Friday, 28 January 2011

I received an email from Anna Miller, staff writer for the website
She mentioned that she had come across our Municipal Culture blog and thought that our readers might be interested in her blog as well. I took a look at the Online Degree site and found and interesting blend of information.

This priority of the site is a sort to create and updated review guide of various post secondary programs with an online study option. The site has a very comprehensive list of United States programs, however when I visited it the search option was not function. In theory you would go through a three step process where you select your degree (bachelor, masters, certificate etc) second you select your category (arts, science etc) then finally you chose your specific subject area. The site then works through its database and pulls up the applicable programs that fit your criteria.

Also on the site is the curious blog of Millers. The blog has a wide scope, it features news stories, arts and craft DIY projects and pop culture editorials such as the most recent post and much more. Its an interesting mash up of American pop culture.

If you have some free time and your considering attending an online program based in the U.S.A I would give this site a quick once over - its great to have so many reviews in on application.



Community Image Follow Up

Happy Friday to you all.
I was meandering through facebook and noticed a great link to youtube on Russell Thomas's page. During the Summit, Matty Flores - a member of the Municipal Creative Services team, was recording the various sessions and taping interviews with the participants.

Below I've copied links to two short youtube videos which provide and overview of the purpose and activities included in the first annual Community Image Summit.

Check it out and see a few of the participants perspectives on the summit.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Gallery Grand Opening

As many of you may know last night marked the grand opening of the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery. Many people from the community had a hand to play in the formation of this new and exciting community resource. The newly formed community artists group, the Wood Buffalo Artist Forum (here in the WBAF) have been the championing voice of this initiative. As a group they have worked very hard to make this idea come to fruition, and are very excited to expand on this idea in the coming months by the way of 9 scheduled shows in the space, as well as an educational component. The title show for the gallery opening is Celebration. This inaugural group show, included works from 55 local artists. The collection of works showcased various artists from a variety of stages in their careers and practices. And as excited as I am to go into more detail about the wealth of talent we have locally, in this post I’m going to discuss the Gallery rather than the art within it. I am going to save my formal review of the exhibition for a post in February.

View of the gallery from the main entrance.
All photos were taken from the Wood Buffalo Artists Forum Facebook page.

So, back to the opening! When I arrived at the second floor of the Suncor Community Leisure Centre I was ecstatic to see so many people milling about the entrance to the new gallery space. The very friendly staff of MacDonald Island each looked the part of a gallery attendant, dressed in nicely pressed dresses and business casual attire. They greeted us (I arrived with my boyfriend Michael) with smiles and showed us where we could hang our coats. We received a ten page colour pamphlet which included an image of each work in the show and a small description of each artist. 

Once I had my first look into the gallery I knew it was going to be a wonderful success. The place was packed! I would say there were easily 150 – maybe 200 people in attendance. It was wonderful to see so many community champions in one place for the purpose of supporting the arts. The Mayor and a few council members were in attendance along with representation from the School District, the Municipal Senior Leadership team, local media, Keyano College, Events Wood Buffalo and many more. In addition to large number of the exhibiting artists in attendance there were many other artists there showing support of this initiative and networking amongst the crowd.

As I slowly wandered down the hall, I overheard many excited conversations punctuated with exclamations of joy and wonderment at this new resource and the talent showcased within.

The above is a group shot of a selection of the exhibiting artists

There were a great deal of local media present so I will not go into detail about the event, however I would advise you all to check local papers and radio stations for coverage. Its was such a great pleasure to hear each of the presenters express support for visual artists and acknowledge the importance of art and artists to the quality of life within our region. And I just want to say thank you again to Tim Reid for his kind and unexpected words – I was very much tickled pink (or perhaps red is more accurate) to be acknowledge for my part early on in this process, you were too kind.

Because of the amazing turnout I was not able to spend as much time as I’d have liked to with each work for fear of being an obstruction to others, so I will venture back to the gallery over the next week to spend more time with each piece and formulate a review of the exhibition itself.

Cheers to all who were able to attend and support this amazing new resource. Please keep your ears and eyes open for future exhibitions and educational opportunities that will be housed in the gallery.

Also here is a link to Russell Thomas's blog where he has a related post on the Celebration opening :

Connor Buchanan

Call for Speaker Sessions

Creative City Summit Un-Conference
May 10th, 2011
London, ON

On May 10th, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., an Un-Conference will be held at Museum London, free of charge. CCNC members, Summit delegates and the general public will be welcome to attend. We invite the general public and CCNC members with creative and innovative ideas to present your expertise and experience at these sessions.

So, what is an Un-Conference?
For more information on the Un-Conference, and to sign-up as a speaker visit:

For more information on the 2011 Creative City Summit visit:

Creative City Network of Canada/Réseau des villes créatives du Canada
Suite 415 - 402 West Pender Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 1T6

T: 604-688-2489
F: 604-688-6701

New Community Development Training Opportunities

Hello Community Network Members,

Keyano College invites you to help us in an exploration of an exciting, new training and professional development opportunity in the fields of community development, wellness and addictions. Your insights will ensure that any programming offered works for you and the community. To participate in this confidential survey, please use the link below:

Thank you
Janis Lawrence-Harper
Associate Dean
Life Long Learning

Keyano College
8115 Franklin Avenue
Fort McMurray, AB T9H 3P1
Phone: (780) 791-4857
Fax: (780) 791-4868

Monday, 24 January 2011

Peter Ellis and Roger Admiral

Join us on Saturday, January 29th, when Peter Ellis (violin) will perform with Roger Admiral(piano). Their program will include the Sonata in D major by Handel, followed by the will known Ciaccona by Vitali, arranged by the great violinist Leopold Auer. The third of the sonata for violin and piano by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg is in C minor, and displays great contrasts between tempestuous and flowing lyrical passages. Two works by the great Polish violinist Henryk Wieniawski conclude the recital: Legende and Souvenir de Moscou.

Saturday, January 29 at 7pm

Adult: $12
Students/Senior: $7

Silver Plate 25th Anniversary

Baffin Boot Campaign


Donated bottles are being used to purchase new warm boots for our homeless individuals.
If you would like to donate your bottles to this wonderful campaign please contact Brianne Shacklady at

Pick ups are usually ever Sunday afternoon, but please contact Brianne for more information and pick up location.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Community Image Summit

Good Morning. What a beautiful pink sky we had this morning! All week my coworkers have been ducking their heads into my workspace to get a look out the window at the beautiful display of a Fort McMurray morning.

 Above image: The Panel - All images in article taken by Matty Flores.

Yesterday I was fortunate to attend the fist annual Community Image Summit, hosted and sponsored by Keyano College, Summers Direct, IABC Edmonton and Wood Buffalo Big Spirit. I have to say I would seem like a fish out of water for this summit as most participants were in communications and marketing, but with the portfolio of the Culture work unit; which includes Public Art, Heritage Designation, Cultural planning, community programming and the overarching focus on quality of life for our residents, I would say that we are intrinsically linked to Community Image and thus having representation at this summit was a great idea.

The afternoon started off with a very humorous welcome by Russell Thomas. He quoted an article titled “the end of Oil in Fort McMurray” from Sharp, Canada’s Magazine for Men. Russell read us the opening line of the article - “Hundreds of kilometres north of nowhere, the city of Fort McMurray rises like a shining El Dorado out of a greasy grey curtain of half-buried Alberta crude.” Ouch, granted this was only a small snip-it of the article. This intro had the group laughing and scoffing as I’m sure there weren’t many among us who were particularly surprised by the article.

This article made a great segue to the major theme of the day – perception.

We started the summit with small pointed group discussions regarding the “Image of Fort McMurray” both internally as residents, and what we perceived outsiders of our community to think of us. We went on to discuss what a balanced image of Fort McMurray would look like. There were some great points raised regarding the defensive stance that many McMurrians find themselves in when discussing our home. We pondered why most of us hesitate to take the proactive approach which focuses on the positives of our Region, the environmental sustainability research which is conducted here, the fact that we have more engineers per capita compared to any other Canadian community, our green initiatives like the BYO Bag campaign, our Beautification Initiatives, our amazing Cultural diversity, our recreational resources such as MacDonald Island Park and the outdoor gym, our trial system etc. We have so many positive platforms to speak from yet we often revert to defence – it was suggested that this was a curiously Canadian stance and one that we should try a little be harder to curb, we know Fort McMurray is great – why not say so. The term “guest workers” was introduced during the discussion sessions, I had never heard it used before. The term guest worker is a positive approach to the “shadow population” or the “transient worker” – great right?!! I thought it was such an easy way to change my perspective of those guest workers, and to change the way I perceive my relationship to them. They are guests of this community, and potential ambassadors as well. This was just one example of how to frame something that is commonly perceived in a negative way as a positive.

Above Image: From left to right - Tim Reid, Mayor Melissa Blake and Terry O'Reilly

This point of shifting from a negative approach to a positive was later elaborated on in the second part of the Summit; the Panel. The panel section was titled Are we Moving the Community image meter? Is a balanced view achieved? On the panel was Mayor Melissa Blake, Terry O’Reilly – Marketing Guru and CBC broadcaster, Janet Annesley – VP Communications of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and Tim Reid COO of MacDonald Island Park. The panel touched on many subjects but they often came back to the notion of “spin” in marketing and how a positive approach is only “spin” if it’s not a whole truth. They discussed the necessity of being transparent in the marketing of our region and our image. About ten minutes into the panel Terry mentioned a marketing strategy of searching out the “golden nuggets” of a given product and capitalizing on them as fuel for a campaign. He suggested that as the communicators or ambassadors for our community we need to find the golden nuggets that make Fort McMurray unique, that make it home, and then do our best to sell that nugget internally and externally like it was solid gold.

There were many great points raised and discussed and I had a great time listening to the dialogue. As the close to the Summit Terry O’Reilly gave a talk titled “How Advertising Can Change Perceptions”. What an amazing presenter O’Reilly is – he had the whole crowd laughing and engaging in dialogue. I would suggest to anybody interested in a fun and stimulating evening out to check out the last lecture in the Global Address series, on March 17, 2011 titled, "How Not to Go Crazy in College Tour" featuring award winning author Ned Vizzini.

For more information please:
Call the Keyano Box office at: 780.791.4990

I know I’ll be there! Hope you all have a great weekend.


Connor Buchanan

Do You Know About Local Programming?

Hi Everyone,

I have a message from a current student in the Leadership Wood Buffalo program who needs some community support.





My name is Pavlina Vaverka. I am a student in the Leadership Wood Buffalo program and my group and I are doing a project that is based on engaging the mobile work force. We are presently looking for information in regards to activities/courses/programs in the Wood Buffalo region that might be available to people that are working shift work and/or have limited time? Does your organization presently offer any activities/courses/programs that are either targeted to this type of worker or even just to people that are unable to commit to something weekly over a long period of time?

If it is best that I speak with someone specific in regards to this inquiry please forward me their contact information. Thank you in advance for taking the time to review this request!

Kind Regards,

Pavlina Vaverka

P: (780) 791 - 1600
C: (780) 531 - 4471
F: (780) 791 - 2898

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Volunteer Opportunity

Communities in Bloom is seeking volunteers: Volunteer from 7-9pm for the Snowflake Soiree on Friday, Jan 21st held at the Stonebridge Hotel. Duties include assisting with Children's activities or welcome/reception desk!

Email for more information

Seville Kwan
Beautification Coordinator

T 780.788.1489
F 780.788.4393
C 780.742.7567

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Parks, Recreation and Culture Plan - Neighbourhood and Age Based Meetings

The Municipality is creating a Parks, Recreation and Culture Plan, which will make recommendations on all aspects of parks, recreation and culture in the Municipality.

The Municipality will host a series of discussions with the public and special interest groups to obtain advice on how to improve parks, recreation and culture facilities and services in the community. The meeting will occur on the following dates and times:

Age-Based Community Meetings

Preschool and Children Focus Group - Tuesday, January 25, 10a.m. to noon
Casman Centre Amphitheatre (former Thickwood Arena), 110 Eymundson Rd.

Youth Focus Group - Tuesday, January 25, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Jubilee Centre, Room 1010 (former Public Library), 9909 Franklin Ave.

Adults and Seniors Focus Group - Wednesday, January 26, 7 p.m.
Golden Years Society, 10111 Main St.

Young Adults Focus Group - Thursday, January 27, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Jubilee Centre, Room 1010 (former Public Library), 9909 Franklin Ave.

Neighbourhood Meetings

Monday, January 24 at 7 p.m.
Target Communities: Saprae Creek, Draper, Waterways - Royal Canadian Legion, 9317 Huggard St.

Tuesday, January 25 at 7 p.m.
Target Communities: Abasand, Lower Townsite - Father Beauregard School, 255 Athabasca Ave.

Wednesday, January 26 at 7 p.m.
Target Communities: Gregoire, Beacon Hill, Prairie Creek - Greely Road School, 109 Greely Road

Thursday, January 27 at 7 p.m.
Target Communities: Thickwood, Timberlea - St. Paul School, 429 Ross Haven Drive


Draws for recreation facility passes will occur during these meetings. Advanced registration is not required, but is recommended.

To register or for more information, call 780.743.7877 or e-mail


As mentioned in my interview with Louise van Alenburg, the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery is hosting its grand opening next Thursday January 27, 2011.

Many of you have spent time in the Suncor Community Leisure Centre at MacDonald Island, and may be wondering where this gallery will be located. If you attended last year's WinterPLAY celebration you may have seen the Art Walk in the main level located between the large hockey rink and the pool. We occupied the fire exit hallway that has the access the the pool changing rooms. This new gallery space is located in a similar hallway one floor up. So if you're entering the Centre from the main entrance, take the first set of stairs and head towards the fitness centre. Just before you reach the centre, on your right will be the new Community Art Gallery.

Let me know if you get the chance to take in this new space!

Please join MacDonald Island Park and the Wood Buffalo Artists Forum in celebrating the grand opening of the Community Art Gallery. MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery is opening to the public free of charge on Thursday, January 27, 2011 Second Level Concourse Suncor Community Leisure Centre MacDonald Island Park.

27th of January to February 16th, 2011

Our opening exhibition, Celebration, features visual art in various media by over 50 regional artists. The exhibit will also feature a special work loaned to the gallery by Suncor Energy Inc. This painting by internationally-renowned Fort McKay artist, Fred MacDonald, was commissioned by Suncor Energy to celebrate the first tailings pond reclaimed in the region.

For more information please contact the Wood Buffalo Artists Forum via email:

Monday, 17 January 2011

A Wood Buffalo Artists Forum Interview

Hello Wood Buffalo, it sure is a cold one today! Please be very cautious if you are out and about today I'm sure the roads are slippery and many people will indoubtedly be rushing around trying to get back inside.

I had the pleasure of  having discourse with local artist Louise van Alenburg regarding her position as a board member of a new group in town called the Wood Buffalo Artists Forum, and the group's involvement with the upcoming opening of the MacDonald Island Art Gallery.

Please see the below interview for more information. To avoid confusion my contributions are in black, Louise's are in blue.


Hi Louise, first of all I just want to say congratulations to yourself and the entire board for the creation of the new artists group within the Municipality, and thank you for spending the time to answer my questions. I was hoping that you could tell me a little bit more about the structure and creation of the Wood Buffalo Artists Forum (herein referred to as the WBAF or the Forum), and its involvement with the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery.

CB)  Is the Wood Buffalo Artist Forum a registered non-for-profit organization, or are you more of a group of artists whose practices are linked?
LA)We started off as a group of artists really, but we are now in the process of registering as a non-profit organisation.

CB) What is the structure of the Forum?
LA)We will soon have a board with a Chairperson, Vice-Chair, Secretary/Treasurer, and Chairs for Exhibits, Communications, Fundraising and Volunteers.

CB) What is the mandate for the WBAF?
LA)The Wood Buffalo Artists Forum is a new, non-profit community organization committed to supporting regional visual artists and developing public appreciation of culture through visual arts. In addition to local and aboriginal artists, the Artists Forum has brought together visual artists from the Netherlands, the Philippines, Venezuela, Pakistan and Canada of all levels of experience and talent.

CB) Can people join the Forum or is it a closed group? If so, how do they go about joining - is there an application or jury process?
LA)Yes, people can join the Artists Forum, we have already a big group of supporters. People can join WBAF and subscribe to our Newsletter by emailing There are many opportunities for volunteering, learning and participating on the Board of Directors.

CB) What are the benefits to members of your Forum
LA)All subscribers to our newsletter will be kept up to date of our activities. Volunteers will have the chance to be part of a community that cares about a good work-life balance filled with art and culture. In the future we will also train volunteer curators.

CB)How is the WBAF working with other Arts groups in the community?
LA)As volunteer coordinators of the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery, WBAF works with all community arts organizations and welcomes them to contact us about booking space in the gallery. We are currently working with the Photography Club and the Arts and Crafts Guild to set up group and solo exhibits. We will work with the Arts & Crafts Guild to organise a Youth Art Competition during the Children’s Festival in the summer of 2011.

CB)What does the future of this group look like?
LA)We will continue to bring regional artists into the organization, provide support and opportunities to exhibit their work. We will work to improve the community gallery, continue to help the public appreciate art and identify funds to hire a part-time gallery curator.

CB) What are the focus/goals for group this year?
LA)For year 2011, we have scheduled 10 exhibits for the community gallery. These include, solo and small group shows, a children’s exhibit and competition, an art student exhibit and a charity exhibit and sale. Some of these exhibits are open calls, where all artists can participate and some are reserved for community groups. We encourage artists who wish to book their own solo or small group show to contact WBAF and book well in advance as the schedule for 2012 is filling up. We also plan to expand our public education program by organizing exhibit tours and lectures for community members.

CB) Now to change pace a little bit, tell me about this exciting new Community Art Gallery! Can you help shed a little light on the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery and the WBAF’s relationship to this initiative?
LA)The WBAF was organized when artists participating in the Wood Buffalo Art Walk at the 2010 Winterplay Festival (click the link to see a blog post about the Art Walk) identified a need to join together to address needs and issues in the community. A key issue was the lack of a community art gallery. This is where MacDonald Island CEO, Tim Reid offered room in a large 2nd floor hallway and a partnership with WBAF to operate the space as a gallery. With WBAF expertise, a plan was developed for a professional-quality gallery and Mac Island found basic funding to complete the first couple of steps in creating the gallery – painting the walls and installing some hanging track and lighting. Mac Island also generously provided staff time and resources to hold an opening ceremony and signage. We look forward to continuing to work with Mac Island to find additional funding to complete the gallery and hire a part-time curator.

CB) Do you know the mandate of the Community Art Gallery?
LA)The MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery is committed to being a space for the display of visual art from the Wood Buffalo region, to being all-inclusive of regional visual artists, to respecting the experience, creativity and talent of all visual artists, to challenging artists to grow and develop, to developing the public’s appreciation for visual art and to encouraging emerging, experienced and professional artists.

CB) What is the theme or premise of the inaugural show (title, application parameters etc.)?
LA)The theme of the first exhibit is “Celebration”; chosen to CELEBRATE the opening of the first community gallery in the Wood Buffalo region and to celebrate the official opening of MacDonald Island Suncor Energy Community Leisure Centre. We invited artists to use any medium to create works which reflected their vision of the theme. The results are amazing.

CB) How did the group come up with the theme/title of the show?
LA)We wanted to share our excitement with the public about the new gallery and highlight what an amazing facility Mac Island is for the community.

CB)How will this gallery be administered? Will Community Gallery be working with other local galleries to ensure diverse shows?

LA)WBAF will work in partnership with Mac Island to ensure the gallery provides opportunities to all community members to create, exhibit, learn about, and enjoy visual art, free of charge. Although the Mac Island Community Art Gallery is the only functioning gallery at this time, we look forward to working with other facilities as they emerge to share both the talent and interest in the arts in the Wood Buffalo community.

CB) Without a doubt I recognize that the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery is a step towards a high caliber contemporary Gallery space and increased appreciation for the visual arts in our Municipality. I am extremely excited to see the space completed. However, In a few of your answers you allude to there being no alternative exhibition spaces in the Region, and I think that is a bit of an oversight. I say that because in the past two years that I have been a resident in the Municipality I have seen art exhibited in many locations through out the urban service area of Fort McMurray - in both short term/temporary event situations as well as multi-month exhibitions.

We do have professional gallery spaces in the form of the Keyano Art Gallery and the Carol Breen gallery in Frames and More. I understand that we do not have a publicly run art gallery (fingers crossed that we will) as many other communities of our size do, but I feel that many of our local businesses have done a very good job of supporting the visual artists of this community by creating gallery spaces in their places of business. For example the Radisson Hotel lower level, the Red Poll center multipurpose room, the Oil Sands discovery centre multipurpose room, the upper floor of the Fort McMurray Public Library as well as the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre along with many others. I feel that many community members and organizations have worked together to create the current environment of support for the arts and that those alternative exhibition spaces will continue to function as gallery space along side the Community Art Gallery, until or even after an ideally non-profit government funded Public Art Gallery is created. I believe that it is essential to maintain a variety of exhibition spaces and opportunities to artists of all stages in their careers, I feel that the Community Art Gallery at MacDonald island is a wonderful addition to the mix, but is by no means the only viable option to artist in town.

LA)You're right Connor, we should re-phrase it. It was not what we meant to say.

Let me try to explain better. It is not that we did not research the other places, we have had talks with for instance the Library, The Friendship Centre, Heritage Centre etc., not to mention Keyano Gallery. We do acknowledge the fact that these local businesses do a good job with the space they can provide. However our aim is to provide a professional space with a proper gallery hanging system as safe and secure as possible, for local artists of all levels, free of charge or commission fee. The space is meant to be solely for 2 dimensional art. If you wish we would love to explain more about our experiences when we researched the area for suitable gallery space for local artists in person.

WBAF will work in partnership with Mac Island to ensure the gallery provides opportunities to all community members to create, exhibit, learn about, and enjoy visual art, free of charge. We look forward to working with other facilities to share both the talent and interest in the arts in the Wood Buffalo community.

CB) Thank you for clarifying that with me, I agree with your point about the professional grade hanging system - I know that local artists will love to have that resource available to them. Perhaps we can do another interview soon to discuss the research you mentioned

CB)How many artists will be showcased?
LA) 55 regional artists will be participating in the first exhibit.

CB) Is it all emerging artists or professional established artists?
LA)We are fortunate to have artists of all levels of experience working in a number of mediums. This exhibit will also feature a special painting loaned to the gallery by Suncor Energy – a large piece by internationally-renowned Fort McKay artist, Fred MacDonald, commissioned to celebrate the reclamation of the first tailings pond in the region. We are also very fortunate to have a beautiful painting by international artist and Keyano College Faculty of Art instructor, Garry Berteig. This exhibit stands as a true testament to the artistic talent in the region.

Again, thank you for your time and congratulations to your new group. I look forward to seeing the work you will be engaged in within the Municipality! So readers watch for an upcoming post about Celebration, the inaugural show for the Community Art Gallery. I will include dates, and images - you wont' want to miss this sneak peek.

Louise requested that I include the below as a closing to this interview.

A personal note from Louise:
“When I came to Fort McMurray in 2009, I missed something in this area. I felt the need to bring local artists together, wanted to provide support and opportunities for artists to exhibit their work. Now this dream came through. It was just an idea, but you only need a handful of people who believe in it to make it happen. I would like to thank the current members of the Wood Buffalo Artists Forum, especially Christine Burton, and Tim Reid from MacDonald Island for believing in it!”

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Deadline: Call For Submission


Community Guide to Recreation, Arts & Culture Spring & Summer 2011


The Community Guide to Recreation, Arts and Culture is published twice a year to provide free directory listing and advertising opportunity for non-profit community organizations to promote their recreation facilities, leisure activities, arts and cultural events or community programs in the Wood Buffalo Region. Profit-making or commercial organizations are also welcome to advertise at a reasonable rate ($100 for a half-page; $200 for a full-page), but only recreation, arts and culture related ads will be accepted.

If your organization is interested in advertising in the Spring &; Summer 2011 issue which will be published and delivered in April 2011, please call Emily Hui @ 780-788-1498.

** If you do not want to submit an advertisement please call and submit the groups/businesses name and contact information**

Cultural Hall of Fame Article

Posted below is an interesting article from the Connect - Fort McMurray's only weekly newspaper, for your review:

Here is the content of the article, because I couldn't manage to upload a readable image.

CJ in the City: Cultural Hall of Fame
Last week local arts and culture champion Russell Thomas wrote on Facebook “I’m thinking we need to create a Cultural Hall of Fame in Fort McMurray. What say you? Who would be your choices for inductees?” The social media response was instant with more than 50 responses.

Majority of the interest shown was in regards to the builder’s category. People who have had an impact in the community. Many of them long-time residents.

There was mention of Karen Towsley, Michael Eddy, Mike Allen, Martin Kennedy and Joanne Taylor.

Always willing to toss in my own two cents. I added the names of those individuals who have reached rnational or international acclaim be it actresses Natasha Henstridge or Tantoo Cardinal, singer Laura Whalen or artist Jane-Ash Poitras.

Also threw into the local mix, screen writer Michael McPherson, artist Fred McDonald, musician Ken Flaherty, artist Jane Freeman, historian D.J. Comfort, instructor Dr. Carol Anderson, artist Brian Clark, photographer Terry Garvin, writer Joyce Atcheson, artist Rudy Pongo, musician/writer David Simic and the late Susan Graham who belted out many a tune and was also nominated for a Juno a few years back.

Who the heck is…” was the response in regards to a few of my recommendations.

This is one the major pitfalls for any type of hall of fame. “Who the heck is?”

A lot of times the selection will boil down to a simple popularity contest or who(m) has been nominated that year. It is also hard to stay away from bias in regards to whom the committee had/has knowledge of or been involved with and what the committee members own interests are.

This is just a fact of life.

Establishing criteria will also be a major undertaking. Is it to be only arts with fine arts and performance arts? Believe it or not Gastronomy is also part of the fine arts spectrum.

Whatever the criteria, arts and culture and its impact to our region is something that has taken place not only during the last 30 years or so – as the majority of the selections on the Facebook response were from this time period - but goes back a long long way.

The key for the selection committee is to also have at least one person willing to put in the hours to do the extensive research.

It is a great idea and a long time coming. Look for the ball to start rolling pretty soon.

Speaking of Halls of Fame…the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, of which I had the honour to be the first president, is looking for nominations for the Class of 2011. Check out www. A lot of great names have already come forward but it’s always better to have a larger selection to choose from and debate at the table.

I finally set some time aside and got around to checking out the Our History CD put out by Fort McMurray Historical Society and Heritage Park a few years back.

I had the honour of assisting with the sports timeline but the really neat thing about this educational interactive CD is the main historical timeline which dates back to the 1600s. I learned a lot of interesting things about our region, so a huge thanks to all of the staff and local historians who made this project a reality.

Did you know that the world’s richest man – at the time – John Paul Getty visited the region in 1962. In the same year Robert Kennedy also made a trip north. The CD journey also shook the memory banks with the mention of Sir Alexander MacKenzie Bi-Centennial Park. It was also amazing to discover that Girl Guides is one of the oldest organizations in town having started nearly 70 years ago! It noted that the O’Coffey family had a lot to do with our early development and that in 1715 Chief Waupisoo (Wa-Pa-Su) told representatives of the Hudson Bay Company that the banks of the Athabasca River were of “gum or pitch.”

The most fascinating story though was that of Alfred Freiherr von Hammerstein, one of the early oil sands pioneers from the 1900s’. We have honoured many of the early pioneers with Peter Pond Mall and Dr. Clark School and many of the streets including Bulyea, Cornwall, Ells, Eymundsen, Huggard, and Hughes but for some strange reason not Hammerstein? His impact was huge.

Another quick question, do we have any streets or buildings or parks named after some of our original homesteaders Emile Fousenauve, George Golosky or Wallis Hunnenberg? If you want to discover more about our rich heritage be sure to pop down to Heritage Park to pick up the CD…it’s only $19.95.

See you around town.

To get CONNECTed call: 780-790-6627 or email:

Let us know what you think!
Wow! With the added suggested nominations from Russell's facebook discussion, and those mentioned in the above article it is an exciting prospect to think that we could provide some wide spread acknowledgement given to the champions in the realm of Culture. As CJ mentions in his article it would be tough to mitigate the nomination/application and selection process for those featured on the wall. I agree with this, and unfortunately in many cases of "walls/walks of fame" there is an emphasis on general popularity or community knowledge of a given individual, which can permit some truly amazing individuals to fall through the cracks. To me it would be imperative to ensure that all candidates are evaluated through the same criteria, and that the criteria be created with no one individual in mind. This is a tricky feat because no matter how hard we try it is a true challenge to be objective. In short I think that the creation of the criteria itself promises, like CJ's say's "an undertaking", but I also think that it is an exciting and very nessisary one!

In the last two paragraphs in CJ's article he asks about streets, buildings and parks names - inquiring if we currently have any that are "named after some of our original homesteaders". Culture Coordinator Shauna Gale-Colbert was kind enough to do a little research and come up with the following response.

There are many names around our town that represent our heritage. Each name has been carefully selected so that it highlights our community and its heritage. With such a growing, vibrant community there will always be opportunities to use more names for our streets, parks and buildings. There is a Community Identification Committee that takes naming nominations. Its purpose is to establish a sense of identity in the community.

Also, to recognize and honor early explorers, pioneers, and those who contributed to the development of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. If you look around you will see street names, parks, buildings and historical plaques in the RMWB that have various historical significance. The image below is one of 16 plaques currently located in the urban service area of Fort McMurray. This plaque is located on Athabasca Avenue featuring Alfred Von Hammerstein. Content of other historical plaques include, Hill Family, Gordon Family and the Golosky’s. In the next year there will be another 9 plaques added to the collection.

If you have any questions about the current or upcoming plaques please give Shauna a call at 780.788.4324

Monday, 10 January 2011

Malanka! A Ukrainian New Year Celebration

Malanka is a Ukrainian folk holiday celebrated on January 13th, which is New Year's Eve in accordance with the Julian calendar. In addition to Malanka, this celebration on January 13 is also referred to as the Eve of Bounteous Gifts, Shchedrivka ("Generous Time"), or Old New Year. In different parts of Ukraine, traditions of Malanka celebrations differ slightly, but it remains a day of public enjoyment, entertainment and lavish merrymaking, a true carnival. "Mummers" or spirited actors and carolers dress up in costumes and masks. They ring in the New Year by playing pranks and acting out small plays. Malanka completes the festivities of the Christmas holidays and is often the last opportunity for partying before the solemn period of Lent, which precedes Easter.

The Fort McMurray Ukrainian Cultural Society and Avrora Dancers are hosting their 32nd annual Malanka on Saturday, January 15, 2011 at the Sawridge Inn and Conference Center.

Doors open at 5:30
Dance Presentation at 6:00
Dinner and family dance to follow

Tickets will be available starting January 3, 2011 by calling Shelby at 780-713-3550 or 780-881-1099. Ticket prices are as follows:
  • Adults 16+ $60.00
  • Student 11-15 $40.00
  • Child 6-10 $25.00
  • Child 2-5 $15.00
  • Under 2 Free (ticket required)
For more information about the Fort McMurray Malanka celebration or the Ukrainian Culture Society and Avora Dancers go to their website:

Thank you to the Troyanda Society of Ukrainian Culture & Heritage Website and the Ukrainian Canadian Site for information on Malanka.