Peter Herrndorf’s Legacy

Peter Herrndorf © V. Tony Hauser

When Peter Herrndorf arrived in 1999, he established a new strategic direction for the National Arts Centre with four clear goals – artistic excellence, re-embracing the NAC’s national role, making youth and education a priority, and dramatically increasing the NAC’s earned revenues.

The results were extraordinary.

Herrndorf recruited artistic leadership teams that were among the finest in North America. Artistic excellence returned to the NAC’s stages – and on stages across the country. The NAC Orchestra resumed national and international tours. Dance, English Theatre and French Theatre re-engaged with the performing arts throughout Canada and supported the creation of new work. And more work by Indigenous artists appeared at the NAC.

In 2003, he created national, biennial Scene festivals, which have since showcased thousands of artists from every region of the country. In 2011, he created NAC Presents, which has since showcased hundreds of Canadian singer-songwriters from across Canada.

In addition to investing much more on the art taking place on NAC stages (annual spending on programming jumped from 45% in 1999 to 60% today), Herrndorf created the NAC Foundation, which has raised more than $140 million to support the Centre’s national initiatives.

In education, the Young Artists Program, founded by former Music Director Pinchas Zukerman, became a world-renowned training ground for young musicians. The NAC pioneered distance learning, teaching students anywhere in the world via broadband videoconference. And through the Music Alive Program, the NAC sends teaching artists to rural and remote schools in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut and Atlantic Canada.

The NAC’s recent renaissance includes the Architectural Rejuvenation Project, a $110.57 million investment by the Government of Canada that has re-oriented the NAC to the city with a magnificent new entrance on Elgin Street, and new public spaces. In 2016, the NAC received a $114.9 million investment from the Government of Canada to renew its production facilities and performance halls. In June 2017, the NAC announced the appointment of the renowned Nlaka’pamux playwright, actor and teacher Kevin Loring as the NAC’s first Artistic Director of Indigenous Theatre.

And finally, the NAC Foundation’s Creation Campaign raised more than $25 million from donors across Canada. It will fuel the National Creation Fund, which will invest up to $3 million a year in ambitious new Canadian works from artists and arts organizations across the country.

Peter Herrndorf’s legacy will live on for years to come.

Prélude magazine – The News
Spring 2018

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