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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