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The University of Victoria will announce a new professorship in its Department of Visual Arts today. The Audain Professorship in Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest was made possible by a $2-million donation from the Audain Foundation, the philanthropic British Columbia organization founded by Michael Audain. In recognition of the gift, UVic's Faculty of Fine Arts will name the visual-art department's main exhibition and public gathering space the Audain Gallery and Atrium.

Many of the province's educational establishments have benefited from donations from the Audain Foundation - the University of British Columbia, Emily Carr Institute University and Simon Fraser University have all been recipients.

"The universities are a very important part of the reason why British Columbia is becoming an international centre for the visual arts," Audain explained by phone yesterday, adding he was pleased to be able to give back in Victoria, the city where he grew up. "We support visual arts across B.C.," he said. "We try very hard to spread it about and not concentrate all the gifts in Vancouver."

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Asked how much money the foundation had awarded to arts institutions in the past year, Audain chuckled and said he had no idea: "I don't really know. I don't keep track of that sort of thing."

The chairman of Polygon Homes Ltd., one of B.C.'s leading builders, Audain is committed to supporting the province's visual arts and has become a significant influence on the art scene across Canada. He is chairman of both the National Gallery of Canada and the Vancouver Art Gallery Foundation. Through his foundation, Audain is the Vancouver Art Gallery's single most generous donor - with gifts of almost $6.5-million so far - and he was instrumental in the opening of the Bill Reid Gallery, with a gift of over $1-million. He also made a major capital donation to SFU for its forthcoming Contemporary Arts Centre in the redeveloped Woodward's building in downtown Vancouver.

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