NAC funds help Canadian artists

New Canadian works funded by the Creation Campaign will begin taking centre stage at the National Arts Centre as early as next year, according to Jayne Watson, CEO of the NAC’s fundraising foundation.

The campaign was announced on Sept. 28, and launched with a $5-million donation from cultural philanthropist Gail Asper.

The campaign is intended to invest in Canadian creators from all different artistic realms, including choreographers, composers, playwrights and arts organizations.

The goal is to create works that will be recognized on national and international levels, according to Rosemary Thompson, the NAC’s director of communications.

“There are terrific plays that are produced, but they’ll be produced once and then they’re over,” she said.

The new funding would provide financial support, and allow artists to develop bold new ideas for the stage.

Since 2013, Watson has travelled across the country consulting with artists about how well the National Arts Centre Foundation has been supporting Canadian artists. Those artists replied with requests for additional resources in getting new works on Canadian stages, said Watson.

From there, the idea for the Creation Campaign was developed.

“It would answer the needs of our artists, and it would make a positive difference,” Watson said.

She made a trip around Canada again, this time talking to donors.

When the Creation Campaign.was unveiled last month, the foundation revealed that it had received $23 million so far.

Asper’s donation of $5 million made history as the largest gift the NAC has ever received.

“As Chair of the NAC Foundation I have seen first-hand the impact the NAC has on the performing arts in Canada,” Asper said in a press release last month. “I was inspired by the goal of the NAC’s Creation Campaign – to help ensure that artists would have access to more investment capital for their projects.”

“It’s a vote of confidence some one like Gail Asper has faith in us,” said Watson.

One of the campaign’s projects, Encounters, is already underway, and is set to debut next spring. Encounters takes three young choreographers and pairs them with three composers to create three new Canadian ballets.

The cross-disciplinary collaboration will bring artists together from across the country, according to Watson. With permission from donors, some of the funds already raised by the campaign are backing the project.

The shows are produced by Ballet BC, Alberta Ballet, and the National Ballet of Canada.

While the ongoing $100-million renovation of the NAC building along Elgin Street is tied to Canada’s upcoming sesquicentennial celebrations, the Creation Campaign is not a 150th anniversary project.

The NAC, which recently unveiled a refurbished Southam Hall performace space, will reopen in time for Canada’s 150th birthday. But the timing of the campaign is more of a coincidence, according to Watson.