NAC Unveils $25 Million Fundraising Campaign in Support of Canadian Performing Arts Creation, Including $5 Million Gift by Gail Asper

The National Arts Centre (NAC) today launched a transformative $25 million fundraising campaign to support the creation of new works of Music, Theatre and Dance in collaboration with artists and arts organizations across the country. The campaign is the first-ever in the history of the 47 year-old institution.

The goal of the NAC’s “Creation Campaign” is to provide a source of venture capital to give artists and arts organizations the time and resources that great work requires, and to help them achieve the kind of international success that they have long deserved.

The NAC also announced the lead gift to the campaign: a $5 million gift by Gail Asper, Winnipeg business woman and philanthropist, as well as a long-time friend, supporter and volunteer of the NAC. It is the largest single donation in the NAC’s history.

The gift by Gail Asper, who is currently Chair of the NAC Foundation Board of Directors, brings the NAC creation campaign’s total-to-date to $23 million, which will be used to invest in new works in theatre, music and dance through the NAC and its partnerships with artists and arts organizations across Canada.

“Quite simply, our goal was to secure support from Canadians that will transform the way art can be created for Canadian stages,” said Peter Herrndorf, NAC President and CEO. “Gail Asper’s extraordinary generosity as the lead donor to our creation campaign will allow the NAC to play a larger role in supporting bold, innovative and ambitious works for stages in Canada and around the world. Through major gifts from philanthropists and corporate donors, we believe the National Arts Centre will pave the way for a new model in creation in this country.  We’re confident that the NAC Foundation will not only reach its $25 million fundraising goal, but surpass it.”

“I am so pleased to be able to make this gift to support Canadian creators and the NAC,” said Gail Asper. “As Chair of the NAC Foundation I have seen first-hand the impact the NAC has on the performing arts in Canada. I was inspired by the goal of the NAC’s creation campaign – to help ensure that artists and arts organizations would have access to more investment capital for their projects. I love the idea of supporting more Canadian works for stages at home and around the world.”

Details of the new funding model will be released in the coming months, however the NAC is committed to begin investing in new works of Music, Dance and Theatre by 2017, to mark Canada’s 150th Anniversary. The Creation Campaign is taking place at the same time the National Arts Centre is undergoing a major architectural rejuvenation which will be open to the public on Canada Day in 2017.

“This campaign is the NAC’s 2017 gift to artists across the country,” said Jayne Watson, CEO of the NAC Foundation. “Donors have responded with incredible generosity to our vision to invest in Canadian artists and their work. In addition to thanking Gail Asper, I’d like to also acknowledge the wonderful contribution of Gail O’Brien who is serving as the NAC Creation Campaign’s chair. We are delighted that on the cusp of Canada’s 150th ...and just a couple of years before the NAC’s 50th anniversary... that donors are making a major investment in the development of a new canon of Canadian stories.”

Earlier this year, Gail O’Brien and her husband David made an extraordinary gift of $1.5 million to the NAC in support of Canadian creation.


Gail Asper was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and obtained her B.A. and LL.B. from the University of Manitoba in 1981 and 1984 respectively. After receiving her call to the Bar of Nova Scotia in 1985, Gail practiced corporate and commercial law with Goldberg & Thompson in Halifax, Nova Scotia, before joining CanWest Global Communications Corp. in 1989, as Corporate Secretary and Legal Counsel.  Ms. Asper was the driving force behind the creation of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights which opened in Winnipeg in 2014.

Ms. Asper was a member of the Board of Directors of Canwest Global Communications Corp. from 1991 to 2010 and from 1998 to 2008 was a member of the Board of Great-West Lifeco Inc., and its subsidiaries. She serves and has served on the Boards of numerous not-for-profit groups and co-chaired the $11 million Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre Endowment Campaign, which followed a $6 million capital campaign also co-chaired by Ms. Asper. She also served on the Board and as President of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. She is the past Campaign Chair for the Winnipeg 2002 United Way Campaign and is Past President of the Board of Directors for the United Way of Winnipeg.

Ms. Asper is the Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Arts Centre Foundation and is a Governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Ms. Asper has received numerous awards for her community service, including the YMCA/YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Community Voluntarism and the 2005 Governor-General’s Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts. She has received the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year Award for 2006 from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and in 2007 received the Order of Manitoba. In July 2008 Ms. Asper was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. In October 2008 she received an Honourary Doctorate from the University of Manitoba. Gail was honoured by Business for the Arts with the receipt of the Bovey Award in October 2010. She was also awarded the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medal.


The National Arts Centre collaborates with artists and arts organizations across Canada to help create a national stage for the performing arts, and acts as a catalyst for performance, creation and learning across the country. A home for Canada’s most creative artists, the NAC strives to be artistically adventurous in each of its programming streams – the NAC Orchestra, English Theatre, French Theatre and Dance, as well as the Scene festivals and NAC Presents, which showcase established and emerging Canadian artists. The organization is at the forefront of youth and educational activities, offering artist training, programs for children and youth, and resources for teachers in communities across Canada. The NAC is also a pioneer in new media, using technology to teach students and young artists around the globe, by creating top-rated podcasts, and providing a wide range of NAC Orchestra concerts on demand. The NAC is the only bilingual, multidisciplinary performing arts centre in Canada, and one of the largest in the world.




Rosemary Thompson,
Director, Communications and Public Affairs
National Arts Centre
613 947-7000 x260

Carl Martin
National Arts Centre
613 947-7000 x560

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