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Arts & Culture(Archives)


The Midnight Speakeasy: A Brilliant Showcase of Local Art at the 2017 Excellence in Arts Awards

Hanna Fridhed
BY Hanna Fridhed
(1 Vote)

On Saturday October 21, 2017, Arts Council Wood Buffalo hosted the second annual Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards at the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts. The sold-out event, named “The Midnight Speakeasy”, was inspired by the 1920s prohibition era and was beautifully decorated in black and white, deep greens, and gold. Also known as the Buffys, the extraordinary evening showcased six live entertainers and eight brilliant performances ranging from rap artists and singers to dance troupes and stand-up comedians, hosted in style by theatre artist Zenon Campbell. During the evening, there were also six visual artworks exhibited and fourteen literary works paired with the presentations of the nominees. Guests were treated to a delicious buffet of assorted appetizers, and to the great joy of party-goers the extremely popular candy bar from last year’s awards made an appreciated return.

“Arts Council Wood Buffalo is really pleased with the outcome of our 2017 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards Event & Showcase!” says Executive Director Liana Wheeldon. “We had over 70 nominations and gave out 14 Awards in total. The ACWB Board added a Lifetime Achievement category this year, recognizing Peter Ellis for his contributions to the arts and our community. The annual event, in its second year, sold out quickly and presented the opportunity to showcase the diverse artistic talents in our region to several new business and industry partners.”

The Midnight Speakeasy was designed to showcase the amazingly vibrant talent present in our community, to recognize and thank our local artists, as well as to provide paid performance and exhibit opportunities to artists in our region. There is an abundance of incredible art that many are not even aware of, and the Buffys present an entertaining platform to highlight the diversity and depth of the Wood Buffalo arts community.

“ACWB’s mandate includes championing investment in the arts in our region and building the profile of our local artists. There are many ways we go about filling those expectations, and the Buffys, although the most work, are also the most fun!” says Wheeldon. “This event provides an opportunity not only for us to recognize and thank our local artists, but to showcase the diverse talent that makes up our arts community – on the stage, in the studio, behind the scenes, and everywhere that artists work to create a remarkable quality of life in our community. ACWB’s Buffys don’t stop with the artists in our community, they also recognize Arts Administration and Arts Education. Arts Educators are remarkable people who inspire the children and youth in our community and foster these artists’ development, creating the art professionals of tomorrow. And Arts Administrators – consider where artists would be without technical and administrative support!”

The 2017 Excellence in Arts Awards was an exceptional display of the vibrancy of the arts scene in Wood Buffalo, beautifully presented and entertaining. The arts are a force to be reckoned with and a necessity for our region, and Arts Council works hard to cultivate a culture of creativity where new collaborations happen regularly and emerging and experienced artists are encouraged to continue to develop through advocacy and support.


2017 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Buffy Award Recipients


Arts Administration: Fort McMurray Filmmakers Association

Non-profit organization founded in 2013 that seeks to encourage filmmaking in Northern Alberta by providing screenings, workshops and social networking opportunities to the residents of Fort McMurray.


Arts Education: Terri Mort

Dramatic arts and visual arts teacher at Westwood High School since 2005 which includes roles as theatre artist mentor, dramaturge, director, improv team leader, set and costume designer; teacher in Public School District for 20 years; former teacher in fly-in communities of Fort Chipewyan and Wollaston Lake.


Creative Collaboration: Wood Buffalo Productions & St Aidan’s Society

Produced a video highlighting the issue of elder abuse that partnered the artistic expertise of the filmmakers and the seniors advocacy mission of St. Aidan’s; WB Productions’ portfolio also includes work with the United Way, Salvation Army, Some Other Solutions, and Waypoints.


Dance: Melinda Richter

Performer, choreographer, playwright, teacher; currently an instructor at Generation Dance Studio; choreography includes “Come Home” tribute to missing and murdered Aboriginal women.


Fine Craft: Betty John Blanchard

Mi’kmaq artist who specializes in high quality glass beadwork in both traditional and contemporary styles such as dream catchers, beaded tapestries and jewelry that embody the Mi’kmaq culture; owner of Betty’s Beaded Creations.


Indigenous Arts: Treasure Cooper

Métis visual artist whose work highlights Métis culture and traditional teachings; her work includes paintings, sculptures, and a focus on art instruction for children and youth. Two of her pieces are part of the TOTAL Aboriginal Trail at MacDonald Island Park.


Literary Arts: Kiran Malik Khan

Journalist, social media specialist, poet, and writer whose work focuses on diversity, multiculturalism and equality for all; Public School District communications coordinator, co-founder/PR Director of NorthWord literary journal; published in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies.


Media Arts: Sanjay Patel

Film writer, director, producer whose work focuses on human rights and social issues of universal interest; projects include “If You Love Your Children” short film, “Union Leader” feature film, “Dogs of India” feature film; founder of Dim Light Pictures Inc.


Music: Dan Tulk

Performer, songwriter, recording artist with an album, music teacher, host of Thursday night jam at Tavern on Main, live music promoter and booking agent; primarily guitar and vocals; performs individually and with bands; style includes folk, country, rock, 90s, blues.


Rising Star: Camryn Hannigan

Performing and visual artist whose work includes Keyano Theatre Company, Drama Force,  Theatre; Just Because, and independent productions; 2016 Arctic Winter Games Team Alberta North cultural contingent original piece; Theatre Alberta’s Artstrek summer youth intensive; Oilsands Rotary Music Festival in voice and piano; dance; and pencil drawing.


Theatre: Scott Weber

Theatre technician at Keyano Theatre with a focus in audio; front of house sound mixing during shows, microphone and sound equipment management, tracking engineer for recording artists, set construction and tear-down, volunteer backstage crew training.


Visual Arts: Graham Whatmough

Photographer of Where the Highway Ends; subjects include aerial landscape, action and portrait, nature, northern lights; work includes collaboration with social profits such as United Way, national and international film/tv productions; member of Wood Buffalo Photography Club; his work regularly engages with an online community of over 9,000.


Arts Champion: Alan Roberts

Director of Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre - member of arts community for almost 30 years; technical expertise and lighting designer for countless Keyano and community theatre shows, as well as regional special events; creative partner and arts advocate.


Lifetime Achievement: Peter Ellis

Accomplished violinist, organist, and music educator – received a Master in Music from Cambridge University and Associate of Royal College of Music qualification in violin teaching; member of arts community for almost 30 years; taught strings at Keyano College Visual and Performing Arts program, Keyano Conservatory, and Uptown! Music and Dance at Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts; organist at All Saints’ Anglican Church.


For the complete list of nominees, sponsors, and artists, please visit


Photos by Amber Razak