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Australian Marah Braye named as next CEO of Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre

The event square at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto is seen here crowded with vintage pick-up trucks, people and musicians, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, at the launch party for Streetside, a musical celebration of the of the 2015 Pan Am Games and the music of the Americas.

Tim Fraser/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's Harbourfront Centre has a new CEO. The waterfront recreation, arts and culture organization will be headed by Australian arts administrator Marah Braye, effective Aug. 5, it was announced Thursday evening by Harbourfront board president Tenio Evangelista. Braye, in her mid-40s, succeeds William (Bill) Boyle, 66, who has been Harbourfront's only CEO since its creation as an independent non-profit charitable organization in 1991.

Boyle indicated late last year he would retire in 2014, prompting the start of an international search for a successor. But he only made his departure public last weekend at a Toronto gala that saw the centre's main programming and administrative building, York Quay Centre, renamed the Bill Boyle Artport. Boyle, meanwhile, will continue as the centre's CEO until Braye's arrival.

Braye is coming to Toronto from Sydney, where she has been CEO of the Sydney Biennale since 2006. One of the world's leading art fairs, with attendance now exceeding 500,000, the Biennale was established in 1973 to coincide with the opening of the famous Sydney Opera House.

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A new artistic director is named for each Biennale; in 2012 there were, in fact, two: Gerald McMaster, former curator of Canadian art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Catherine de Zegher, the AGO's former director of exhibitions and publications. The current Biennale, the 19th, started March 21 and concludes June 9.

Graduating in fine arts from the University of Sydney in 1990, Braye was general manager of Sydney's Sherman Galleries, one of Australia's best-known purveyors of contemporary art, for five years prior to helming the Biennale. She's also worked in periodical and book publishing, including stints as managing editor of Craftsman House fine-art publishing and publishing manager-developing editor at HarperCollins Australia.

With an annual operating budget of $32-million, Harbourfront likely will prove a challenging brief for the new CEO. Spread over four hectares, the centre encompasses numerous buildings and facilities, the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Enwave Theatre, the Natrel ice rink and Fleck Dance Theatre among them, and hosts a plethora of events and programs, indoor and out, ticketed and free, throughout the year.

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