For nearly 50 years, the Council for Canadian American Relations, which was founded by U.S. banker David Rockefeller and then-prime-minister Pierre Trudeau, has sought, through the arts, to foster and encourage awareness, understanding and appreciation between the two countries. Since its founding, the CCAR has supported more than 170 arts and culture organizations, lent and given many works of art, and provided financial assistance to myriad causes, campaigns and cultural programs that share in the organization’s aim to spark cross-border dialogue though the arts. To celebrate it all, and to raise funds to help further the council’s mission, supporters and culture leaders from both countries gathered in New York on May 13 for a swish biennial black-tie dinner, this year co-chaired by Ellen Kratzer and Gail O’Brien. Since 2014, the event has also honoured individuals who embody the focus of the organization. This year, inside the Metropolitan Club, legendary Canadian actor Christopher Plummer and American arts advocate and philanthropist Jo Carole Lauder were honoured, and the organization gave its inaugural Creative Leadership Award to Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté.
Just as it was at its founding, the council is supported by an exceptional group of political and business leaders: Henry Ford II, Armand Hammer and Bluma Appel were among them then, and among them today are theatre impresario David Mirvish, CIBC’s Jay Smith and David Binet, president and CEO of the Woodbridge Company Ltd., who, it was announced at this latest gathering, will take the reins as chair of the council. (Woodbridge is the owner of The Globe and Mail.) I was a guest at the Woodbridge table, alongside the newly installed director of the National Gallery in Ottawa Alexandra (Sasha) Suda, Harbourfront Centre CEO Marah Braye, National Ballet artistic director Karen Kain and my seatmate Françoise Lyon, chair of the National Gallery board of trustees. At neighbouring tables were philanthropic types, including honorary gala chair Nona Macdonald Heaslip, and fellow Canadian big-givers Rita and Charles Bronfman and Rosamond Ivey, as well as Agnes Gund and Judy Nay, both of New York. There were plenty of Lauders too, there to celebrate Jo Carole, among them her husband Ronald, brother-in-law Leonard and daughters Aerin and Jane. Dotting the room were members of the museum director set including the Museum of Modern Art’s Glenn Lowry, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Stephan Jost and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’s Nathalie Bondil, and painters Frank Stella, Larry Poons and sculptor Joel Shapiro.
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