On its 50th Anniversary Thousands of Canadians made the NAC their stage

On Sunday, June 2, 2019 the National Arts Centre celebrated its 50th Anniversary by welcoming thousands of Canadians to its free 50th Anniversary open house. This momentous occasion provided a rare look at the magic of the backstage, lively workshops in theatre and dance, free performances by Canadian artists, and family activities throughout the NAC’s public spaces. This unique event was in partnership with Doors Open Ottawa.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., people of all ages toured the stage and backstage of Southam Hall. They stood at the conductor’s podium, played the Flentrop organ, operated stage lights, and activated the smoke machine and more. The public visited the scenic shop where sets are made, and walked the same halls as legendary artists from across Canada and around the world over the past five decades.

The day-long anniversary programming also included free music, dance and theatre workshops on the NAC stages. Visitors danced a choreography of Bollywood Contemporary Fusion led by Roger Sinha; sang Classic Canadian Songs such as “Sunglasses At Night” by Corey Hart and “J’t’aime comme un fou” by Robert Charlebois, led by 613 Casual Choir’s Lee Hayes; learned a Pow Wow Step Groove led by Josée Bourgeois; and tried their hand at acting in Theatre workshops led by artists in English, French, and Indigenous Theatre.

The public enjoyed performances by Les 7 doigts de la main, violinist Blake Pouliot, Damien Robitaille, ILAM, and Kelley McKinlay and Mariko Kondo from Alberta Ballet. The day also included a multitude of pop-up performances and activities including a costume exhibition, throwbacks from our archives, arts and crafts, DJs, and pop-up performances in the NAC public spaces.  

“For the past 50 years the NAC has served as a home for Canada’s most creative artists, and a catalyst for performance, creation and learning across the country,” said NAC President and CEO Christopher Deacon. “Our Open House was a wonderful symbol of what the NAC represents today – a performing arts centre that engages with Canadians, and that strives to be a place where everyone feels at home.”

In the evening, the NAC Orchestra gave a free concert led by music director Alexander Shelley. The program featured the work of four Canadian composers, and took the audience through highlights of the Orchestra’s 50-year history – from its beginning as a classical-sized orchestra through touring, recording, education and commissioning new Canadian work. Guest artists included: pianist Alain Lefèvre (Quebec), soprano Measha Brueggergosman (New Brunswick), Blake Pouliot, violin (Ontario), soloists Leela Gilday (Northwest Territories) and Sylvia Cloutier (Nunavik), and dancers Kelley McKinlay (Alberta) and Mariko Kondo (Japan) of Alberta Ballet.

The 50th Anniversary Open House echoed the official opening of the National Arts Centre on June 2nd 1969, at which thousands of Canadians poured into downtown Ottawa to see Canada’s national performing arts centre for the first time. 


The NAC’s 50th anniversary events and programs are made possible with support from Gail Asper, O.C., O.M., LL.D. and Michael Paterson, Bonnie and John Buhler, Alice and Grant Burton, Margaret Fountain, C.M., DFA (h) and David Fountain, C.M., Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, C.M., O.N.L., LL.D. (hc). Janice and Earle O’Born, Gail O’Brien, LL.D. and David O’Brien, O.C., and Dasha Shenkman, OBE, Hon RCM.



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. Founded on June 2, 1969, the National Arts Centre is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019 with an array of special programming and activities throughout the year.  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, Dance and NAC Presents. NAC Indigenous Theatre will begin its first season of programming in the fall of 2019. The NAC’s National Creation Fund invests up to $3 million of privately raised funds every year in 15 to 20 ambitious new works by Canadian artists and arts organizations. The NAC building has recently undergone two extensive renewal projects, generously funded by the Government of Canada, which have re-oriented the NAC to the city; allowed the NAC to become more welcoming and accessible; and returned its performance halls and production facilities to contemporary standards. The NAC 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, showcasing the performing arts across the country through the Kipnes Lantern, the largest transparent LED installation in North America; using technology to teach students and young artists around the globe; 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.




Mary Gordon
Senior Communications Advisor  
National Arts Centre

613 947-7000 x 849


Andrea Ruttan
Communications Strategist
National Arts Centre

613-947-7000 x 396


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