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Bob McPhee: Arts Champion Extraordinaire

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Bob McPhee 1956-2021

Bob McPhee, one of our province’s most enthusiastic and dedicated arts leaders, died in Calgary on March 13 after a long battle with cancer. 

His roots across Alberta’s arts communities are exhaustive. Bob came to Alberta in 1989 as the Executive Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He was later appointed President and CEO of the Edmonton Symphony Society and Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation where he successfully led these organizations to the 1997 completion of the magnificent Francis Winspear Centre for Music. In 1998, Bob assumed the role of CEO at Calgary Opera and over his 19 years there distinguished the company as a leader in new Canadian works, commissioning six new operas and producing the Canadian premieres of numerous others. He also oversaw the start of a summer opera festival and an emerging artists’ program.

Bob was an active and involved Director on the Board of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation from 2010-2017. He brought his passion for the arts and an impressive network of artists, arts administrators, connectors and art enthusiasts to the role, adding depth and colour to the Foundation’s program deliberations. Fellow Director and past Chair Susan Green recalls “Bob was creative, forthright, edgy and fun. He had a  generosity of spirit which touched people right across this country. We have not only lost a wonderful talented human being we have lost an icon of the arts world in Canada.”

Bob’s boundless enthusiasm; his innovative approaches to producing art and to highlighting our arts institutions and communities; his modelling of expert arts management; and his continual efforts to grow partnerships across sectors have all contributed to positive change and growth across the arts sector. By sheer nature of the scale and reach of Bob’s work, his impact will be felt across the province for years to come. It is a fitting legacy for this much-loved arts leader, champion and friend to hundreds.

Bob McPhee at the 2015 Distinguished Artist Awards, Lethbridge AB

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