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National Arts Centre unveils $23-million fund to support Canadian arts

National Arts Centre CEO Peter Herndorff in Southam Hall Theatre.

David Kawai

The National Arts Centre has lifted the lid on a major fundraising campaign that could become a significant force in commissioning new works from Canadians working in music, theatre and dance. But the NAC stopped short of giving any details about how the $23-million already gathered by its Creation Campaign will be disbursed.

The fund was launched and shepherded by Jayne Watson, CEO of the NAC Foundation, and includes a $5-million lead donation from Winnipeg philanthropist and NAC Foundation chair Gail Asper. A statement from the NAC said that the creation fund, which the Ottawa performance centre hopes to increase to at least $25-million, is intended "to provide a source of venture capital [to] artists and arts organizations" across Canada.

How those artists and institutions would be chosen, and by whom, remains a mystery that will not be solved till November, according to an NAC spokesperson. NAC president Peter Herrndorf declined several requests for an interview.

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The fund appears to be an engine for realizing a commitment made in the NAC's Strategic Plan, 2015-2020, which says: "We will invest in research and development, workshopping and residencies of significant new works in music, dance and theatre." The report also calls on the NAC to "invest in promising new productions from arts organizations throughout the country that need to go 'back into the lab' after their first runs," with the idea that the retooled works might tour nationally and internationally.

"We believe that the NAC will pave the way for a new model in creation in this country," the report concludes. What that new model will look like remains a secret.

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