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Jeff Melanson steps down from Banff arts centre

Banff Centre president Jeff Melanson with some of the facility's new infrastructure in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.

Jeff McIntosh/The Globe and Mail

Jeff Melanson has resigned from his post as president of the mountainside Banff Centre, prompting a search for a new leader of the noted facility.

"It is with regret that I have resigned from my role as president. I believe fully in the Banff Centre, its board, its staff, and its strategic direction," said a passage of Mr. Melanson's resignation letter, disclosed Thursday with the announcement of his exit after two years on the job.

"I fully believe in what this place can do. We've done incredible stuff in the last two years, and they will continue to do things and I've committed to the board to be a promoter and champion for this institution beyond my time here," Mr. Melanson said in an interview Thursday evening.

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"Obviously a new president might have different feelings about that and I'll be respectful of that, but this is an important place in the world and in Canada and I want to see it succeed. And I know the vision we created collectively with the staff and the board will continue to move ahead and I'm looking forward to supporting that whatever way I can."

The centre said in a statement that Mr. Melanson was leaving for "family reasons," but did not provide any other details. The statement said he would be returning to Toronto.

"My kids need me, and I need to be with them," he said Thursday evening.

Mr. Melanson was appointed president in 2012, taking the helm of the 81-year-old facility where more than 6,000 artists and thinkers from around the world participate in programs each year. About $21-million of its $58-million operating budget comes from government, largely the Alberta government.

Born in Winnipeg, Mr. Melanson came to Alberta from Toronto, where he had been dean of the Royal Conservatory of Music Community School, co-CEO of the National Ballet School and a special adviser on arts and culture to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

He had an ambitious program to craft the centre into an arts juggernaut, building on a legacy that included being an incubator for artists including writer Mavis Gallant and musician Oscar Peterson.

The plan included a shift from being a forum for presenting art to being an incubator, as well as bolstering outreach via radio and the web to allow access to work created at the centre. It also envisioned new infrastructure, including a new theatre, art gallery, artist residence and studios.

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In discussing the implementation of the plan, Mr. Melanson said: "I am fully behind this institution and we've raised a lot in the last two years. Did we achieve the big billion-dollar dream? No. Can we? Yes. We've spent the last two days reviewing some of the top architects in the world in terms of next phases of buildings here, so everything is moving ahead and the staff here, the executive team can deliver on this and I'm looking forward to supporting it."

Among the programs launched on Mr. Melanson's watch was a project with The Globe and Mail to post a correspondent in the park to tell stories about Canada. The inaugural Banff Centre Globe Canada Correspondent was award-winning journalist Ian Brown, announced in October, 2012.

"During Jeff's time with the Banff Centre, he introduced an exciting new vision for our future, and put in place a dynamic and talented team," Brenda Mackie, board chair at the centre, said in a statement. "He leaves with our very best wishes for his future."

Ms. Mackie said she will immediately begin a search process for a new president. In the meantime, the board will soon announce a plan for the transition period to a new leader focused on maintaining the centre's strategic plan.

With files from Marsha Lederman

Follow me on Twitter: @ianabailey

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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