National Gallery of Canada Foundation lights up giant Christmas tree for holiday party

Guests include retiring Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin

An invite-only crowd of about 200 got a sneak peek at the four-storey-high Christmas tree, in all its glam and glory, during a holiday party hosted Wednesday by the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) Foundation.

The tall and splendid-looking spruce, reaching more than 11 metres in height and some eight metres wide, was lit up just for the party, in advance of the official tree lighting ceremony taking place tonight with the public.

On hand to welcome the crowd in the national gallery’s Scotiabank Great Hall was the NGC Foundation’s CEO, Karen Colby-Stothart, along with the gallery’s chief curator and deputy director, Paul Lang, who individually introduced all the curators.

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Supporting the event from the business community were NGC Foundation board member John Mierins, owner of St. Laurent Volvo, along with accounting firm Welch LLP. Its managing partner is Micheal Burch. He’s treasurer of the NGC Foundation board and chair of its audit committee.

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“From a business perspective, we were lucky to bring some of our best clients here tonight,” Burch told “They have an opportunity to experience the gallery, have a little tour, and hear from the curators about why particular pieces of art are so important to us.”

Welch is holding its big 100-year anniversary party at the National Gallery next September. The founder’s son, Malcolm Welch, has been an avid art collector and the firm has gone to great lengths to fill its office walls at 123 Slater St. with Canadian artwork.

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Special guests included retiring Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and her unfailingly affable husband, Frank McArdle, as well as Graham Flack, deputy minister of Canadian Heritage. 

Also seen was prominent Ottawa couple Greg Kane, counsel at Dentons, and Adrian Burns. She’s chair of the board of trustees for the National Arts Centre and is keeping busy with the NAC’s search for the best candidate to fill the big shoes of retiring president and CEO Peter Herrndorf. 

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Green Party leader Elizabeth May approved of the gallery’s choice of a real tree, rather than a fake one made with plastic and chemicals. “It’s a sustainable business,” the renowned environmentalist said of Christmas tree farms, adding that they’re effective in improving air quality by sequestering carbon dioxide.

National Gallery of Canada Foundation

Guests mingled over food and drinks, alongside the marvellous tree. Performing for the crowd was Toronto-based jazz icon Molly Johnson, a Juno Award-winning singer who lived in Ottawa as a child. She attended Hopewell Public School and Glebe Collegiate.

National Gallery of Canada Foundation

There was also time to slip away and explore the exhibitions and galleries. Some guests went to find the two new Gustav Klimt paintings, on loan from a private collection. Others headed to the nearby Biennial exhibit, where, on display, were contemporary Canadian and Indigenous artworks, including paintings, photography, sculptures, drawings, videos and large-scale mixed-media installations.

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