We mourn the loss of Joan Chalmers

Today all of us at the Glenn Gould Foundation are grieving the loss of Joan Chalmers, who passed away at the age of 88.

One of Canada’s greatest and most dedicated arts philanthropists, Joan supported hundreds of creative individuals and organizations, including The Glenn Gould Foundation.

Joan was responsible for the establishment of the Ontario Crafts Council and Canadian Crafts Council, and serviced on many boards, including the Stratford Festival and the Ontario Arts Council Foundation, as well as supporting the Harbourfront Centre and Young People’s Theatre. In 1972, with her parents, arts philanthropists Floyd and Jean Chalmers, Joan co-founded the annual Chalmers awards, which recognizes artists in the fields of dance, theatre, crafts, film, the visual arts and music. She was also involved in the travelling exhibition, Survivors in Search of Voice: the Art of Courage, a collaborative showcase of the work of 24 Canadian women artists and over 100 breast cancer survivors. In 1998, to celebrate her 70th birthday, she made gifts totalling $1 million to 21 arts groups.

Her steadfast commitment to public service was acknowledged with numerous well deserved accolades. A few of these honours included the Companion of the Order of Canada, Member of the Order of Ontario, an honourary doctorate from NSCAD University, an honourary Doctor of Laws from the University of Waterloo, and the Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Arts.

On a personal note, Joan was an active supporter of the establishment of The Glenn Gould Foundation, and it is not exaggeration to say that our organization would not exist without the role she played in securing a cornerstone gift from her father. Through a series of generous donations from the Chalmers family, the Foundation gained footing in the arts community – gaining prominence provincially, nationally, and internationally – celebrating artistic excellence in commemoration of Glenn Gould’s life and legacy. Joan continued to support us by serving on our board of directors from December 16, 1983 – December 8, 2004, and through her constant encouragement of artistic excellence following her tenure on our board of directors.

In her energy, vision, dedication and sheer love of the arts, Joan set a magnificent example of what philanthropy means, and how vital it is for creative work to flourish. In Joan’s own words, she “…believed that art should be at the cutting edge of social change and that it is the artist’s duty to speak to the ills and injustices of our society…Without the arts, the world would be a poorer place, and I would be a pauper…I never tire of the work. And…I will continue to serve the arts and the artists of this country for as long as they will have me…” May her legacy live on through continued societal support of arts and culture in Canada; she will be greatly missed.

Photo Credit: John Reeves