Monday, 16 January 2017

Wood Buffalo Arts and Craft Guild: A Brief History

Last April, the Wood Buffalo Arts and Craft Guild celebrated their 40th anniversary! The Guild was formed in 1976 with one of the remaining founding members, Carol Breen. The Guild's mission statement is “to encourage artists to pursue their artistic goals in the community.”

To date, the Guild has organized over six youth art competition called the Big Spirit Art Competition. Open to artists ranging from age 5 to 18 years old, this competition promotes the value of arts to local youth. The young artists were invited to submit artworks using watercolour, acrylic, pastels, pencil and/or charcoal in categories such as landscape, abstract, still life and portrait. While there was grand prizes awarded for the top artists in various categories, the guild realizes the importance of encouraging youth to peruse the arts and so all the participants were awarded with a ribbon.

In the past, the Guild has also partnered with Keyano College to host a high school art competition within Keyano’s art gallery. Winning competitors were awarded with prize money funded by the Wood Buffalo Arts and Craft Guild, as well as scholarship funding offered by Keyano College. Unfortunately, with a declining membership base and lack of funding, the Guild can no longer offer these competitions at this time. However, with a plan to boost membership registration, this worthy program may have the potential to be reintroduced.

The Wood Buffalo Arts & Craft Guild is also heavily involved in the community and host a variety of fundraising events that support local social profit organizations. A great example of this is when they hosted an art auction for Unity House, a local woman and children’s emergency shelter, where proceeds from the auction were divided between the artist and Unity House.  In addition to this, the President of the guild, Margie Cunningham, initiated a program called Healing Halls at the local hospital where a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of art goes to the Northern Lights Health Foundation.

The Guild also participates in several community celebrations like Alberta Culture Days in Wood Buffalo for which they created a community canvas on a large drop cloth and the public was invited to join in and paint.  Then, large pieces of it was auctioned off to raise money for the Kids Forever Foundation, a recently dissolved local charity that supported families who provide for sick and disabled. The guild began the creation of the community canvas at MacDonald Island Park, then continued out of the Oil Sands Discovery Centre, and finally donating the last of the pieces to be auctioned off at the Festival of Trees event, an annual fundraiser for various community charities.

The Wood Buffalo Arts & Craft Guild is one of the longest running art groups within the Wood Buffalo region. Guided by philanthropic principles, this group places the arts at the forefront of creative fundraising.  

The Wood Buffalo Arts & Craft Guild welcomes new members. To learn more, or to become a member, contact the President of the Guild, Margie Cunningham, at 

Stay informed on all upcoming events through their Facebook Page at

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