News Release

The National Arts Centre's Extraordinary President and CEO Peter Herrndorf to Step Down in 2018

September 18, 2017

Peter Herrndorf, the President and CEO of the National Arts Centre, will be stepping down on June 2, 2018, after leading Canada’s largest performing arts organization for 18 years—and ushering in  a period of extraordinary growth for the institution.

Herrndorf is credited with transforming the NAC artistically through major national and international performing arts projects and physically through the $225.4M Architectural and Production Renewal project that was supported by the Governments of both former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the current Government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The project was designed to transform the NAC’s brutalist architecture into a warm and inviting space, with beautiful views of the nation’s capital. Peter Herrndorf describes the “new” NAC as  “the living room of the City.”  The project also includes major upgrades to the NAC’s performance halls and production facilities.

The first phase of the Architectural Renewal of the NAC, a glittering addition designed by Canadian architect Donald Schmitt, opened on Canada Day 2017, and was the largest gift to Canadian artists and audiences to mark the sesquicentennial. The entire project will be completed in 2019.

“Leading the National Arts Centre for the last 18 years continues to be the greatest joy of my life,” said Peter Herrndorf. “The National Arts Centre is a national treasure, and my role was to create the conditions to allow artists to dream, and to do their very best work. It has been a privilege to serve Canadian artists, and to help them define who we are as a people.”

“Peter Herrndorf is quite simply the most successful, influential, and beloved leader in the performing arts in Canada. Throughout his career, he has brought groundbreaking ideas to life. He has helped countless artists and arts organizations fulfill their creative aspirations. More than anyone else, he has helped the performing arts thrive across the country,” said Adrian Burns, Chair of the NAC Board of Trustees. 

Peter Herrndorf arrived at the NAC in 1999, taking the reins after a prolonged period of turmoil. He quickly established a clear sense of direction for the organization. Under his leadership, the NAC re-embraced its national role, made youth and education a key pillar of the organization, put excitement back on its stages by committing to artistic excellence, and dramatically increased its earned revenues.  He re-energized the staff, hired superb new leaders to senior management, and recruited an exceptional artistic team, giving them the freedom to produce great work on the NAC’s stage, and on stages across the country. 

Herrndorf also created the NAC Foundation, the fundraising arm of the organization which has raised more than $140 M from the private sector to fund major national and international initiatives for Canadian artists. The NAC will soon open the $25 M Creation Fund, which will provide venture capital to artists who want to create bold new works of Music, Theatre and Dance.

In recent months Herrndorf also announced that the NAC will open a new Department of Indigenous Theatre to mark the NAC’s 50th Anniversary in 2019, led by Indigenous actor and playwright Kevin Loring. This groundbreaking initiative has been celebrated by Indigenous artists across Canada as an important step in reconciliation

Herrndorf’s visionary leadership made the NAC the centre of artistic excellence in 2017 both in Ottawa and across the country. From June 15-July 23, 2017 the NAC produced the Canada Scene festival which featured 1,000 artists from every corner of Canada; on June 29, 2017 the NAC produced the 25th anniversary of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards (Herrndorf founded the awards in 1992, with Ramon John Hnatyshyn and Brian Robertson).

Other 2017 initiatives include the NAC Orchestra’s Canada 150 Tour to every province and territory; the upcoming tour of the NAC English Theatre production of Tartuffe to Atlantic Canada; and the creation and tour of Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show, an original production written by some of Canada’s finest French, English, First Nations and Métis theatre artists that will be presented in English, French, Cree, Mitchif and Lakota, and that will be performed in Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Saskatoon.  

Herrndorf has recruited exceptional artists and artistic teams to work at the NAC over two decades including: French Theatre Artistic Directors Denis Marleau, Wajdi Mouawad, Brigitte Haentjens; English Theatre Artistic Directors Marti Maraden, Peter Hinton and Jillian Keiley; Music Directors Pinchas Zukerman and Alexander Shelley; Dance Producers Michel Dozois and Cathy Levy; NAC Presents Producers Simone Deneau and Heather Gibson; Scene Producers Kari Cullen and Heather Moore; and Governor General’s Performing Arts Producers Brian Robertson, Kari Cullen and Virginia Thompson.

Peter Herrndorf’s legendary career spans broadcasting, magazine publishing and the performing arts. He first joined the CBC in Winnipeg in 1965 as an editor and reporter and quickly rose in the ranks to become Vice President and General Manager of CBC’s English Language Radio and Television Networks. At the CBC Herrndorf is credited with developing some of the best public affairs programming ever produced including “the fifth estate”, and “The Journal”. He left the CBC in 1992 to become the publisher of Toronto Life magazine where he achieved record earnings. During his tenure as publisher Toronto Life was selected twice as Canada’s Magazine of the Year. Mr. Herrndorf then became Chairman and CEO of TVOntario in March of 1992 and served three terms in that role, stepping down in 1999. While at TVOntario Herrndorf achieved increased audiences, improved programming on both TVO and TFO networks, and won an unprecedented number of national and international awards (including an International Emmy and a record 11 Gemini Awards).

Herrndorf is a graduate of the University of Manitoba in Political Science and English (1962), Dalhousie University in Law (1965), and the Harvard Business School for an MBA (1970). He has received Honorary Doctorates from York University (1989), the University of Winnipeg (1993), Dalhousie University (2000), Carleton University (2004), the University of Manitoba and Brock University (2006, and an honorary degree from Algonquin College in Ottawa (2016).

Mr. Herrndorf has shared his leadership and wisdom with countless organizations during his career.  A small selection includes the Luminato Festival; the Canadian Arts Summit; Vancouver’s PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, the Stratford Festival (where he was Chair of its Board of Governors); the Pinchas Zukerman Instruments Foundation; the Governing Council of the University of Toronto; the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (the International Emmies); Key Publishers Company Limited; the Canadian Journalism Foundation; the Banff Television Festival; the Premier’s Council on Economic Renewal; the Ontario Film Development Corporation; the Festival of Festivals/Cinémathèque Ontario; the National Magazine Awards; the Print Measurement Bureau; the Toronto International Music Festival; the International Choral Festival; the International Theatre Festival; and the Glory of Mozart Festival.

For his extraordinary leadership Peter Herrndorf was named Companion of the Order of Canada, on July 1, 2017 for his outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation. The level of Companion is the highest level in the Canadian honours system.

Mr. Herrndorf is married to Eva Czigler, a former broadcast executive at CBC-SRC, and together they have two grown children, Katherine and Matthew.



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