Shaping the artistic landscape

I spent some time this weekend crafting an organizational message about why people should consider becoming a member of Arts Council Wood Buffalo.  I think I proffered some sound reasons why getting involved is important, and potentially powerful.  You can read that communication posted as a note on the ACWB Facebook page by clicking here.

Beneath the ask, flowing in the undercurrent is the compelling "why", the "why" that drives our passion for the arts, and our insistence that it be on the public agenda, just as strongly and just as surely as sports and recreation, the economy and infrastructure development.

There is an inherent beauty and brilliance in the practice, appreciation and output of the arts.  I get excited when I meet unusual suspects who wander into my world at the Arts Centre at Keyano, artistic souls on a search for connectivity, opportunity and a sense of Wood Buffalo's artistic landscape.

In recent weeks I've met Bill McCrone, a stand-up bass player who works at Shell Albian Sands and teaches students on his off days through the Keyano Conservatory.  With years of experience playing in all kinds of different bands, this is a guy longing to integrate his musical gifts into his Fort McMurray life.

I had the pleasure of meeting a young lady named Emma, a new student at Keyano who just moved here from Nova Scotia.  She's in the office administration program but has training as a digital animator.  Her instructor brought her for a quick visit the other day and right away she picked up things in my office that I normally have to point out: the watercolour portrait of the cat, the mind map in my notebook laying open on the desk, and myriad distractions hanging on the walls.  Emma is going to connect with the Fort McMurray Filmmakers Association and see where her unique skill set can fit.


Chris Nwoke also came for a visit recently.  He is the artist - new to Fort McMurray from Toronto, and before that Ireland and Nigeria - who painted the scene during the ground-breaking of Jubilee Plaza.


He proudly shared his portfolio including some news clippings of his award-winning educational work in Europe and Africa.  Like Emma and Bill, Chris has a creative fire in his eyes that promises to add so much to our community and region.


Most of us know Tito Guillen, one of the co-founders of both the YMM Podcast and the Fort McMurray Filmmakers Association. We enjoyed a delightful visit at Starbucks a few weeks ago.  He not only has that creative fire in the belly, he also has the organizational and leadership capacity essential to inspiring a shared vision and authentic collaboration.


If arts leaders like Karen Towsley (shown above acting in A Streetcar Named Desire), Phil Kersey, Mike Eddy, Garry Berteig, Rodney Konopaki, George Cotton, Peter Ellis, Dick Mells, Jeffrey Anderson and so many others shaped our artistic landscape in the 1980's and 90's, it is my belief that people like Tito along with his partner in crime Toddske, are among a growing band of transformative thinkers, creators and leaders who are shaping the artistic landscape of Wood Buffalo in 2013.

Several landscape shapers were at the Keyano Cabaret over the weekend, several in the audience and several on the stage.  It was so fun to sit there and watch musical artists create in the moment, playing with familiar themes and jazz standards, but taking their solo flights into uncharted and wondrous territory.


Kudos to the leader of A Touch of Class, Michael Durocher, for keeping the music playing and exploring.


A hearty salute to Daniel Gillies, who has carved out a living here in his home community, both teaching and making music with a number of different ensembles.  I also really enjoyed the bass guitar playing of Craig Follett.  He laid down the funky beat, then let it fly when it was his turn to solo - an unbelievable talent.


It was the second time I got to see tenor sax player Jeffrey Jones.  His seemingly effortless approach and his virtuosity on the instrument were pure joy to watch.  Always partial to the trumpet, it was so much fun to hear Mike play.

I guess the point of this post is that the shaping of our artistic landscape is a shared responsibility, with many contributors and influencers.  I'm so grateful to every single creative soul, young and old, who is creating, learning, exploring, collaborating and innovating in Wood Buffalo.  I'm enormously excited about our future because of you.

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