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May 2012: John Hobday

John Hobday: The Retiree Who Never Stops

Our current featured member is a great personality of the Canadian arts and cultural scene. For over half a century, since he immigrated to Canada, he has made an enormous impact on the sector including here, at the Canadian Conference of the Arts. He has received numerous awards for his contributions and now has an annual award that bears his name, given out to recognize outstanding arts managers. John Hobday has been a longtime leader in arts management, broadcasting, philanthropy, corporate sponsorship and cultural advocacy. Never retired, he now advocates for the importance of arts in education and learning.

John’s C.V. reads like an epic list of accomplishments over his years of experience. He began his career in the sector in 1957 when he became the Regional Drama Producer at CBC Radio in the Maritimes. While there he produced and directed over 700 plays. He then applied those skills working as the Theatre Director of the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown and Administrative Director of the Neptune Theatre in Halifax. He had a huge impact on the Neptune, increasing attendance and pulling the institution out of a devastating deficit. Possibly his turn performing in their production of Major Barbara was just the ticket?

John then spent 11 years as the National Director of our own organization, the Canadian Conference of the Arts, from 1971-1982.

After leaving the CCA, John became the Executive Director of Corporate Donations at Seagrams Canada and Chairman of Seagram Symphonia. There, he expanded the national orchestra program and made Seagram the leading sponsor of Canadian orchestras. He then took on the role of the Executive Director of the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation.  In his time there, he helped to develop numerous national programs; establish the award for Excellence in the Fine Crafts, and the Centre for Cultural Management at the University of Waterloo. More recently John served as the Director of the Canada Council for the Arts from 2003-2006.

Through all this work he has been honoured numerous times with such prestigious awards as the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal, the Government of Ontario Volunteer Service Award, the Honourary Life Membership Award of the Association of Canadian Orchestras, the 1999 Association for Cultural Executives Award, The Order of Canada and honourary doctorates from the University of Waterloo and the University of King’s College in Halifax. He was also the recipient of the CCA’s Diplôme d’honneur in 1999 to recognize his outstanding contribution to Canadian cultural life.

It is with his vast experience in mind that we have invited John Hobday to be a guest contributor to this month’s Magazine. In his article he discusses the UNESCO International Week of Arts Education, May 21-27 2012, and the changes to the landscape of Canadian arts education over the last 45 years.