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Good Cop / Bad Cop

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Good Cop: The next step for the arts

I’m fortunate to do a lot of tours at MacDonald Island Park for people from Tokyo to Toronto to Timberlea. The conversations are different every time, but more often than not the discussion comes back to the true nature of community building, and the promise of Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo.

Sometimes, the dialogue turns to the arts community in Fort McMurray and the difficulties inherent in fostering the arts in a place that has its fair share of transience and is rooted in a valuable and respected, yet blue-collar, culture.

In addition to promise, other terms that float to the surface are critical mass and tipping point, especially with regards to the arts community. See, I know first hand we have a tremendously vibrant arts community from the underrated Keyano Theatre to the grassroots-oriented MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery presented by Kirschner Family Corporation.

It’s time to take the next step, Fort McMurray.

I know the RMWB has excellent and well-appointed plans to develop a proper civic art gallery among other features. After all, we do have great people already working on the ground in the arts community and these facilities would only amplify what is a key pillar in our development.

I think we can agree the development of the arts community is the right thing to do, but it gets better. There is tremendous economic and social opportunity around the progression of the arts in Fort McMurray.

I don’t have space to rhyme off studies galore, but there’s no doubt that developing this side of our community will put us on the path to sustainability – in the broadest sense of the term – and will lay the groundwork for a creative economy that will benefit the entire community.

Let’s paint the picture!

Bad Cop: The next step for the arts

I’m fortunate to get to do a lot of extracurricular and charitable activities, both through my job at K-Rock and also through having the freedom that my radio schedule allows. One of the endeavors I have been blessed to really explore, is that of becoming entrenched in the theatre community of Wood Buffalo. Or I should say, more specifically, of Keyano Theatre. A small part in Hometown: The Musical and a starring role in Bedtime Stories have given me quite the view of the arts scene, and quite the acquaintance with those already in it. And a common “call to arms” that can be heard, both within that circle, and in every corner of the community is: “we need to do more for the arts in Fort McMurray!”

However, a waste of breath in that argument seems to be the condemnation of the decision by Keyano College to cut the arts programs that they were offering. It was a decision criticized by some observing arts lovers, yet it was the most sensible decision that needed to be done. Considering the low numbers enrolled in a lot of the classes, and the waste of resources resulting from staffing and continuing those classes, while unpopular, it seemed very necessary. Keyano College’s priority is education across the board, yet they manage to provide a phenomenal community theatre experience in Keyano Theatre. But at the end of the day, it’s still a college venue. We can’t have a college, a high school (Holy Trinity), and a rec-centre (MacIsland) solely responsible for providing the theatrical/arts content of Wood Buffalo.

So this is where I turn to the RMWB. Amongst all the exciting and advancing changes coming to our downtown and Waterways, I ask: where is the community theatre? Yay downtown arena, yay redeveloping waterfront residential potential, but civic theatre anyone? I’ve lived in Halifax, where the biggest university has a wonderful theatre, but the city has a better one. And Ottawa, where the educational institutions have great theatres too, but there’s also the NAC. The municipality needs to step up and fill some of this void here. Keyano is getting too much undue heat.

But, as much as I am hearing a call to arms for the arts, I question the organization of those on the front lines of the arts scene. At community engagement sessions, conspicuous by their absence are the masses, demanding more theatre. Skateboarders organize themselves and show up to passionately call for what they want. Where’s the theatre community.? Maybe it’s a reality of the arts world, where a culture of “everyone do their own thing” is bred, but it seems reminiscent of herding cats, to get everyone together to rally for the common cause.

Let’s paint the picture indeed, but let’s first agree on the canvas...and who’s buying the art supplies.



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