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British Columbia arts philanthropist Michael Audain looks on after announcing a $5-million gift to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, March 7, 2013.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

The Audain Art Museum, under construction in Whistler, has appointed its first director. Suzanne Greening, currently executive director of the Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford, will move to the Audain Art Museum next year.

Ms. Greening beat out 36 other candidates – including applicants from the United States and Britain – to win the position.

"I feel incredibly honoured," she says. "This was a very desirable position and I think I would have been devastated if I hadn't gotten it."

Michael Audain, a philanthropist and art collector, is building the $30-million, 56,000-square-foot museum in Whistler to showcase his extraordinary art collection – in particular works from British Columbia – and to house travelling shows.

Mr. Audain said Ms. Greening's "broad experience" made her the right choice to open the new museum, pointing out that she has been involved in startup situations not just at the Reach but before that at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Wash., and the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo, Ont.

Mr. Audain, taking a break from architect-selection meetings for the Vancouver Art Gallery on Monday, said he has been impressed with Ms. Greening's work at the Reach, in particular her impact on community cultural development, and the relationship she has fostered with the National Gallery of Canada – something Mr. Audain, a former National Gallery board chair, wants to see continue in Whistler.

"We think Whistler is at the onset of a cultural awakening and we hope that our museum will be the precursor of other initiatives in Whistler," he said.

Mr. Audain said he liked her idea to hire staff that can perform multiple functions. "She says in a small museum you can't really have staff that are too specialized. She requires every staff person to be responsible for more than one function, at least two functions."

When asked about her vision for the museum, Ms. Greening pointed out it's early yet, but said "[what's] really massive to me is how people will engage to the art. And also how the museum will fit in with culture in a broader sense with Whistler … where it fits into the big jigsaw."

Designed by Patkau Architects, the museum is to open in mid-2015. Ms. Greening begins her position on March 1, 2014.

"She's got to start this museum from scratch," said Mr. Audain. "Right now the museum doesn't own a pencil or a pad to write on."