The show must go on: Buffys awards a success for arts community as ceremony moves online

Hosts Elizabeth Wells and Zachary Barrett host the 2020 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards, also known as The Buffys, on Saturday, October 17, 2020. Supplied Image/Arts Council Wood Buffalo

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More than 2,000 people tuned into this year’s Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards, also known as the Buffys, on Saturday as the event hosted its first online showing.

The pre-recorded awards show presented performances ranging from dance pieces and original music to comedy and theatre performances.

“They were all so unique,” said Liana Wheeldon, executive director for Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB). “I think what surprised us most was the creativity of the artists.”

The awards show was weaved together with a steampunk-themed story written by the hosts of the show, Elizabeth Wells and Zachary Barrett. With moving sets, costumes, props and puppets, this year’s Buffys provided a fantastical experience streamed on ACWB’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

“The Wood Buffalo region has an incredible amount of talent in all shapes and sizes,” said Luay Eljamal, programs manager for ACWB, in a Monday statement. “The Buffys serve as a good opportunity for everyone to reflect on their artistic practice, and be recognized for their contributions to our region.”

Nominees and winners were recognized in 14 awards categories this year. Some winners included Beverly Tourangeau, who won in the Indigenous arts category; Jon Qpid for music; and Therese Greenwood for literary arts.

This year’s lifetime achievement award was given to actress Tantoo Cardinal for her work in the television and film industry which started in 1978. Cardinal, who was raised in Anzac, has acted in movies such as Dances with Wolves and Legends of the Fall.  

The physical Buffy awards were handcrafted works of resin art created by local artist Ambreen Ehtisham. The awards mimicked the shapes and colours of geode rocks.

This was also the first year ACWB hosted a Buffys’ watch party for elders in the Fort Chipewyan community. Rural arts support liason Donna Aubichon hosted the event from the community with health and safety protocols.

“There were a couple Buffy winners in the audience that received their award that night,” said Wheeldon. “We were really excited to have the community be a part of everything.”

Wheeldon said ACWB really came together to make this event and she could not be happier with the result.

“It really did take as much work as the live event,” she said. “But it was so nice to be able to sit back, see everything and just be in awe of the arts we have in our region.”

A full list of nominees and winners can be found at the ACWB’s website.