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Gail Asper

Gail Asper and Mayor Sam Katz
Photo by Robert Tinker


Michael Nathanson's Special Thank You to Gail Asper -Recipient of Winnipeg Arts Council's 2013 Arts Champion Award

by Michael Nathanson, July 23, 3013

[Editor's note:  On June 6, Gail Asper was awarded the Arts Champion Award by the Winnipeg Arts Council at a ceremony at the Fort Garry Hotel at the Mayor's Luncheon for the Arts. The Arts Champion Award honours an  individual or business patron that has demonstrated sustained support of the arts in Winnipeg. She was nominated by Dry Cold Productions and the Winnipeg Folk Festival. The Winnipeg Arts Council wrote in its ppress release that "Gail Asper's committment to the arts is indefatigable. Her support is evident not just through her financial contributions (of which there are many) but through her work as an advocate, fundraiser, volunteer and arts administrator. The following is a special piece written by  Michael Nathanson, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre's artistic producer as a thank you to Gail Asper for her support of the arts. The  WJR agrees wholeheartedly with the snetiments expressed in it]


In the theatre, we’re aware of what we see before us; the actors, the set, the costumes, the lights.  Over the past seven years, I’ve been privileged to see the incredibly hard work and dedication from a variety of artists committed to making our shows the best they can be.   What it takes to make a play happen is truly inspiring and could not be possible without many people the audience never meets.  But it all begins with the play, and the programming of plays, and the support of others.

The theatre is an undeniably romantic place in many ways.  However, the words of Sir Henry Irving must be heeded; in order to survive as an art, the theatre must be run as a business.   The majority of Canadian theatres are non-profit and strongly supported by government: Federal, Provincial, and Municipal.  In an era of multiple entertainment choices, theatres do everything they can to bring people through their front doors and into their seats.  As costs rise, as they must, theatres need donors, supporters, people who say, “Put your best foot forward, I’ve got your back.”

In Winnipeg, the theatre community is deeply fortunate to have Gail Asper covering our backs.

If you’ve seen a show at RMTC, PTE, Theatre Projects Manitoba, Dry Cold Productions, WJT – and others – you have Gail to thank.  She has generously supported plays at all these theatres and was an indispensible force at RMTC helping them not only realize but surpass their Endowment Fund goal of ten million dollars.  She believes fully in the theatre she supports and sometimes goes beyond most donors and graces the stage.  Unsurprisingly, that’s another area where she’s a true force of nature.  If you were lucky enough to see her work in Follies by Dry Cold as part of the recent Master Playwright’s Festival, you know what I’m talking about.

At WJT, Gail’s support has helped us program plays that allowed us to be recognized by The Globe and Mail as being “one of Canada’s gutsiest theatre companies.”  We have very proudly presented four World Premiere and four Canadian Premiere plays over the past six seasons and up the stakes this year with three new World Premieres by Winnipeg playwrights.  We strive to present the best plays possible and are thrilled to have seen two of our shows become Finalists for the Governor General’s Award in Drama.  None of these things are possible for us without Gail’s support.

To thank Gail for her support is to be met with modesty.  She never assumes any credit and states that she feels lucky to support the talented artists we have in this city.  Well, let me conclude by saying that it’s a mutual admiration society.  The theatre community of Winnipeg are the ones that feel lucky.


Editor's note: There were four other recipients of  Awards given out by the Winnipeg Arts Council. They are as follows:

RBC On the Rise 

The RBC On the Rise Award recognizes the demonstrated promise of an emerging professional artist in any discipline. The award is a cash prize of $2,500.00.

            WINNER: Curtis Nowosad

Nominated by Charlene Diehl

With a recent CD, invitation to the Banff Centre and the Betty Carter program, and scholarship bids from both Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music, drummer Curtis Nowosad is truly a rising star.

Making a Mark 

The Making a Mark Award applauds an established professional artist, in any discipline, who is receiving critical recognition for excellence in their art practice in Winnipeg and beyond. The award is a cash prize of $2,500.00.

WINNER: Deco Dawson

Nominated by Carson Natrass

Deco Dawson is an international award-winning filmmaker and theatre designer working in Winnipeg. His work demonstrates a remarkable command of the medium, often blurring the lines of any given genre while creating visually stunning, surreal, and psychologically captivating independent films.



Investors Group Making a Difference 

The Investors Group Making a Difference Award celebrates the contribution of an artist or arts administrator to the growth and development of the arts in Winnipeg. The award is a cash prize of $2,500.00.

WINNER: Odette Heyn & Faye Thomson

Nominated by Stephanie Ballard

The School of Contemporary Dancers is recognized as a leading national centre for professional contemporary dance training in Canada.  Directed by Odette Heyn and Faye Thomson, the Professional Program is renowned for its excellent training methods and high calibre of its students and graduates.


Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Outstanding Volunteer

The Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Making a Difference Award for an Outstanding Volunteer honours an individual who has demonstrated an excep­tional commitment to volunteerism within the Winnipeg arts community. The award will be $1,000.00 cash donation on behalf of the winner to the Winnipeg arts organization of his or her choice, and a unique work of art, this year by Takashi Iwasaki.

WINNERAlison Norberg

Nominated by the Manitoba Craft Council
In her five years as President of the MCC Board, Alison Norberg has, with wisdom, professionalism and a huge commitment of time, guided the organization through a period of renewal marked by innovation, collaboration and financial stability.


This year the Winnipeg Arts Council also gave out a special award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts to nonagenarian actress Doreen Brownstone.

Doreen Brownstone is one of Winnipeg’s most celebrated actors, with a stage, film and television career that spans six provinces and more than 50 years. Doreen’s commitment, drive and talent seem to defy the boundaries of time, leading her to be the first Canadian Stage actor to work past the age of 80. She was the only actor to work at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre during both its first and fiftieth seasons!

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