Media Release | Apr. 4, 2012

Canadian arts philanthropist’s $5-million gift creates major new arts centre at UBC

A $5-million gift from arts philanthropist Michael Audain, through his family foundation, will establish a major new centre for the visual arts at the University of British Columbia, providing a leading-edge facility for future generations of Canadian artists.

The donation will create the Audain Art Centre, an important new facility for UBC’s Dept. of Art History, Visual Art and Theory. The department has fostered some of Canada’s best known visual artists – including Jeff Wall, Ken Lum and Ian Wallace – helping to make Vancouver an international hub for the visual arts.

The gift ties with the largest donation ever received by UBC’s Faculty of Arts, and follows Audain’s recent donation to UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, valued at $1.2 million, which returned a ceremonial club received by Captain James Cook from B.C.’s Nuu-chah-nulth people to Canada. The gift brings Audain’s total donations to UBC to over $10 million, more than he has given to any other single institution.

“Since the launch of its program in 1955, UBC has played a major role in putting Vancouver on the world map for visual arts,” says Audain, whose personal collection includes art by several UBC graduates, including Lum and Wall. “UBC played a vital role in my education over 50 years ago.  This splendid new centre is an opportunity for me to recognize that, while providing a better learning environment for the next generation of art students.”

“A strong and vibrant artistic community is crucial for any civil society, driving innovation and progressive thinking,” says UBC President Stephen J. Toope, noting that Audain has now donated $35 million to Canadian arts organizations, personally or though the Audain Foundation for the Visual Arts. “Thanks to Michael Audain’s extraordinary leadership and generosity, UBC students and faculty will enrich society and challenge us with new ways of seeing the world for years to come.”

Expected to open in September 2013, the Audain Art Centre will span four storeys in Ponderosa Commons, a new student housing and academic facility, currently under construction on UBC’s Vancouver campus. Highlights of the centre will include: a flagship art gallery; 16 professional artist studios; advanced digital arts, new media and animation labs; a print media library and research centre, and modern, flexible academic space for 500 students, staff and faculty in UBC’s acclaimed visual arts program.

The 2,600 square-metre art centre will replace existing studios – currently housed in aging campus facilities, including temporary huts built for armed forces personnel returning from the Second World War – dramatically improving teaching, learning and creative opportunities. The 230 square-metre, street-level art gallery will replace a small underground gallery in the Koerner library, offering greater prominence and space for faculty and student art and exhibitions.

“This facility will help to attract the best students and faculty and transform visual arts teaching and learning at UBC,” says Gage Averill, dean of UBC’s Faculty of Arts, calling it the most significant investment in the department since its creation, and noting that current arts students will exhibit year-end projects on April 10. “The Audain Art Centre will guarantee that generations of creative arts students will have the kind of leading-edge and inspirational facilities that can nurture their visual imaginations and deepen their education.”

This gift forms part of UBC’s start an evolution campaign, the most ambitious fundraising and alumni engagement campaign in Canadian history. For more information, visit


Michael Audain, O.C., O.B.C., is one of Canada’s leading arts philanthropists and chairman of Polygon Homes Ltd. A UBC alumnus and chair of the National Gallery of Canada’s Board of Trustees, he has previously supported UBC’s Critical and Curatorial Studies Program, the Audain Gallery at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, and exhibitions and contemporary art acquisitions at UBC’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. Audain is a member of UBC’s start an evolution campaign cabinet.

UBC’s Dept. of Art History, Visual Art and Theory (formerly the Dept. of Fine Arts) was established in 1955. With innovative teaching and interdisciplinary research in three areas – art history, critical and curatorial studies and visual arts – department faculty members have included acclaimed artists such as Jeff Wall, Ian Wallace, Ken Lum, b.c. binning, Gathie Falk and Alvin Balkind. Learn more at

UBC’s Ponderosa Commons is one of five proposed hubs designed to increase student housing and academic space on UBC’s Vancouver campus. Located at University Boulevard and West Mall, the 54,000 square-metre mixed-use facility will provide new housing for more than 1,100 students. Phase 1 occupancy is scheduled for September 2013.


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Basil Waugh
UBC Public Affairs




UBC's Audain Art Centre (lower left), architectural rendering.

UBC's Audain Art Centre (lower left), architectural rendering.

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