Named interim Executive Director of Arts Council Wood Buffalo

Earlier today, many friends and colleagues gathered in the lobby at Keyano Theatre and Arts Centre to hear interim Chair of Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) Christine Burton announce that I will be leaping into a new role starting Monday, as interim Executive Director.  Leaping is the perfect word, because it is almost immediate, ending a 14-year run in several different roles at Keyano College.

I'm actually writing this in the morning, before heading off to work.  This will allow me to quickly hit the "Publish" button when the media scrum is over.

Here are the words I've written.  Whether I say them all or if I add a few more is still to be determined, but this draft will give you a sense of what this opportunity means to me.

Joint Announcement between Arts Council Wood Buffalo and Keyano College
Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 10:30 am

Lobby, Keyano Theatre and Arts Centre

First of all, I want to thank you all for being here.  It means the world to me that you were able to take a few moments from your busy day to help celebrate a significant day in my life and a milestone day in terms of Arts Council Wood Buffalo.

I’m so glad that we’re making the announcement here, as this is where my Fort McMurray ARTS journey began, way back in 1996.  I’ll never forget the first time I walked through the theatre doors, while on a tour of the community during the interview process for a program director job at CJOK.  It felt like I was walking into heaven, and I knew at that moment that if I was offered the job, I was absolutely going to take it.

Well, I did get the job and almost immediately got involved in the theatre. I helped build the set for a show called Crazy For You, performed in a 99-Cent Theatre production of Twelfth Night, playing a wacky character called Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and was cast to play the lead role in The Grapes of Wrath, the first of what has turned out to be nine mainstage productions over the years.

I don’t believe for a single second that I’d be standing here today if it weren’t for my 15 years at the helm of interPLAY.  Through trial and error, ridiculous effort, and collective tenacity, we re-energized and re-imagined what grew into Fort McMurray’s signature festival.  Those hearty souls in the early years paved the way for the creation of Events Wood Buffalo and all the world-class events we get to enjoy today.

To the interim Arts Council Board (Christine, Ana Maria, David, Bryan and Jenny), my deepest thanks for your confidence and for asking me to consider this opportunity. I am deeply humbled and honoured. Your collective passions, experiences, talents and vision helped make the decision easy.  I can’t wait to work with you to build something truly remarkable.

To President Nagel and the Executive team, thank you for your guidance, support and encouragement.  Last summer, you asked me focus on the arts here at Keyano and in the community because you knew that it was important.  In that sense (and with your forethought), I have a healthy head start and am ready to hit the ground running.

For the past 14 years, Keyano College has been my home away from home.  The moments and memories are many.  To my colleagues, past and present, it has been such an honour to do all the things we’ve done together.  I love this place because of the people.  I’m grateful, at least in the short term, that I’ll be able to start this new role surrounded by familiar and friendly faces, working out of an office in the Arts Centre.

The road ahead is exciting, but there is no question that there’s a lot of work to do.  We have to solidify some governance issues and work toward getting a permanent board in place.  We need to work with RMWB administration and Council to develop a Public Art Policy that makes sense.  As soon as we can, we need to set up some community engagement sessions and begin the cultural mapping process.  We need to develop grant streams so desperately needed to assist arts organizations, groups and individual artists.

Along the way, I will continue doing what I do best: communicate, share great stories, tweet using the hashtag ymmarts, and celebrate the role that the ARTS play in building quality of life.

I am of the firm belief that we have the potential to be a world-renowned culture capital, a place equally known for its vibrant arts scene as its oil sands resource, a place where creative souls will long to live, work, learn and play.


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