The Great Art Debate – Electoral Candidates’ Views on the Arts in RMWB

Below are social media conversations Mayoral and Councillor Candidates have contributed to in regards to their vision and viewpoints on the arts in our region.


If you are a Mayoral or Councillor Candidate that has posted publicly your viewpoints on the arts sector in our region, please contact to have it included in this posting.

ACWB’s Executive Director, Liana Wheeldon, is happy to meet with any Mayoral or Councillor Candidate who would like to know more about the arts sector in the RMWB, current arts landscape, needs, and challenges. Please contact

October 6, 2017

Post (Allan Grandison for Mayor): The Arts and Culture Community is an important part of our region. I plan to work with council to develop and approve an arts and culture master plan. If you have questions please reach out to me. (Video Included in post)

Video Highlights:

  • Met with Liana Wheeldon, Executive Director of Arts Council Wood Buffalo, to discuss culture in the region, artists in region, arts in the region and challenges we face.
  • Hopes to work with council on developing and approving an arts and culture master plan that will ensure we have a vibrant arts and culture in our community.
  • Make sure we have visual representation in the arts and celebrate culture of this region.
  • This is one of the reason why people live here. This is one of the reasons why people will move here.


October 3, 2017

Post (Russel Thomas):

Quality of Life - RMWB(01)  Quality of Life - RMWB(02)

I was looking through this economic development regional data document and thought I’d share these two “Quality of Life” pages. What jumps out to you?

My first impression, looking strictly at the first page, is that we are a community that is 100% about sports. We have hundreds and hundreds of kids (and adults) who experience quality of life thanks to arts and performance opportunities.

I am dismayed that this aspect of our community is too often under celebrated.

It was the existence of Keyano Theatre that sealed the deal for me when I was offered a position here 21 years ago. At least it got a small mention on page two.

Questions Raised (By Dave Boutillier, ACWB Chair): 

A wonderful, well thought out post, by local artist Russell Thomas.

A few questions to you facebookers…

With the regions apparent focus on sporting venues as a major contributor to quality of life here in the RMWB, where does an emerging artist fit in?

If someones interests lie outside of sports, what options do they have?

Is there a way to balance interest in both arts and sports, and provide opportunity for both? If so, how?


Verna Murphy (Councillor Candidate – Ward 1):Thanks for the great question Dave, and it’s funny because this morning I had sat down to do a post about the local arts community, and then had such a busy day that I didn’t get a chance. You must have been getting my vibes, lol. So as I prepare for the election I have been studying, and one document that I came across in regards to community and arts is something called Vital Signs: Arts and Belonging. And it really has some great research and hard numbers to back the reasoning that we should be supporting more arts in the community. I had asked about a year ago about the budget allocation for the arts programs, and was told at first that it was 1%, and I thought that was low. But then when I went digging, it’s actually only .5% of the total capital project budget. The solution is fairly easy to me, elect people who show their support AND KNOWLEDGE of the arts community. In talking to the Arts Council Wood Buffalo as well as members of the Public Art committee I think there are some very simple solutions to help support our local artists: such as keep things like igNite all local, and hold workshops so that artists know how to fill out applications for funding(not just municipal funding opportunities). As a writer, I know that I bring a slight bias to this issue, and that’s okay. Others may be business people and they may be better advocates for the business community than I am, but I will always approach any decision making with knowledge and I will engage as many residents as possible to make informed decisions. I have written about my dream infrastructure for the downtown, and I really want to see a building supported there that could house a real gallery, with proper lighting and rooms for dance, and enough room for special events, and every day workshops. As a writer, I have felt that we have long been left out or overlooked in the arts community as well, and would love to see a Wordfest or some such event held here in our region. We need to think outside the box, but keep it local. Let’s bring people to our region while showcasing the artists here. Why not engage with tourism? We now have sports tourism, why not art tourism? Other regions have week long retreats for writer’s festivals, author events, gallery showings…the list goes on and on. I am always open to discussions on what we can do to improve our support for the arts community here because I think that it’s an area that is often undervalued, and even if we start with this report, to give people some knowledge of the value of supporting the arts, and then come up with a strong plan to incorporate what we can do in the next 4 years, I would totally support it. It’s long been a frustration of mine that the first things that get cut in budgets are children’s programs and the arts. I am attaching the report that I spoke of as well so that others can have a look. Feel free to call me or message me any time so we can continue this discussion.

Jeff Peddle (Councillor Candidate – Ward 1): I would like to see more focus on the arts in our municipal buildings. One suggestion is having public local work appear at MacDonald Island, City hall and other venues around our community. I would like the city and business community to come up with a space for local business people that sell an array of homemade goods, home decor, clothing etc. and have trade shows each week showcasing local artists, performers and musicians. I think that supporting small businesses and local artists is a great way to graduate people to store fronts or galleries.

Keith Mcgrath (Councillor Candidate – Ward 1):I have always supported the Arts and continue to do so. In our last term we voted to put a percatnge of our capital budget toward the arts for groups to apply. Our greatest days included the interplay festival. With all the bare walls in publis places I have sugeested that council chambers should display local art all those walls would be a great place along with so many other municipal buildings. It’s so nice to see our power boxes now beinmg rapped with art and history it just makes sense. Our kids Art is proudly displayed at the Suncor buisness center along highway 63, Keyano Art Gallery, The walking trail at Macdonald Island Park, we just need to grow these opputunitiues.

Don Scott (Mayoral Candidate):Thanks for the question Dave, and Russell for the thoughtful post.

It is a bit disheartening to see the arts given less of a spotlight in this document; particularly as the father of two young women deeply involved in the arts through music, this troubles me. While I have spent most of my life enjoying athletic pursuits, I know the important role the arts play not only in my home, but also in our region.

I am incredibly grateful for all the organizations in our region that promote and represent the arts; and I think it’s vital for these organizations to continue to receive support and recognition for their work. I also think it’s vital to ensure arts are recognized as an important contributor to quality of life in our region and information shared on the many exciting initiatives from both the past, present and future.

I believe we will strengthen our arts community by working with organizations such as Arts Council Wood Buffalo, which does remarkable work in our region. I also think we need to seek collaborative opportunities and links between arts and sports where possible, which we saw during the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games. It does not need to be an either/or, and I believe we can ensure strength in both arts and sports by building capacity in both sectors.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond, Dave. Once again as a dad of two talented musicians and a long term community resident committed to improving quality of life in our region, I fully support the continued development and growth of arts in our communities!

Adem Campbell (Councillor Candidate – Ward 1): Thanks for the tag Dave and affording me an opportunity to respond. As a classroom teacher I use a cross-curricular method to teach social studies and English language arts, and combine the two core classes as one. My students follow a project based learning style and use projects and presentstions to demonstrate their understanding of both courses curricular outcomes. These presentations include, art displays, skits, videos, poetry, and music. When we learn through the arts we are fully engaged (mind, body, and spirit).

As a candidate with a strong sport and recreation background, it would be easy for constituents to assume that would be my focus as a candidate but I appreciate the opportunity to clarify my position on the arts in our community.

First and foremost I am about building community, whether as a coach or a teacher, building community, creates emphathy, compassion, and mutual respect amongst a common group of people. As a councillor endorsing the arts and helping the arts grow and flourish is one other impactful method to create community within the muncipality.

I for one would love to see a center dedicated to the arts, similar to the Banff Center and we certainly have facilities capable of providing a similar service. We currently have Keyano Theatre but we as a community need a more art focused facility that can showcase properly our local artistic talent.

I personally believe we have enough sporting facilities already, that these facilities simply need restructuring to ensure that their potential is maximized. With that restructuring, we as a municipality can dedicate more than a hallway to the arts, currently at a facility like MacDonald Island.


October 3, 2017

Post (Ariana Johnson, Councillor Candidate – Ward 1):

Wood Buffalo has one of the most vibrant arts and culture communities i have experienced in my life. I come from a city where access to arts and culture is bountiful but also overwhelming and often impersonal. This is not my experience here in our region. I am always super excited when i find a project that we can partner with Arts Council Wood Buffalo for, such as Empty Bowls, or where I can partner with local artists for such as the recent mural project we did on our storage C-cans. The community in wood buffalo is so accessible that I was able to check an item off my bucket list hen i was given a role in the 2014 production of the Vagina Monologues at Keyano Theater – I was honored to have the opportunity to grace the stage and to do it with so many amazing and talented women. As vibrant as this community of people and activities is they are often left out of the discussion and discounted or over shadowed by government departments. it is time for us to put these activities and resources into the hands of the subject matter experts and let them do what they are best at… bringing the arts to life for our entire region.


September 20, 2017

Post: ACWB’s Executive Director Liana Wheeldon wrote an insightful article on Public Art in Fort McMurray for the Fort McMurray Today. Check out the full article online and tell us your thoughts!


Question Raised (By Dave Boutillier, ACWB Chair): What are your thoughts on Public Art, and it’s role in the RMWB?


Krista Balsom (Councillor Candidate – Ward 1): I’m a huge proponent of a strong and robust municipal public art policy that reaches all corners of our region. I think it’s important to work with local artists and the Wood Buffalo Arts Council to engage our citizens on public art as well as ensure it is reflective of our nature, heritage, culture and citizens – both current and in the past. A new council will need to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure that public art has a role in our future development plans as well for the downtown core and the rest of the region. As I stated in my campaign platform, we need a meaningful public art program that showcases the spirit and history of our region that will help to ensure a vibrant community for all. Thanks for asking us to comment on this important topic!

Dogar M Shafiq (Councillor Candidate – Ward 1): Art , is skill of any indl or team which amuses others in a pleasant way-with ones voice, any part of body depicting our culture/ history/ fun. It could be singing, painting , gymnastic, comedy etc. Recreation is great part of ones life. As such art of any kind must be encouraged, developed & artists patronized . The consultation process between stake holders must continue to keep them engaged. Thx

Verna Murphy (Councillor Candidate – Ward 1): I think there is a great need to actually engage with local artists, and we could be doing a better job on supporting them as well. I love the work that the Arts Council of Wood Buffalo has been doing, and I think many residents are confused about what they do, as opposed to say groups like the Public Art Selection Committee. Why not look at giving the artists the funding so that local artists are supported, and engaged. I have had concerns about some projects that have been done locally, but they have all been contracted out to artists that don’t live in the area. I have written about, and stated in the past that a building that could house artists, in all their forms, whether it be dancers, painters, or writers is needed in the community. We are really good at supporting our youth who engage in athletics, but we can do better for our youth who are interested in the arts.

Phil Meagher (Councillor Candidate – Ward 1): Public art gives visitors something to remember our community by and gives a small glimpse of the area culture and livelihood, like the giant axe at Nackawic, New Brunswick. The axe tells visitors that the town was built on the forest industry. Art can take many forms, but I prefer the practical/interruptive forms that tell stories. All communities can benefit from public art.

Allan Grandison Remax (Mayoral Candidate): First and foremost, I absolutely support Arts and Culture within our Community and the Region as a whole. To create a sense of community and belonging we must celebrate our history and our culture and ensure we have artistic expression in many forms that enhance our sense of wellbeing and belonging.

In my view, for Council to support Arts and Culture, in a logical and effective manner, we need to be guided by the overall Arts and Culture Master plan. The master plan provides the guiding principles and the bigger picture to which all requests/proposals from Administration needs to be measured against. It is the new Councils responsibility to ensure that all Master Plans are up to date and reflective of the current needs of the Region.

Jeff Peddle (Councillor Candidate – Ward 1): I am in favour of public art that support our local artists. I do not however, support a weather vane or a public art stage that is unusable and that cost taxpayer’s money for 3 months and had 24 hour surveillance just to be tossed aside. Local artist, Renee Manners, designed beautiful murals in Chez Max that capture our passion and culture of our restaurant. Residents are in awe each time they walk through our doors and we are proud to say that a local artist designed such beautiful pieces. Every time I ride my bike past Heritage Park and Waterways, I stop to appreciate the beautiful mural created by our community members that have the talent to produce such incredible works of art. The foxes by the river and by the road on the way out of MacDonald Island Park add a piece of wilderness and capture the natural essence of Fort McMurray. Supporting local artists has my vote each and every time.

Don Scott (Mayoral Candidate): Thanks for asking this question, Dave! I beleve arts and culture are a critical component of vibrant communities and regions; and we are indeed fortunate in our region to have many talented artists working in all genres. We are also incredibly fortunate to have organizations such as Arts Council Wood Buffalo to promote local arts and artists, and educate the public on art.

Public art is obviously an area which enhances our natural beauty and contributes to overall quality of life. Other communities enjoy robust public art programs and we are seeing this happening in our region at locations such as the Total Aboriginal Interpretive Trail at MacDonald Island Park. I look forward to future public art installations, with the understanding that they must be guided by the arts leaders in our community such as ACWB working in collaboration with the Public Art Committee, local artists and others engaged in creating and sharing art.

I very much appreciate Liana’s comments as I believe there has been much confusion on what constitutes public art and how public art is developed; I believe this is an area in which the collaborative efforts of local arts organizations and artists can contribute to the dialogue to ensure the public understands there is a process and policies behind true public art.

If I should be fortunate to be elected, I look forward to working with our arts community to showcase the incredible diversity of this region, and our strengths that range from industry to arts and culture.