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Think Creatively this Christmas Season While Supporting the Local Economy

Written by Liana Wheeldon, Executive Director of Arts Council Wood Buffalo

 

As the cold weather approaches, and we look forward to beautiful snowy vistas, we start to think about gift giving. What better way to celebrate the season of giving than to buy unique, hand-crafted gifts created by artists here in our community? Purchasing visual art, or literary works, or booking local performers, provides an opportunity for you to wow the recipient of these thoughtful gifts.

Economic diversity, a phrase we are hearing more often as a hot topic, starts with supporting the ‘Mom and Pop’ shops. That’s what artists in our community are: owners of independent businesses, whether or not they have a storefront. Artists in our community support our local economy in all the usual ways: by paying rent, buying groceries, paying taxes, and can usually be found volunteering at a variety of local social profit events. Buying local provides value in our lives and value in our economy.

According to Alberta Culture and Tourism, 80% of Albertans attended an arts event or activity in 2015-16, and around 82% of Albertans feel it is important for the Government of Alberta to continue to fund and support the arts. These findings echo the research results gathered in a study done of Wood Buffalo residents by Arts Council Wood Buffalo, which show 81% of our residents strongly recognize the importance of the arts for quality of life. 87% of surveyed residents believe artists add value to society and 72% agreed support for the arts in Wood Buffalo should be a priority for local businesses.

Despite all these statistics, 52% of Wood Buffalo professional artists earn less than $20,000 annually from their art and 42% of our artists have difficulty meeting basic household needs.

So, where can you find these local artists and purchase their work? There are a variety of stores in town that showcase local visual artists including: Heritage Village Gift Shop, Oils Sands Discovery Centre Gift Shop, Points North Gallery, and The Art Foundry at River Station. Keyano Theatre and Art Centre, MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery, and the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre frequently have art installations by local artists showcasing and selling their work.

Perhaps you have an artist on your shopping list and don’t know what to get them. Visual art supplies can be purchased locally at Wee Bounce Art Supplies, a small business owned by an artist, housed in The Art Foundry at River Station, a community art space run by artists! Check out Spotlight Performance Wear for the dancer in your life; Kathy’s Fiber Arts & Crafts for the quilters and crafters; Campbell’s Music for your musician friends and family; and Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre for those who enjoy a variety of theatrical, dance, comedy, and musical performances.

Why not surprise your loved ones with the gift of a photography session, music lessons, art workshops, or theatre training? Are your friends and co-workers tired of the same entertainment at your parties and work events? Our community boasts puppet artists, balloon artists, improv artists, a myriad of cultural dancers and singers – almost any type of arts and culture activity you can imagine can be sourced locally. Think creatively and instead of movie tickets, purchase theatre tickets

Arts Council Wood Buffalo is your connection to artists and arts businesses in our region: through our online Artist Directory; via email at info@artscouncilwb.ca ; by phone at 587.674.1625; or visit us in our office in The Redpoll Centre at Shell Place.

To quote from an unknown author: “When you buy something from an artist, you’re buying more than an object (or a video, or a book, or a story). You’re buying hundreds of hours of errors and experimentation. You’re buying years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You’re not buying just one thing, you are buying a piece of a heart, a piece of a soul. A small piece of someone else’s life.”

ACWB is steered by a volunteer board of eleven community members representing the different art disciplines, as well as the community, Metis, First Nations, business, industry and social profit sectors. Three Arts Council staff dedicate their time to creating programs that give our regional artists and arts organizations the skills they need to thrive locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally. We also partner with different local organizations to add art into the community: the Wood Buffalo Food Bank Association’s Empty Bowls Festival, the 2018 Wood Buffalo Alberta Winter Games, and the RMWB Urban Market, just to name a few.

If you would like to connect with our local arts community, or learn more about Arts Council Wood Buffalo programs and services, visit: www.artscouncilwb.ca.

 

*This post appeared in the Friday, November 17, 2017 print version of the Fort McMurray Today

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Engaging Your Online Audience – November 20 & 21, 2017

ACWB invites artists, arts based businesses, and community arts organizations on November 20 & 21, from 6:30 pm – 9 pm, at The Redpoll Centre in Shell Place, as we dive into the world of online marketing for artists!

Engaging Your Online Audience is a pair of workshops that go over two key areas of online marketing – Crowdfunding and Social Media, facilitated by Nancy Kenny. Nancy is an actor, writer, producer, arts marketing and social media professional. For a dozen years she has been working in marketing, promotions, and event planning with a focus on social media and theatre arts organizations.

Crowdfunding – November 20

In this introduction to crowdfunding, you will gain a better understanding of what it is, what funding portals work best for your needs, the pros and cons, how to set yourself apart, and how to develop your web presence and harness social media for a successful campaign.

Social Media – November 21

Whether you run your own creative business or simply enjoying sharing your creative endeavours online, it can be difficult to work out the best way to present what you have to say online. This workshop is designed to give you practical tools and ideas for using your website, newsletters and social media platforms to grow your online presence.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite and at the door for both ACWB Members and Non Members.

ACWB member – $20 per session or $35 for both

Non-member – $25 per session or $45 for both

Light refreshments will be provided.

Presented as part of the 2017 Business of the Arts series, which focuses on helping artists and arts organizations in various stages of their development reach their next step! Artists are unique and ACWB is working with specialists in the creative industry to share relevant and impactful information in these workshops. For more information contact programs@artscouncilwb.ca.

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The Importance of Saying Thank You – Fort McMurray Today Arts Column

The Importance of Saying Thank You

Written by Liana Wheeldon, Executive Director of Arts Council Wood Buffalo

This month marks the second annual Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards event and showcase (aka the Buffys) hosted by Arts Council Wood Buffalo. While it seems obvious to us at the Arts Council that we need to recognize artists and art based groups in the community, it may not be obvious to all why the community needs another awards event.

ACWB’s mandate includes championing investment in the arts in our region and building the profile of our local artists. There are many ways we go about filling those expectations, and the Buffys, although the most work, are also the most fun! This event provides an opportunity not only for us to recognize and thank our local artists, but to showcase the diverse talent that makes up our arts community – on the stage, in the studio, behind the scenes, and everywhere that artists work to create a remarkable quality of life in our community.

Winning, or being nominated for an award, has an incredible impact on artists – personally and professionally. A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a necessity for an artist to have if they want to pursue a professional arts career, and is no easy task to create and build up. Having recognition from peers to add to a CV is not only gratifying, but powerful. Having that extra ‘notch on the belt’ could be the difference between obtaining a project grant, getting into post-secondary education, or landing that dream job. And yes, there are jobs in the arts! An arts award, even a nomination, listed on a CV or placed as part of a portfolio, reassures clients that the artist is credible and can create a quality work worth purchasing. And it’s not only clients that will feel reassured by the award – people who purchase sponsorships, or granting organizations who fund projects, will see the award and know the artist is capable of doing what they say they will.

Awards acknowledge the effort and dedication one puts toward their career and affirms their work as capable of being held to a high standard of quality. It also feels really good to win an award!

ACWB’s Buffys don’t stop with the artists in our community, they also recognize Arts Administration and Arts Education. Arts Educators are remarkable people who inspire the children and youth in our community and foster these artists’ development, creating the art professionals of tomorrow. And Arts Administrators – consider where performing artists would be without the tech and admin support at Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre or Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts. Or visual artists without the people dedicated to supporting them at The Art Foundry at River Station, Points North Gallery, and The MacDonald Island Community Gallery presented by the Kirschner Family Corporation.

Organizations outside of the arts community are also recognized during the Buffys. When organizations embrace the idea of integrating arts into their programs, projects become more alive and open a myriad of possibilities. In 2016, Arts Council had only two nominees in the Creative Collaboration Category – one recognized local independent, Theatre; Just Because partnering with Waypoints for a dinner theatre fundraiser, the other Timeraiser and Fuse Social, a visual art event providing sales opportunities for local visual artists and gaining volunteer hours to support our community. In 2017, eight Creative Collaborations have been recognized! St. Aidan’s Society, the Fort McMurray Chess Club, and the MS Society are only a few of the organizations that pushed their mindset to find creative partnerships for their projects.

Outside of the Buffys, I’d like to recognize and thank the staff at the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo for all they do behind the scenes to enable the arts in our community. We are fortunate to have so many passionate advocates for the arts in the Community Strategies department and beyond.

The arts are essential in creating a balanced community and, for contributing to ours, Arts Council Wood Buffalo salutes all the arts champions in our region!

ACWB is steered by a volunteer board of eleven community members representing the different art disciplines, as well as the community, Metis, First Nations, business, industry and social profit sectors. Three Arts Council staff dedicate their time to creating programs that give our regional artists and arts organizations the skills they need to thrive locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally. We also partner with different local organizations to add art into the community: the Wood Buffalo Food Bank Association’s Empty Bowls Festival, the 2018 Wood Buffalo Alberta Winter Games, and the RMWB Urban Market, just to name a few.

If you would like to know more about the nominees and winners of the Arts Awards, or Arts Council Wood Buffalo programs and services, visit: www.artscouncilwb.ca.

*This post appeared in the Friday, October 20 print version of the Fort McMurray Today

Boreal Forrest Stories by Lucie Bause at The Redpoll Centre

What is Public Art – Fort McMurray Today Article

What is public art?

Written by Liana Wheeldon, Executive Director of Arts Council Wood Buffalo

While public art can be found all around us, it’s a tricky thing to define, and what can be considered public art varies between individuals and community bodies. In the general sense, public art is works of art created in any media that has been planned and created with the intention of being staged in the public realm, free and accessible for all to experience. Public art can help define the identity of a city, demonstrate the character of a community, and serve to enhance the attractiveness of or, create dialogue about, that identity.

Having public art strengthens the community in numerous ways: by providing income for artists, learning opportunities for students and community members at large, and inspiring visitors to our region to catch a glimpse of who we are as a community. These works are created by artists as a reaction to the world around us, to challenge perceptions, to provide a sense of identity, reflect history, our current situation, or future possibilities.

In our region, there are a variety of artworks in public spaces including artworks on Municipal land, private land, commissioned street art, and architectural features, although not all are designated public art under the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB]’s Municipal Public Art Program. The RMWB is dedicated to developing art in public places through various initiatives to strengthen a sense of place and belonging for its residents, while attracting and creating lasting memories for its visitors. Some of the initiatives are: the bus shelter wraps; the street banners; and the graffiti abatement large scale murals. IgNIGHT festival, an RMWB facilitated temporary public art exhibition that aims to encourage public art initiatives in ways that engage the interest and imagination of the general public, will run from October 20 to 29, 2017 at Jubilee Plaza, and will showcase several local artists that have created illuminated art.

The Municipal Public Art Policy, created by the RMWB and approved by council in June of 2014, states that the Municipal Public Art Program will develop a dynamic collection of art that celebrates Wood Buffalo’s culture, history, and people, while enhancing the visual and aesthetic impact of the region. An RMWB facilitated Public Art Committee was formulated and consists of community volunteers, functions to provide recommendations and expert advice with respect to the creation and implementation of the Municipal Public Art Program. Municipal Public Art Guidelines were also created to set standards for the acquisition, collection management, maintenance and conservation of public art.

As a local social-profit organization, Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) also works with public art initiatives in the RMWB, although it is separate from the RMWB’s arts programming, Municipal Public Art Policy, and Public Art Committee. At its core, ACWB’s mission is to champion investment in the arts in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. ACWB is steered by a volunteer board of eleven community members representing the different art disciplines, as well as the community, Metis, First Nations, business, industry and social profit sectors. Three Arts Council staff dedicate their time to creating programs that give our regional artists and arts organizations the skills they need to thrive locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally. We also partner with different local organizations to add art into the community: Fuse Social Timeraiser; Wood Buffalo Food Bank Association’s Empty Bowls Festival; Alberta Winter Games 2018; and RMWB’s Urban Market, just to name a few.

On September 29, 2017, as part of Alberta Culture Days, ACWB invites the community to an unveiling of the new public art piece Boreal Forest Stories, a beautiful triptych painting created by former local artist Lucie Bause, and funded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts’ (AFA) Public Art Commissions Grant.  Installed at The Redpoll Centre at Shell Place, this artwork pays tribute to the shared social profit workspace managed by the United Way. When asked why she is drawn to creating public art, Lucie says: “I am drawn to creating public art as it is an exciting way to engage the community, inspiring conversation and challenging ways of using public spaces.” A fourth panel, The Butterfly Effect, was created under the same grant and incorporates artwork created by selected students at Thickwood Heights School. Lucie hopes the Boreal Forest Stories “…bring a sense of awareness and pride to the community by celebrating life and light in the Boreal Forest environment and that the students who participated in the community engagement workshops feel proud of their work and learned about the power and joy of working in collaboration.” Though the artwork is on display at The Redpoll Centre, it is part of the AFA’s provincial collection, a distinguished group of 2D and 3D art pieces by Albertan artists, and is not included in the RMWB’s Municipal Public Art Program.

If you are interested in learning more about the RMWB arts initiatives and the public art committee, visit: www.rmwb.ca. If you would like to know more about Arts Council Wood Buffalo and The Redpoll Centre Public Art Commission unveiling reception, visit: www.artscouncilwb.ca.

 

*This post appeared in the Friday, September 15 print version of the Fort McMurray Today

2016 Buffy Award created by local Indigenous Artist Kathleen Marsel, Photography by Thorne-Carpentier Photography

Artist Calls- Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards

2016 Buffy award winners for Creative Collaboration - Fanny & Manny Tie the Knot Dinner Theatre by Theatre; Just Because & Waypoints. Presented by Presented by Len Savoy & Anna Seinen from Suncor Energy

The Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards and Why it Matters to Artists

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ACWB is Centre Stage with Nelly Wati Tinkess of Balloon Moose Studio

Read this month’s Arts Council Wood Buffalo member feature in the April edition of snapd Wood Buffalo, on stands now!

Nelly Wati Tinkess is a local balloon artist on a mission to educate the public on this expanding art form. Nelly, originally from Indonesia, moved to Canada 5 years ago. Her education and work experience includes public relations, marketing, and communications in places such as Jakarta and Vancouver. Nelly started working as a hobbyist jewelry maker while pursuing a full time job. Three years ago she noticed a photograph of a large balloon sculpture of a mermaid on her Facebook news feed and she instantly became interested. Today Nelly owns a thriving balloon business in Fort McMurray called Balloon Moose Studio, known for delivering smiles and transforming air into art.

It’s no easy feat being a balloon artist, Nelly points out. Similar to many art disciplines, there is a lot of behind the scenes work that happens before there is a finished balloon product. Each project takes research, gathering inspirations, creating the concept and framework, deciding on appropriate techniques, safety assessments, long hours full of balloon tying, sore fingers and wrists. The joy people get from their balloon art is well worth the work for Nelly, and her plans for her practice are ever growing. Nelly created custom balloon art pieces, including hats and headbands, for attendees at ACWB’s 2016 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Art Awards. It was Nelly’s first gig where adults received her pieces and it has opened the doors to new opportunities.

An avid learner, Nelly understands the value of professional development and continued education in order to learn and improve her artistry. Nelly is well known as an innovator in the North American balloon artist community, and she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Twist & Shout Balloon Convention 2017 in Kissimmee, Florida. While participating in the jam sessions and attending the master classes Nelly was able to connect with other balloon professionals, growing her network while learning new techniques. “I learned a lot, new techniques, new ideas, and also got to know other artists that I can proudly say are my balloon family now,” she says.

Networking and creating relationships with other local artists is another way Nelly strives to grow her practice. Nelly is a founding member of the Wood Buffalo Artisans Society (WBAS), a non-profit organization in Fort McMurray. Nelly and other artisan entrepreneurs created WBAS to support and promote handcrafting artists and handmade products in the region.

Nelly believes the arts community is strong in Wood Buffalo and she is grateful to be part of it. She is often surprised by how much support she gets, not only from Arts Council Wood Buffalo, but from the community as a whole. Passion for her art form and her drive to share it with the community aids in fostering awareness and growth for all of the arts in Wood Buffalo. Learn more about Nelly and Balloon Moose Studio at http://www.balloonmoosestudio.com/ and on Facebook and Instagram.