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CanWest Global Donates $3 M:
New CanWest Centre for Theatre & Film

e-dition - Dec. 15, 2006

Front Row (left to right): Leonard Asper, Lloyd Axworthy, Rob Altemeyer, Doug Arrell and Bob Kozminski, Chair of the University's capital campaign, at the Dec. 12 announcement of CanWest Global $3 M gift to UWinnipeg for a new centre for theatre & film.

CanWest Global Donates $3 M:
New CanWest Centre for Theatre & Film

By Ilana Simon

“People are the heart of a community and the arts are its soul,” CanWest Global Communications Corp. President and CEO Leonard Asper told a packed news conference in Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall December 12, 2006 at which he announced a corporate gift of $3 million to The University of Winnipeg to establish the CanWest Centre for Theatre & Film.

“The University of Winnipeg boasts one of the best theatre and film schools in the world. People who went here feed and support our lively and thriving theatre community and television and film industries locally; but also nationally and internationally,” said Asper, a Collegiate graduate (Class of ’82) and founding member of The University of Winnipeg Foundation Board. “This [gift] was almost a no-brainer for us.”

The $3-million corporate gift from CanWest Global Communications is earmarked for a $5.5 million expansion and renovation of the current Theatre building (T-21) located at 400 Colony Street. As well, the University will contribute $1.2 million in capital funding.

State-of-the-art training facilities

Slated to begin construction this spring and open in early 2008, the new CanWest Centre for Theatre & Film will include state-of-the-art performance, production and teaching facilities for theatre and film students. It will feature a 120- to 150-seat theatre, and labs and studios dedicated to lighting, sound and recording, and film and media production. As well, the Centre will house specially-designed spaces for rehearsals, teaching, costume, make-up and prop development. Designed by LLM architectural firm, the new theatre building’s entrance will face Balmoral Street enhancing its connections with the main campus.

“We are grateful to CanWest Global Communications for its contribution to the life of this University,” said University of Winnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor Lloyd Axworthy. “Thanks to CanWest’s generosity, this new Centre—in the heart of the city— will help to revitalize downtown Winnipeg and offer tremendous support to our national cultural industries, to our local arts community and to our inner-city neighbours.”

Axworthy noted that rehearsal, performance and classroom spaces will be opened to inner-city youth who may to look to drama to work out their problems and express their feelings. As well, community theatre groups like Red Roots Theatre, currently the Theatre & Film Department’s Theatre in Residence, will also be welcomed into the new spaces.

Another crowning jewel for UWinnipeg

“This is another crowning jewel in a remarkable year, and a remarkable month, for The University of Winnipeg,” said MLA Rob Altemeyer (Wolseley), speaking on behalf of the Province of Manitoba, which originally contributed $3.525 million the University in 1999 to purchase the former Salvation Army Citadel building and to complete the initial phase of renovations.

He added that the new theatre and film building fits wonderfully with the province’s boom in the film sector. Manitoba enjoys approximately $100 million a year in film production value, and the sector is continuing to grow.

UWinnipeg’s Theatre & Film Department, up 87 per cent in enrolment over the past five years, has been looking forward to revamped and additional space for its burgeoning student body. “This will be a first-class facility that will enable us to do our jobs even better,” said Doug Arrell, Chair of the Theatre & Film Department. “It’s an important contribution to our community and we know our students will benefit from the new state-of-the-art facilities.”

UWinnipeg Theatre & Film student Hilary Caroll agreed. “I chose The University of Winnipeg theatre program because of the experienced, talented and dedicated faculty who represent every aspect of the professional world in theatre and film,” she said. “The new facility will enrich the program with more space, diverse classes and opportunities for performance for aspiring artists. It’s a great day.”

The announcement also launched a University of Winnipeg Foundation campaign to raise an additional $800,000 for new equipment for the acting studios and film editing facilities. “CanWest’s outstanding gift to this University demonstrates the kind of vision we know and appreciate about CanWest,” said Susan Thompson, The University of Winnipeg Foundation President and CEO. “We are seeing the emergence at our University of a theatre and film institution of cultural importance to our city, our province and all of Canada.”

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