NAC receives $1M donation to support of Arab-Canadian artists and works

The Lantern Room above the NAC's Elgin Street entrance will now be named for Mohammed Al Zaibak. Photo: Peter Robb

A leading Toronto philanthropist and businessman has donated $1 million to the National Arts Centre Foundation to encourage Arab-Canadian artistic programming. 

The donation from the Bay Tree Foundation, a family foundation of Mohammad Al Zaibak, was announced in a media release from the NAC on Thursday morning.

The money will “go to support diversity in NAC programming in music, theatre and dance, with a focus on greater representation for Arab-Canadian artists and works,” the release said. 

The NAC said in response to a question from ARTSFILE that there is no quota or specific number of artists attached to Al Zaibak’s donation.

“Programming decisions are always made by the artistic departments. If the artistic departments are going to be programming an Arab-Canadian artist or work, Mr. Al Zaibak’s donation could be used to support it,” said NAC spokesperson Mary Gordon in a email.

She compared the donation to those that went towards funding the new department of Indigenous theatre that will open its first season next month with a two week festival called Moshkamo.

“The NAC is committed to better reflecting the diversity of Canadian society on our stages, and our programming departments are already doing this. Mr. Al Zaibak believes in that vision, and we are delighted that his generous gift will go toward supporting it.

“Mohammad Al Zaibak is a generous patron of the arts in Toronto, but also grateful to Canada for the opportunities he and his family have had since arriving in Canada in 1989,” said NAC Foundation CEO Jayne Watson in an NAC media release. “The family’s gift underlines their belief in the importance of national cultural organizations and the role that the NAC plays in supporting performance, creation and learning in the performing arts across Canada.”

The NAC has named the room above the main Elgin Street entrance The Mohammad Al Zaibak Lantern Room.

Al Zaibak is president and CEO of the Canadian Development and Marketing Corporation. He is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of several information technology-based companies, and was a co-founder of Teranet Inc.

He chairs the Canada Arab Business Council (CABC) and is a founding director of Toronto’s Luminato Festival. 

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.