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Harbourfront Centre CEO William Boyle in 2013. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Harbourfront Centre CEO William Boyle in 2013. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Harbourfront’s Bill Boyle to retire after 23 years at the helm Add to ...

It’s been known for at least the last six months that William Boyle intended to resign this year as the powerful CEO of Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. However, the departure was only publicly confirmed by Harbourfront Sunday afternoon at an “intimate gathering” of colleagues, friends and family in his honour at the centre. Boyle, 66 later this week, is ending his 23-year tenure at Harbourfront’s helm this summer and to mark his contributions, the centre is renaming York Quay Centre, its main programming and administration building, the Bill Boyle Artport.

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“We knew we wanted to do something special to honour Bill’s exceptional … legacy,” said Harbourfront board president Tenio Evangelista in a statement. “Bill has been a visionary for the organization, a dedicated leader and very good friend to many throughout his time as CEO, [creating] a safe and inviting place for the exploration and development of arts and culture.”

Boyle’s involvement with Harbourfront, in fact, stretches back to 1983 when he became founding director of The Power Plant, now Canada’s leading not-for-profit public art institution dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary art. It was Boyle who oversaw the transformation of a decommissioned 1920s waterfront power station into the gallery’s sleek, modern premises. Boyle served as Power Plant director until 1989. Three years earlier he had also been named director of public programming for Harbourfront, overseeing another conversion, namely the creation of what is now called the Enwave Theatre out of what had been an ice house.

Harbourfront was initiated in 1972 as a project of the then-Trudeau federal government and run as a Crown corporation from 1984 to 1990. Boyle became its founding CEO and general manager in 1991 when the centre was recast as an independent non-profit charitable organization. Under Boyle’s auspices, Harbourfront’s eclectic programming, professional and amateur, in facilities indoors and out, made the four-hectare site a popular destination for numerous audiences, including devotees of theatre, dance, literature, jazz and arts and crafts. The centre, in fact, was at the forefront of efforts to revitalize Toronto’s waterfront as a publicly accessible, year-round, cross-cultural recreat

ion space.

Boyle was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2004 and in 2012 received an honorary doctor of laws from York University, from which he’d previously obtained a BA and MA.

No successor to Boyle was named at Sunday’s event but it’s known an extensive international search has been under way for several months and an announcement is anticipated later this spring. Boyle will continue at Harbourfront Centre until his replacement is appointed.

Boyle’s leave-taking is one of a number of high-level administrative changes occurring in Toronto’s cultural scene. Since spring 2013 there have been departures, enacted or announced, of senior managers at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, the CBC, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

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