News Northern Alberta

Arts Council Wood Buffalo launches virtual art exhibit

A screenshot of Cory Huber performing “Rudy’s Song,” which he wrote after a program partnering local artists with seniors introduced him to local senior Rudy Loy.

By Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter /Fort McMurray Today

FORT MCMURRAY – Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) has launched an online exhibition of artworks created through the Art of Conversation program.

In partnership with St. Aidan’s Society, ACWB connected local seniors with artists in the community. Seniors and artists were paired together and talked over the phone. Artists then created a piece of art based on their conversation. The program was called the Art of Conversation.

Liana Wheeldon, executive director of ACWB, said the arts council was hoping to host an in-person exhibit for pieces made during the program, but COVID-19 health restrictions has pushed everything online.

“One of the biggest concerns for our local artists is the lack of opportunity to showcase their work,” said Wheeldon. “The artists need to have an audience.”

There are 29 art pieces that can be viewed on ACWB’s website and Wheeldon said there are more artworks to be posted.

Finished pieces include songs, paintings, poems and even a balloon sculpture.

For Wheeldon, one of the most surprising pieces was a song written by Cory Huber about the senior he was paired with, Rudy Loy. Huber, usually creating experimental hip-hop tracks, was inspired to write a country folk song. It’s called “Rudy’s Song,” after his conversation with Loy.

“It was quite a departure for him,” Wheeldon said about Huber’s contribution. “It was a lovely story that he had to tell about the senior he worked with.”

Other than the initial awkwardness of being on the phone with a stranger, Wheeldon said artists and seniors built strong connections with each other.

Some artists have formed lasting friendships with the seniors they met. Wheeldon said one artist is taking a watercolour painting class with the senior she met.

“Some of our seniors are really isolated and don’t have family here, or are in a small community and they’re in lockdown,” said Wheeldon. “It’s been really nice to give them someone new to meet over the phone or virtually.”

In 2021, ACWB is planning to put out a second call out for artists and seniors to participate in the Art of Conversation. Suncor will continue funding the program and Wheeldon is excited to see what local artists will create next.

“Artists are uniquely wired to express emotions,” said Wheeldon. “We feel isolated and we feel like we’re the only ones that are having these troubles but when you connect with art you see that you’re not alone.”