Buffys awards returns to celebrate arts and culture scene of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo

It was a throwback to the golden age of cinema for the 2021 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards, known as the Buffys, as the pre-recorded show streamed online on Saturday night.


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The Buffys give the local arts community a chance to come together and celebrate their work. This year’s theme was Midnight in Technicolor, and featured performances of dance, music, comedy, spoken-word poetry and theatre.  

The theme was based on the technicolor movement in film, which was known for its bright, bold and saturated colours. Bridging the show were sketches that followed hosts Hue Slider and Nat Valens, played respectively by Timothy Heggie Helen Killorn, and Luma the Technicolor cat, voiced by puppeteer Brandon Folmer.    

The pandemic kept the awards online for a second year, with small viewing parties held around the municipality. Last year’s Buffys had more than 14,000 unique viewers from streaming and traditional media. Will Collins, communications manager for Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB), believes this year will eclipse that number. 

“It’s a very special event because it brings the entire community together through art,” said Collins. “Typically these artists don’t work together. The Buffys is really a celebration of all these different artists but is also an opportunity for everyone to work together on a collaborative project.” 

The physical awards are also works of art. Created this year by Michelle Ploughman, also known as Saltwater Potter, 14 individualized vases were made for each award category. The design for the awards was inspired by the boreal forest.  

The awards also honoured the legacy of the late Joey Delusong, a local musician who died in 2015, with a posthumous lifetime achievement award. Known on stage as Joey D, Delusong was known across the community for his ability to inspire musicians through his songwriting and performances.

“He just had a really special energy about him that was about bringing people together through a positive attitude,” said Collins. “And he had, for lack of a better term, no shame. He would go up and really have a blast.”  

Other award recipients included Andrew Pottie for Arts Champion, Matthew Lorenz for Media Arts, Amy Keller-Rempp for Indigenous Arts and Theatre; Just Because for Performing Arts. Diya Hiltz, who received the Rising Star award for her musical theatre and classical singing performances, said in the broadcast that there are countless reasons why the arts are important.

“One of the main reasons being art is so unique and different for everyone,” said Hiltz. “No one’s form of art looks the same, no one’s voice sounds the same. I think that’s why it’s so special and can truly inspire individuals to do great things with their lives.” 

Cathy Larson, a music teacher in the Fort McMurray Catholic Schools Division, received the award for Arts Education. Larson said in the broadcast that her students were a big component of her love for music.  

“What I’m inspired by is the students I teach every day,” said Larson. “They inspire me to be the best I can be as a teacher and provide the best environment I can for them.”  

Arts Administration: Diane Schuldt-Zundel Arts Champion: Andrew Pottie Arts Education: Cathy Larson Craft: Simon Budd Creative Collaboration: Land Acknowledgement Video by Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games Dance: Hanna LeVoir Indigenous Arts: Amy Keller-Rempp Lifetime Achievement: Joey Delusong (Joey D) Literary Arts: NorthWord Magazine Media Arts: Matthew Lorenz Music (Ken Flaherty Music Award): Shantelle Davidson Performing Arts: Theatre; Just Because Rising Star: Diya Hiltz Visual Arts: Rob Hickey

Scott McLean, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today

Angelia S. Rico

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