NAC chief executive Peter Herrndorf to step down in 2018

Peter Herrndorf
Peter Herrndorf will step down as president and CEO of the National Arts Centre in 2018. Photo provided by NAC.

Peter Herrndorf, the man credited with transforming Ottawa’s National Arts Centre both physically and artistically, will step down from his role as president and CEO next year.

The NAC announced Monday that Mr. Herrndorf’s 18-year tenure as leader will end on June 2, 2018. According to the release, the NAC “re-embraced its national role” during his time at the helm and shifted programming towards youth, education and Indigenous representation.

“Leading the National Arts Centre for the last 18 years continues to be the greatest joy of my life,” said Mr. Herrndorf in a statement. “The NAC is a national treasure, and my role was to create the conditions to allow artists to dream and to do their very best work. It has been a privilege to serve Canadian artists and to help them define who we are as a people.”

Mr. Herrndorf came to the NAC in 1999 after a long career in media. He joined the CBC in Winnipeg in 1965, eventually becoming a vice-president who helped develop long-standing series such as the Fifth Estate and The Journal.

Following his time with the CBC, Mr. Herrndorf took on roles as publisher of Toronto Life magazine as well as chairman and CEO of TVOntario.

One of the most significant changes to the NAC under Mr. Herrndorf has been its architectural renewal. The $225.4-million project opened its first stage this past July, with the entire development expected for completion in 2019.

Mr. Herrndorf also established the NAC Foundation, the fundraising arm of the arts institution which has thus far raised $140 million in private-sector funding. A new $25-million “creation fund” will also soon open with the goal of providing venture capital “to artists who want to create bold new works of music, theatre and dance.”

On the programming side, the NAC has recently expanded its national scope with productions such as this year’s Canada Scene festival, which featured 1,000 Canadian artists, as well as the NAC Orchestra’s Canada 150 Tour that reached every province and territory.

Mr. Herrndorf has also announced a new Department of Indigenous Theatre, slated to open in 2019, to mark the NAC’s 50th anniversary.

The departing CEO is venerated by colleagues as the driving force behind the institution’s creative directions.

“Peter Herrndorf is quite simply the most successful, influential, and beloved leader in the performing arts in Canada. Throughout his career, he has brought groundbreaking ideas to life. He has helped countless artists and arts organizations fulfill their creative aspirations. More than anyone else, he has helped the performing arts thrive across the country,” said Adrian Burns, chair of the NAC board of trustees, in a statement.