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 ; 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:


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