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Peter Herrndorf to step down as head of National Arts Centre

Peter Herrndorf, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre, in the newly-built National Arts Centre main hall entrance, part of the $110.5 million first phase of the facility's architectural rejuvenation project, in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Peter Herrndorf – one of Canada's top arts leaders – will step down as president and CEO of the National Arts Centre next June.

An announcement will be made mid-morning Monday by the NAC.

"It has been a privilege to serve Canadian artists and audiences, and to help them define who we are as a people," says Herrndorf.

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He will be a hard act to follow. The search for his successor, starting immediately, will be led by NAC board chair Adrian Burns.

Burns calls Herrndorf "quite simply the most successful, influential and beloved leader in the performing arts in Canada." Throughout his career, she says, "more than anyone else, he has helped the performing arts thrive across the country."

Herrndorf, who joined the CBC in the mid-1960s, rose to become vice-president of the CBC's English radio and TV operations. He went on to become publisher of Toronto Life magazine from 1983 to 1992 and then served as CEO of TVOntario from 1992 to 1999 before taking the job of running the NAC.

Herrndorf says that leading the NAC has been "the greatest joy of my life." His role, he explains, was "to create the conditions to allow artists to dream, and to do their very best work."

In Ottawa, Herrndorf invigorated the NAC with tours of its orchestra and theatre companies and engineered a $225.4-million architectural and production renewal project, winning the support of both Stephen Harper's Conservative government and Justin Trudeau's Liberal government. A key result will be 60,000 square feet of additional space.

The most triumphant day of Herrndorf's career was July 1, 2017. The Canada Day bash in Ottawa marked the opening of the first two levels of the NAC's new wing, which Herrndorf calls "the living room of the city." Designed by Toronto architect Donald Schmitt, using B.C. Douglas fir, it gives the place a "wow" factor, with stunning views of the city, and is meant to attract a new generation of audiences.

A starry parade of VIPs were introduced to the crowd, including Prince Charles, Governor-General David Johnston and Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly. Also attending were arts patrons Galen and Hilary Weston, as well as Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Rosalie Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada.

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To emphasize the inclusive spirit of the arts centre, and honour those who helped build its new wing, the ribbon cutters at the Canada Day ceremony included cooks, stagehands, architects, artists and construction workers.

Another important accomplishment for Herrndorf was the establishment of the privately supported $25-million New Creations fund, for which Gail Asper was the lead donor. The fund, which will invest in new works of music, dance and theatre, will be open for applications in November.

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