Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Celebrating Art and Culture in Wood Buffalo

I have a tendency to not write too often or too boastfully about what happens at the place where I work. I suppose it is because I don’t want to seem to be trumpeting our horn too loudly or too frequently, but I do take immense pride in what we do at the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo – and Alberta Culture Days, taking place this weekend, is one of those events in which I find such pride.

Ana Maria Mendez is the Manager of Arts and Culture at the RRC. It has been my genuine honour to work with Ana Maria since my first day on the job, and we have shared some remarkable moments as she works to bring amazing art exhibitions, workshops and opportunities to this region. Her commitment to art and culture in this region is incredible, and I have been increasingly inspired by her contributions to the local art and culture scene. Being part of them in any small way has been a terrific learning experience for me, and this year when she and Lucie Bause, our Arts and Culture Supervisor (and someone I came to know as a fellow TEDx Fort McMurray 2013 presenter) shared their plans for Alberta Culture Days 2014 I was blown away.
You see what is planned for Alberta Culture Days at the RRC is a full slate of activities designed to engage the entire family in art and culture in our region. From the exciting Wood Buffalo Mosaic Project, an ambitious undertaking to capture the images of 2,000 residents for the creation of two mosaics to be installed in Shell Place and the Anzac Recreation Centre, to the Miquwahkesis Project centred around the red fox that is such a fundamental part of our region to the Fort Mac Handcrafted Market, a Cabochon Culture Charms workshop with the Wood Buffalo Artists Forum to Flash Mob appearances from the MI Dance Academy, the halls of the RRC facilities will come alive with arts this weekend.

The Wood Buffalo Mosaic Project brings amazing photojournalist Tim Van Horn to our community. Tim is on an odyssey called the Canadian Mosaic Project, an incredibly bold and audacious project to take the portraits of 54,000 Canadians from across the country to create a mosaic for 2017, when Canada will celebrate its 150th birthday. Travelling across the country, Tim is making a stop in our community to take some photographs, share his passion for telling the story of Canada and meet our residents. This project, as astonishing in scope as it is in passion, is truly a remarkable journey for Tim and our country, and we are so very fortunate to have the opportunity to host him in our region. This weekend (and again on October 2 and 3) Tim will be taking photographs from noon until 6 pm in the main concourse of the Suncor Community Leisure Centre, and I know I for one will be there to have the Intrepid Junior Blogger and I included as part of this remarkable experience.
The Miquwahkesis Project is one about which I am so passionate, as it has been part of my professional life since I began my job and it has become near and dear to me. This project, which will see a public art installation of artist-painted fibreglass foxes on the TOTAL Interpretive Trail in 2015, is similar to those in other communities that feature cows and pigs – but the central theme, the red fox, is one that has become so synonymous with our community that I cannot help but think of red fox when I think of Wood Buffalo. When I began working with Ana Maria on this project I suddenly noticed red foxes became a running theme in my life, seeing them virtually everywhere. The community is invited to participate in this project this weekend on Sept 27 and 28 at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre.

And this weekend the Fort Mac Handcrafted Market moves into the Suncor Community Leisure Centre, bringing vendors who create beautiful pieces of art and craft for sale. I am incredibly excited about this initiative as I love nothing more than local artisans, passion for your craft or art and a willingness to share it with others. The Fort Mac Handcrafters even have a sneaky little project up their sleeves having something to do with “yarnbombing”, a type of non-damaging, beautifying public art that has been called “graffiti with string”. To my knowledge Fort McMurray has never before experienced yarn bombing, so I am excited to see the reaction to this grassroots public art.
Add in the other featured events – flash mobs and a workshop from the Wood Buffalo Artists Forum, plus an installation as part of the RMWB “igNIGHT”, and you have a full weekend of activities taking place in just one location – and then add in all the other Alberta Culture Days events taking place across the community (the Northword literary magazine issue launch event on Saturday at Keyano, the various igNIGHT installations around the community, The World Meets in Wood Buffalo showcase on Saturday and Sunday) and you have an absolutely dizzying array of events and offerings focusing on arts and culture in our region...Wood Buffalo is alive with arts and culture, you see, and while it is there and present all year round this weekend we truly celebrate this aspect of our community and let it shine.

Despite my rather slow recovery from my recent medical adventure I intend to take in as much as possible this weekend of Alberta Culture Days, starting with our events at the Regional Recreation Corporation. I will get my photo taken, check out the red foxes, and visit the vendors at the market. I will take photos of the yarnbombing and I will be one of those cheering on the flash mobs – because you see all these events feature local people, residents of our community who are celebrating art and culture this weekend.
This weekend might be Alberta Culture Days – but in my mind it is Wood Buffalo Culture Days, and a weekend to celebrate all the things that are great about this region, our people and our community. I hope to see you – yes, you! – celebrating right along with the rest of Wood Buffalo.



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