The Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards and Showcase and Why It Matter to Artists

Featured in Fort McMurray Today, Tuesday, August 1, 2017.

After the enormously successful first annual Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards and Showcase in 2016 – a sold out event with 40 nominees, 13 recipients, and 200 guests – the 2017 event is shaping up to be even better.  Arts Council Wood Buffalo is currently accepting nominations in the 12 award categories: Arts Administration, Arts Education, Creative Collaboration, Dance, Fine Craft, Indigenous Arts, Literary Arts, Media Arts, Music, Rising Star, Theatre and Visual Arts.

The Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards is an annual program that recognizes and celebrates excellence in various areas of the arts throughout our region. The program also builds awareness of the incredible contribution artists make to Wood Buffalo. Each “Buffy”, the name given for the awards, is handcrafted by a local artist. The Buffys inspire the future of arts in our community by celebrating our most exceptional artists. The recognition received by each award winner will raise their profile, build their portfolio, and allow them to compete and thrive as artists within our community and beyond the borders of Wood Buffalo.

It’s an exciting time for artists in our region with a growing amount of support and a recognized need and appreciation for the arts. The growth and evolution of this creative sector could not have happened without the dedication, passion, and heart of artists and art enthusiasts who championed the value of the arts. These individuals and groups recognized gaps and found ways to fill them, started art initiatives from the ground floor, and encouraged all artists who pursue their artistic discipline to continue their pursuit regardless of the obstacles. The Art Awards recognize these amazing individuals, and encourage and recognize emerging artists who show the same dedication and passion for the arts in their personal artistic endeavours and within the community.

The Arts Awards recognize the enormous amount of time and effort artists put into their practice, and also that the artist is at a level in their career that is deserving of acknowledgement. Previous Buffy winners know the quality and effort required to be a recipient and know what it takes to push themselves to the next level. There are many prestigious awards provincially, nationally and on a global scale; winning a Buffy is a perfect starting point, as it requires gathering information and documents that can be used in future applications.

The Arts Awards program also raises the profile of Wood Buffalo artists by spreading awareness of the award nominees and recipients across the region. Arts Council Wood Buffalo and the awards partners go to great lengths to promote the nominees and award recipients across various marketing channels including social and traditional media, and through ACWB’s large network of artists, art enthusiasts, community members, and community groups.

In addition, receiving a Buffy nomination or receiving the award can positively impact the artist’s career. A Buffy award is a great addition to a resume, an artist Curriculum Vitae, and online profiles such as LinkedIn. The award can aid in grant applications, Request for Proposals, job applications and educational applications, giving the artist credibility and reassuring the person or organization that the artist is professional and capable of fulfilling on their intentions.

Michelle Thorne, award recipient for the 2016 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards in Theatre has found the award has helped on many levels, especially in the past year as she made the decision to further her education and training as a director. Michelle reflects on the rigorous application process, explaining the competitiveness of Masters of Fine Arts programs across the country, specifically directing programs, which only accept one or two students each year. “Receiving the Arts Council Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Award for Theatre was a huge personal achievement,” said Michelle.  “The recognition from the community at large for my contributions through my theatre work elevated my CV and made my application stand out to the admissions officers at the universities I applied for. The award played a great role in my acceptance to the University of British Columbia.”

Michelle also received the Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Award for Community Collaboration on behalf of Theatre; Just Because, for their partnership with Waypoints on an annual dinner theatre event. The pride Michelle has for her grass roots independent theatre company and the work it has been able to do in the community is undeniable. “For ‘the little theatre company that could’, receiving the award was a delightful and joyous surprise,” she said. “For an independent company still in its toddler years, receiving an award of this level legitimized the work we had been doing on a community wide scale. To share the honour with Waypoints makes the award all the more sweet as the dinner theatre production has become a signature partnership event for both organizations.”

Do you know an artist deserving of an arts award? Do you work with an artist that is dedicated to sharing their art form with the community? Are you inspired by an arts administrator or teacher? Acknowledge their accomplishments, help them advance their career, and give them the recognition in the community that they richly deserve by nominating them for an Excellence in Arts Award. Artists are also encouraged to nominate themselves for a Buffy, because after countless hours of hard work honing your craft, pushing through obstacles, and experiencing the highs and lows of being an artist, you deserve to be proud of your accomplishments and recognize your own efforts.

Nominations close August 15, 2017. To nominate, fill out an online form on the Arts Council Wood Buffalo’s website at:

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, Photography by Thorne-Carpentier Photography

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

Carol Breen receiving her award for 2016 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards in Visual Arts, presented by Carmen Wells and Dave Boutilier, Photography by Thorne-Carpentier Photography

Dan Gillies, 2016 Buffy recipient for Music, performing at the 2016 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards,  Photography by Thorne-Carpentier Photography

Director Michelle Thorne and cast of Keyano Theatre Company’s The Other Side Of The Pole, Photography by Hanna Fridhed