audiences.

The contest kicked off with a virtual dancing lesson on the Red River Jig by Donna Aubichon, Rural Arts Support Liaison for Arts Council Wood Buffalo.

The Red River Jig is a proper name attributed to both the Canadian Métis and the First Nations in reference to a traditional dance and accompanying fiddle tune. 

Jigging is influenced by the dance styles of the Métis, Scottish, Irish, French and First Nations ancestors. The Red River Jig, accompanied by a single fiddle or a larger band, is up-tempo and energetic, with extra and irregular beats to make the music lively and fast.

Métis jigging originated in the Red River area, which straddles the North Dakota-Minnesota border and flows northward into Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

The jig a combination of First Nations dancing, and Scottish and French-Canadian step-dancing, and reel, jig and quadrille steps. Some of the more popular jigs are the “Red River Jig,” the “Rabbit Dance,” the “Broom Dance” and the “Sash Dance.”

The Red River Jig means a lot to the community of Fort Chipewyan. Elders love to watch the young ones dance and the young ones love to watch and learn from their Elders when they dance. The Red River Jig is a tradition for the community and a huge part of the local culture.

“At any gathering you can be sure that some jigging is going to happen,” said Donna Aubichon. “It’s one of the highlights of the night, so to be able to host a virtual jigging contest for our community was very exciting. We had great feedback from the community.”

Winners were announced on February 19 and $1,400 was awarded in prizes thanks to the generosity of Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation who donated the prizes.

Even though the dances were filmed separately from the homes of participants, as social media filled with videos, the community came closer together in the spirit of dance, music and friendly competition. 

Teen winner, Rayelle Lizotte and Elders Winner, Marina Stewart

Connect to the local arts community and follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn (@artscouncilwb), or visit ACWB’s website and become a member at for arts information, resources, opportunities and benefits.

May 27, 2021