On the Road with Canada 150: NAC Annual Report Details Extraordinary Year of Success Across Canada

The National Arts Centre’s 2016-2017 annual report, entitled On the Road with Canada 150, was tabled in Parliament last week. The report documents an extraordinary year of success, both at the NAC and across the country, during Canada’s sesquicentennial year.

The highlights included:

  • Canada Scene, the culmination of the NAC’s national, biennial festivals that featured 1,500 artists from every region of the country, led by Producer and Executive Director Heather Moore. The six-week festival opened with the Canadian Opera Company/NAC co-production of the Harry Somers Louis Riel directed by Peter Hinton, and also included Children of God, an ambitious new musical about residential school by Corey Payette, an Oji-Cree theatre-maker and former English Theatre artist-in-residence;
  • The appointment of Kevin Loring as the National Arts Centre’s first-ever Artistic Director of Indigenous Theatre.  A Nlaka’pamux from the Lytton First Nation in B.C., Loring is a Governor General’s Award-winning playwright, and an acclaimed actor and teacher. NAC Indigenous Theatre’s first season begins in 2019;
  • The NAC Orchestra’s Canada 150 Tour. The first to be led by Music Director Alexander Shelley, the tour included concerts and 250 education events from St. John’s to Iqaluit, and featured guest artists Jan Lisiecki and James Ehnes. In addition to classical masterworks, the Orchestra also performed the multimedia NAC commission Life Reflected at Toronto’s Luminato festival, and in a number of cities in western Canada;
  • The successful completion of the $25 million Creation Campaign (including two $5 million gifts), and the announcement of the National Creation Fund. The Creation Campaign, headed by NAC Foundation CEO Jayne Watson, raised more than
    $25 million from donors across Canada. It included a $5 million gift from Gail Asper and Michael Paterson of Winnipeg, followed by another $5 million gift from Dr. Dianne Kipnes and Irving Kipnes of Edmonton that was directed to the Campaign and to the Kipnes Lantern. The National Creation Fund, led by Artistic Producer Heather Moore, will invest up to $3 million a year in 15 to 20 ambitious new Canadian works from artists and arts organizations across the country;
  • The 25th anniversary Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, led by Executive Producer Virginia Thompson, which honoured the lifetime achievement of Jean Beaudin, Brigitte Haentjens, Michael J. Fox, Martin Short and Yves Sioui Durand. William H. Loewen was honoured with the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts, and Michael Bublé received the National Arts Centre Award. CBC/ICI Radio-Canada streamed the show live, and produced two one-hour specials in English and French with a combined reach of more than 1.4 million viewers;
  • The world premiere of the NAC Dance-NAC Orchestra commission ENCOUNT3RS. The landmark co-commission spearheaded by NAC Dance Executive Producer Cathy Levy and Music Director Alexander Shelley paired three Canadian choreographers with three Canadian composers to create three new ballets, performed by three Canadian ballet companies;
  • Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show, a new French Theatre work, created over the last two years, brought together some of the most gifted artists in English, French, Indigenous and Métis theatre from various parts of the country. With dramaturgy by head writers Jean Marc Dalpé, Alexis Martin and Yvette Nolan and seven other writers, the highly acclaimed show premiered in October 2017 at the NAC before moving to Montreal, and will tour to Winnipeg and Saskatoon in 2018;
  • The Grand Re-Opening of the new National Arts Centre on Canada Day, in which the NAC unveiled the first phase of the $110.5 million Architectural Rejuvenation Project with a Royal Visit, and welcomed 25,000 visitors for free performances and activities over the weekend. The NAC remains very grateful to the Federal Government for the Architectural Rejuvenation and the ongoing Production Renewal project, which will conclude in 2018.

“The 2016-17 season marked a pivotal moment in the history of the National Arts Centre,” said Peter Herrndorf, NAC President and CEO. “The NAC proudly celebrated the 150th anniversary of Confederation by opening a brand new building and showcasing the best artists and musicians for Canadians all across the country.”

“We are very grateful to National Arts Centre Foundation supporters for championing the performing arts in Canada,” said Jayne Watson, CEO of the NAC Foundation, which exceeded its $25 million fundraising goal for the Creation Campaign. “That generous support is changing the definition of what can now be possible for the performing arts in Canada.”


Although it was an extraordinary time for the National Arts Centre, the 2016-17 season began with the organization undergoing the most significant renovations in its history. The addition of 60,000 sq. ft to the existing NAC resulted in the presence of hundreds of construction workers and equipment. Noise, dust and building closures were a part of daily life during this period.

Despite the difficult conditions, Peter Herrndorf and the members of the Board of Trustees strongly believed that the NAC should stay open during the construction period in order to continue to serve its patrons and fulfill its role as a national showcase for the best in the performing arts. They also felt it was critical for the NAC, Canada’s national performing arts organization, to present a bold slate of programming to celebrate our country’s sesquicentennial.

The senior management and the Board members understood that both of those decisions would come at a major cost, which is why the Board decided to approve a planned budget deficit for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Much of the deficit was caused by construction disruption involving reduced commercial revenues (e.g. a $600,000 loss in parking revenues caused by the temporary removal of 150 parking spots; a significant shortfall in Food and Beverage Operations because of the closure of catering spaces and the NAC restaurant; and losses in subscription revenues) and in added operating costs (e.g. a sharp increase in utility costs, as well as the cost of hiring extra security and cleaning staff).

Canada 150 expenses included the NAC Orchestra’s successful national tour, the Louis Riel opera, Life Reflected at the Luminato festival in Toronto, the 25th anniversary edition of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Gala, and the six-week Canada Scene festival.

The NAC finished the 2016-2017 fiscal year with a deficit of just under $3.7 million – $500,000 better than the budget approved by the Board. The NAC plans to eliminate the deficit systematically over the next decade.

Despite the construction, the NAC staged 1,349 performances last season compared to 1,170 the previous season. The total 2016–2017 budget was $78 million. Box office revenue for all performances was $16,396,400. The NAC attracted 951,664 patrons to performances, events and commercial activities at the NAC.


Additional highlights, both at the NAC and across Canada, include:

  • The re-opening of Southam Hall after a major renovation as part of the NAC’s Production Renewal Project. The renovation included the addition of cross-aisles and a mid-aisle, as well as new wood flooring and seating, and has resulted in greater accessibility and improved sound;
  • The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, directed by Jillian Keiley and produced by Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland in collaboration with the NAC. After its NAC run, the hit production about Joey Smallwood bringing Newfoundland into Confederation also travelled to Halifax’s Neptune Theatre and the Grand Theatre in London;
  • The Associates, an evening featuring the work of three NAC Dance Associate Artists. The program included Marie Chouinard’s legendary solo Étude no. 1 danced by Antonija Livingstone, Crystal Pite’s A Picture of You Falling performed by Anne Plamondon and Peter Chu, and Christopher House’s Echo, a work for 10 dancers from Toronto Dance Theatre;
  • The launch of NAC Presents Across Canada. Led by Executive Producer Heather Gibson, NAC Presents Across Canada is an unprecedented collaboration with partner organizations across Canada in support of the Canadian music scene. It will help support nearly 40 concerts in 10 cities across Canada in 2017‒2018 to help build the careers of emerging Canadian musicians;
  • Raising the funds for the NAC Orchestra’s 2019 European Tour. The NAC Foundation has secured private sector funding for a major performance and education tour to Europe by the NAC Orchestra that will mark the NAC’s 50th anniversary in 2019 – nearly two years in advance of the tour;
  • The appointment of the highly acclaimed Kenton Leier as the NAC’s new Executive Chef. Chef Leier arrived at a time of renewal for the NAC’s Food and Beverage department, with the addition of the NAC’s beautiful new catering spaces;


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 many of 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 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.



Carl Martin, Director of Communications  (Acting)
National Arts Centre
613 947-7000 x 560