Banff Centre

Banff Centre

The Banff Centre is an arts, cultural, and educational institution and conference facility located in Banff, Alberta. A part of Alberta's post-secondary educational system, the Centre offers professional career development and creative support in the performing and fine arts, mountain culture, and leadership development.

History of the Banff Centre

Founded in 1933 by the University of Alberta, Department of Extension, with a grant from the U.S.-based Carnegie Foundation, The Banff Centre began with a single course in drama. Its success generated additional arts programs and the Centre became known as the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1935. While arts programming continued to grow and flourish, conferences were introduced in 1953, management programs in 1954 and mathematics programs in 2003.

In 1970, to acknowledge the broader educational role of the school as well as its move toward a centre of experiment and innovation, it was renamed The Banff Centre for Continuing Education (The Banff Centre for short). In 1978, Alberta government legislation granted The Banff Centre full autonomy as a non-degree-granting educational institution under the governance of an appointed board.

In the mid-1990s, The Banff Centre, along with most public institutions in Alberta, sustained cuts to its operating grant. The Centre responded in an entrepreneurial way and launched a successful capital campaign (The Creative Edge) to raise funds for state-of-the-art revenue generating conference facilities, as well as a new Music & Sound complex. The new facilities opened in 1996, the same year the Centre’s fourth division, Mountain Culture programming, was created. A few years later, in 1999, The Banff Centre was recognized as a National Training Institute by the federal government and was awarded $3 million over three years for artistic training programs.

Today in the 21st century, the Centre continues its role as a catalyst for creativity. A globally respected arts, cultural, and educational institution and conference facility, The Banff Centre is a leader in the development and promotion of creative work in the arts, sciences, business, and the environment.


*1933 — The University of Alberta's Department of Extension, under the helm of Ned Corbett, establishes The Banff School of Drama. 190 students enrol in the two-week course.

*1935 — Creative writing and playwriting are added to the drama program, and A.C. Leighton moves his summer painting school from Seebe to Banff. The School is renamed The Banff School of Fine Arts.

*1936 — The School holds its first course in music. Director Ned Corbett resigns to become director of the Canadian Association of Adult Education, and is succeeded by Donald Cameron.

*1941 — The Carnegie Foundation awards the School a $4,000 grant to create programming in applied arts. Courses begin in weaving, leather craft, and ceramics. Albert Cru establishes a French immersion program (continuing to 1977).

*1945 — National Film Board makes a movie of The Banff School of Fine Arts.

*1946 — The present St. Julien site is acquired with a 42-year lease for the annual rate of one dollar. Students and faculty attend a picnic on the undeveloped site to discuss plans. The evening becomes known as the "birthnight of The Banff School."

*1947 — The School builds its first structure on the St. Julien site. Initially known as first chalet, the building is re-named Vinci Hall in 1975.

*1948 — Gweneth Lloyd and Betty Farrally set up the Dance program. Two additional chalets are added (named Farrally Hall and Smith Hall in 1975).

*1950 — Opera and photography programs are added. The first Arts Festival week (previously there had been performances and exhibitions of students' work, but not referred to as a festival) takes place.

*1952 — Banff School of Advanced Management (BSAM) is founded. The school offered two six-week programs, annually, of advanced management training for senior executives, and was co-sponsored by the universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan in affiliation with The Banff Centre. Although The Banff Centre opened its own school of management a few years later, BSAM remained affiliated with the Centre, which became a formal co-owner in 1999, until BSAMs closure in December 2001.

*1953 — Administration building (later renamed Donald Cameron Hall) opens. The School holds its first conference.

*1954 — Introduction of new management programs lead to the beginning of the School of Management.

*1966 — The University of Calgary becomes trustee of The Banff School of Fine Arts.

*1969 — Donald Cameron retires, and Don Becker becomes interim acting director. Dr. Roby Kidd is appointed by the provincial government to conduct a five-week study of the School. His report recommends a name change to The Banff Centre for Continuing Education (The Banff Centre, for short), and suggests the Centre recruit nationally; reaffirm its arts programming; promote continuing education in a variety of fields; and become a centre for experimentation and innovation.

*1970 — An act of the Alberta Government officially changes the School's name to The Banff Centre for Continuing Education (The Banff Centre), and establishes it under the trustee of the University of Calgary. At the time the Centre comprised the following divisions: School of Fine Arts, School of Management, and a Conference division. David Leighton is appointed director of the Centre. Laszlo Funtek formalizes the program in theatre crafts and design.

*1971 — The Centre introduces winter programming in visual arts, and summer programs are expanded into May and June. Academy of Chamber Music is started.

*1974 — Oscar Peterson and Phil Nimmons set up the Jazz Workshop. The Canadian Association of Youth Orchestras is founded as an affiliated organization to enhance the development of youth orchestras in Canada.

*1976 — Aaron Copland and Agnes de Mille take part in The Banff Festival of the Arts. Glyde Hall and the Walter Phillips Gallery open. The Banff Festival of Mountain Films is launched.

*1978 — Alberta government legislation grants The Banff Centre full autonomy as a non-degree granting institution under the governance of an appointed Board. The first Board of Governors is appointed, and the first staff association is registered.

*1979 — Director David Leighton unveils a new document, Turning Point, which outlines the Centre's plan to become a year-round advanced conservatory for the arts. The first winter music program begins. A fire destroys Crich Hall and puts the photography program on hold. The library is established (prior to this there was a reading resource room); and the first annual Banff Television Festival (see Affiliated Organizations) takes place.

*1980 — The Max Bell building opens. A renewed lease with Parks Canada acknowledges the broader continuing education role of The Banff Centre. The first annual Banff Centre School of Fine Arts Award is presented to W. O. Mitchell, and the Banff Festival of the Arts is expanded to a summer-long festival, June through August.

*1981 — Three new programs are introduced in winter cycle: Music Theatre Studio Ensemble, Electronic and Film Media, and Theatre Production Internship. The Banff Publishing Workshop begins.

*1982 — President David Leighton retires, and Paul D. Fleck is appointed president. The Walter Phillips Gallery presents an exhibition of works by Robert Rauschenberg.

*1983 — The Banff Centre celebrates its 50th anniversary. The first Banff International String Quartet Competition is held (ten quartets from around the world compete). The School of Management appoints a National Advisory Committee, and the Sally Borden Building recreational facility opens to staff, students, and the Banff community.

*1984 — Leighton Artist Colony (now the Leighton Studios) opens. David Suzuki speaks at the Centre for Management's national conference on resource management.

*1986 — The 2nd Banff International String Quartet Competition is held. Construction begins on the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Building.

*1987 — The School of Management holds its first international workshop in Kingston, Jamaica. The Screenwriters' Workshop is introduced.

*1988 —The Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Building opens. The Media Arts program is introduced. The School of Management introduces three new courses: Management Development, Management Communications, and Senior Executive Summit. The Board of Governors is increased from 12 to 15 members.

*1989 — The divisions of The Banff Centre for Continuing Education are renamed: the Centre for the Arts, the Centre for Conferences, and the Centre for Management. The third Banff International String Quartet Competition is held. The MacLean Hunter Arts Journalism Program is introduced.

*1991 — The Media Arts program receives $500,000 in federal funding to explore virtual reality as an art form. The TransCanada PipeLines Pavilion opens. Tornrak, an opera by Music Theatre’s composer-in-residence John Metcalf, wins the National Opera Association's Production Award.

*1992 — Director Paul D. Fleck dies. The International Institute for Innovation is established (the Institute later closed in 1996).The fourth Banff International String Quartet Competition is held; members of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, all Banff Centre Music program alumni, become the first Canadians to win the competition.

*1993 — Graeme McDonald is appointed president and chief executive officer.

*1994 — The Creative Edge capital campaign is launched with the goal of raising funds for upgrading the conference facilities, renovating other outdated facilities, and adding a Music & Sound complex.

*1996 — Official openings of the Professional Development Centre, Dining Room and Music & Sound building. Conference revenues increase by 30 percent as a result of the capital improvements. A fourth division, the Centre for Mountain Culture, is established.

*1997 — Official opening of the Paul D. Fleck Library & Archives.

*1998 — The Banff Centre celebrates its 65th Anniversary with celebrations across the country. The sixth annual Banff International String Quartet Competition is held. The Banff Centre hosts the first Canadian government Diplomatic Forum, and the 30th International Horn Summit.

*1999 — The Centre for Conferences launches a new learning vacation program called the Live & Learn Series. The Centre for the Arts is designated a National Arts Training Institution by the Department of Canadian Heritage. Under this designation, the Centre receives $1 million a year, for three years, for arts programming.

*2000 — Joanne Morrow is appointed vice-president, The Banff Centre and director, Centre for the Arts. The Banff Mountain Summit, opened by Sir Edmund Hillary, presented 30 of the world’s most renowned mountaineers for a stimulating summit on global mountain issues. Voices from the Summit, published by National Geographic Adventure Press in association with The Banff Centre, is launched.

*2001 — Mary E. Hofstetter is appointed president and chief executive officer. The Banff Centre undertakes a strategic review of its programming and moves toward greater convergence of Arts, Mountain Culture, and Leadership Development programming. As a result, the Centre moves away from divisional titles and begins branding all programs and conferences under the umbrella of The Banff Centre. The seventh Banff International String Quartet Competition is held.

*2003 — The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is launched. Filumena, a new Canadian opera by composer John Estacio and librettist John Murrell, artistic director of Theatre Arts, premieres to critical acclaim and sold-out audiences.

*2004 — The Province of Alberta announces it will provide $20 million dollars to fund a major redevelopment and revitalization of The Banff Centre campus. The Centre establishes a department of research responsible for developing research initiatives, and for leading collaborations with the Banff International Research Station (BIRS). The Centre honours the 40-year legacy of Music & Sound directors Isobel and Tom Rolston. The eighth Banff International String Quartet Competition is held. For the fifth consecutive year, The Banff Centre is named one Canada’s best workplaces in Canada's Top 100 Employers.

*2005 Filumena opens the National Arts Centre’s two-week festival of Alberta culture, Alberta Scene.


*Thompson, M.J. 1993. "The Banff Centre Mountain Campus." Banff Centre Marketing & Communications.

External links

* [ The Banff Centre official site]
* [ The Banff Centre Library]
* [ The Banff International String Quartet Competition official site]
* [ Walter Phillips Gallery]
* [ Encyclopaedia of Music in Canada entry]
* [ Banff International Research Station]

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