Transformational $10 Million Gift from Donald K. Johnson to The National Ballet of Canada Will Honour Anna McCowan-Johnson’s Life-Long Commitment to Dance
June 9, 2022… Cornell Wright, Chair of The National Ballet of Canada, today announced that a transformational $10 million gift to the company has been received from Canadian business leader Donald K. Johnson to honour his late wife Anna McCowan-Johnson’s life-long love of ballet and commitment to sharing that love with the broader community.
“Anna was a dear friend to The National Ballet of Canada as well as to our artists. She was an active member of our audience, an advocate for ballet and an exemplar of the philanthropic spirit,” said Barry Hughson, Executive Director.
The gift will endow two areas of strategic focus for the company – supporting the creation of new work and funding a new leadership position that will focus on education and community engagement.
The Anna McCowan-Johnson New Creations Fund will support the acquisition and building of new productions, enriching the National Ballet’s repertoire for current and future audiences.
“With this generous gift, The National Ballet of Canada will be well placed to commission inspiring new repertoire with creators and collaborators that will challenge our artists and share new stories with our audiences. In the pursuit of maintaining relevance and contributing to the international dialogue, the National Ballet will honour Anna’s legacy by continuing to encourage creativity at home and abroad,” said Hope Muir, Joan and Jerry Lozinski Artistic Director.
The gift will also fund the creation of the Anna McCowan-Johnson Director of Equity and Engagement. This position will provide leadership to all National Ballet education initiatives and oversee our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
“The National Ballet of Canada is committed to making the arts more accessible and connecting with different communities to promote movement, imagination and an appreciation for the arts. Our goals are to find common ground in our shared passion for the joy and power of dance, while we engage with our community in a spirit of relevant and meaningful exchange. Don’s extraordinary gift will allow us to move forward with the hiring of this new position to ensure that our EDI values are front and centre in every decision we make and will expand our community engagement partnerships and programming,” said Hughson.
“Anna was an inspirational teacher and committed to supporting the next generation of dancers. As Founder and Artistic Director of the Interplay School of Dance for 25 years, she mentored countless dancers to pursue a career in ballet, and her former students are spread across the country in both performance and teaching positions, as well as being avid audience members,” noted Johnson. “While nothing brought her greater pleasure than seeing young people make the decision to pursue dance, Anna also wanted to make the artform accessible to as many people as possible.”
In addition to Don Johnson’s leadership role as Chair on the National Ballet’s Bold Steps Campaign in 1994 which funded the creation of The Walter Carsen Centre, he and Anna were members of The Producers’ Circle and first sponsored Principal Dancer Svetlana Lunkina in 2016 through the Dancers First programme. That same year, Johnson set up The Anna McCowan-Johnson Dance Accessibility Fund within The National Ballet of Canada, Endowment Foundation to honour her lifetime commitment to dance. The named fund supports existing and new strategic community engagement initiatives that will give young people a chance to explore dance.
“Over the course of Don and Anna’s three-decade-long relationship with The National Ballet of Canada, they have offered their insight, advice, leadership and heartfelt commitment to the goals of the company. The National Ballet is grateful for the scope and depth of their generosity,” said David Macdonald, Chair of The National Ballet of Canada, Endowment Foundation. “This transformational gift from Don in Anna’s honour, will ensure the company has the stable funding it requires to realize its artistic goals and continue to inspire our community with the power of dance for generations to come.”
In total, Johnson is making a $16 million contribution to the three ballet organizations that were important to Anna. In addition to the $10 million gift to the National Ballet, two further gifts of $3 million each are being made to Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet for the establishment of the Anna McCowan-Johnson Aspirant Program Fund and to Canada’s National Ballet School for the naming of the Anna McCowan-Johnson Stage at the Betty Oliphant Theatre and to support their Dancing Opens Doors initiative.
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The National Ballet of Canada’s Education and Community Engagement programmes are generously supported by the Anna McCowan-Johnson Dance Accessibility Fund at The National Ballet of Canada, Endowment Foundation.
Svetlana Lunkina is sponsored through Dancers First by Anna McCowan-Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C.
The National Ballet of Canada gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Ontario Arts Council; the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council; the Government of Canada – Department of Canadian Heritage with The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage; and the Government of Ontario with The Honourable Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
Donald K. Johnson and Anna McCowan-Johnson. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
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