Arts & Culture(Archives)
Excellence in Wood Buffalo Arts
On October 22, 2016, Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) transformed the Suncor Energy Centre for Performing Arts into an extraordinary scene, created to amaze all the guests of the inaugural Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards. The sold out “Midnight Circus” themed awards showcase event treated guests to a breathtaking evening that included several high energy performances from a variety of disciplines, a visual arts display, a delectable assortment of carnival foods and for the main act, the presentation of 13 awards.
The Arts Awards, AKA the “Buffys”, were presented to 13 local artists who have shown outstanding achievement and accomplishment in the arts. Each award was hand crafted by local Aboriginal artist Kathleen Marsel. The 2016 award categories and winners are Arts Administration - Ana Maria Mendez; Arts Education - Marie Gazzard; Creative Collaboration - “Fanny & Manny Tie the Knot” dinner theatre by Theatre; Just Because and Waypoints; Dance - Kim Hurley; Fine Craft - Leo Parent; Literary Arts - Kevin Thornton; Media Arts - Sean McLennan; Music - Dan Gillies; Theatre - Michelle Thorne; Visual Arts - Carol Breen; Traditional Aboriginal Arts - Lily Marcel; Rising Star - Avery Rex; and Arts Champion - Loraine Humphrey. 12 of the categories were open to nominations from the community, while the Arts Champion recipient was chosen by the ACWB board of directors to acknowledge an individual, small business, corporation, social profit, or foundation which has strengthened arts and culture in Wood Buffalo through their support and commitment to the sector in the past year.
The idea for the Arts Awards came from a couple different inspirations. There are several types of awards programs across the country which support artists in their home communities, some of these programs are over 20 years old. The Wood Buffalo region also already has many awards programs that recognize the achievements of individuals and organizations in many sectors, but not one for the arts. Diana Moser, interim executive director, explains that “ACWB’s mandate is to champion investment in the arts in the region and the Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards is designed to provide artists with an opportunity to build their portfolios - as a nominee and/or a recipient, and through performance/exhibition opportunities at the showcase event; to network with artists from all disciplines and with the community; and place tangible value on the essential role the arts play in creating a balanced community.”
ACWB started planning this year’s nominations and showcase event in February. This being the first year, they had to build the general structure of the program and event in addition to planning the specifics. ACWB also knew it was important to build partnerships to make the awards a reality and relationships take time. They had many moving pieces in the showcase so they spent the past few months specifically making sure that the nominations, sponsors, performers, concept, venue, and all the other minute details of a large-scale event came together smoothly. ACWB staff worked with event coordinators, artists, and the team at SECPA to put the night together. The event day was a long but incredibly worth it!
ACWB wanted the showcase event to be more than just an awards ceremony - they wanted a spectacular night unlike anything else. Creating a theme, such as the Midnight Circus, allowed them to build an experience of performances, exhibitions, the awards design, everything - exactly what the arts are all about. The circus idea also allowed them to play with a specific type of space, where the stage is surrounded by the audience on all sides. The variety of arts disciplines and artists part of the event were definitely one of the highlights - visual arts, poetry, dance, instrumental music, song, theatre, and more. Guests were treated to a night filled with paintings, pottery, photography, electric guitar, pop n lock dancing, improv, balloon art, specialty dance with props and lights, a live mixing DJ, theatre artists, Métis fiddling and jigging, lyrical and contemporary dance, hip-hop, classical song, and a jazz guitar and singer duet. The design of the event was spectacular; the black box theatre at the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts was transformed into an unforgettable circus environment, which was the perfect setting for a night of celebration and connection. The people who all come together for this event was also an amazing highlight. The audience was made up of members from all facets of the community, not just the arts. The awards may have been to honour artists, but the event was a chance for everyone to come together and celebrate our shared experience as residents of this region. Over 200 people attended the event; it was sold out! ACWB has heard such amazing feedback from the community - the decor, the performances, the food, the recognition of the nominees and the recipients, the sense of community during the whole night. The artists involved were not only excited to perform but they were inspired by the connections they made with each other and even started planning future collaborations.
Moser says that “the Arts Awards is an annual program that will continue to recognize the achievement and accomplishments of the arts in the region year to year, invest in the future of the growing arts community, and allow artists to compete and thrive within the region and even beyond the borders of Wood Buffalo. We look forward to the partnership opportunities and relationships we will continue to build to make the awards and the showcase event an on-going meaningful experience for our community. The Arts Awards will look different year to year and that is an opportunity that we are excited to work with.”
ACWB thanks the 2016 Arts Awards sponsors, the team at SECPA, the event coordinators, various partners, all the artists, the volunteers, ACWB staff and board, and of course, the Wood Buffalo community.