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MacDonald Island Park: Where the Arts Come to Life

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Although MacDonald Island Park may be most commonly associated with sports and recreation, the arts are alive on the Island thanks to the active and growing Arts and Culture Department of the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo (RRC).

RRC Manager of Arts and Culture Ana Maria Mendez oversees a department that includes programming in dance and the visual arts, as well as the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery presented by the Kirschner Family Corporation and public art projects designed to engage the community.

The MacDonald Island Dance Academy boasts strong registration numbers, offering dance classes for all ages in a variety of styles including ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip hop and more. Annually more than 500 students work with dedicated dance instructors to refine skills while also having fun exploring dance. The dance students also have the opportunity to participate in community events, and in 2015 performed at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2015 Wood Buffalo Western Canada Summer Games, the opening and closing ceremonies of the igNIGHT public art light festival and the opening of Alberta Culture Days.

The MI Dance Academy Festival Team is comprised of students with an interest in competitive dance, and in 2015 the Festival Team participated in competitions around the province. Three MI Dance Academy students joined the Alberta School of Ballet, and three students were selected to be part of Team Canada in the International Dance Organization World Hip Hop Championship to be held in Austria in the fall of 2016.

Annual recitals showcasing the students allow the dance students of all ages and levels to perform for their friends, families and peers, and to build not only their skills but display their talent and the hard work they have put into developing as dancers.

But dance is not the only Arts and Culture offering at MacDonald Island Park. The visual arts are a key component of the department, including a robust school visits program that saw over 1200 students working with RRC Arts and Culture department employees to explore the visual arts and create their own art pieces. Several of these pieces were featured in exhibitions held in the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery presented by Kirschner Family Corporation during 2015. The gallery, located on the second floor of the Suncor Community Leisure Centre, has become a primary art gallery space in the region, hosting 18 art exhibitions in 2015 and allowing local artists the opportunity to showcase their works in a gallery setting.

Other key components of the visual arts at MacDonald Island include art workshops, classes, camps for children and, new for 2016, art parties designed to encourage participants to create art in a casual and friendly setting.

One of the other exciting new initiatives at MacDonald Island Park will see several permanent public art installations taking place in 2016, including the installation of seven pieces of Aboriginal art on the TOTAL Aboriginal Interpretive Trail.

Based on the theme of the seven sacred teachings, the new public art installations on the trail have been created to pay homage to the rich Aboriginal history of the region and of MacDonald Island. 2016 will also see the installation of the 28 foxes created through the Miquwahkesis Project, which involved local artists and students painting fibreglass foxes destined for installation around the Island for public enjoyment. These two public art projects will mark some of the very first permanent public art installations in the Wood Buffalo region.

“The strength of MacDonald Island Park is in our ability to offer a variety of programming and events for members of our community,” says Annette Antoniak, Chief Executive Officer of the RRC.  “Through our visual arts programs, our dance academy, our public art projects, our gallery and our other Arts and Culture initiatives. we are able to contribute to quality of life in the community, not only through sport and recreation but through leisure pursuits developed for every age and interest.” 


A freelance writer, blogger and professional communicator who is passionate about her child, her work, her pets, her community and the power of words, Theresa Wells believes perfection in life is achieved when she is surrounded by amazing people, fantastic stories, cold gin and really hot shoes.