IFACCA mourns its founding Chair, Dr Shirley Thomson OC

12 August 2010, Canada

Dr Shirley Thomson, who served as founding Chair of IFACCA from 2000 to 2003, died on Tuesday 10 August 2010 at home in Ottawa, Canada.

As Director of the Canada Council,  Dr Thomson hosted and co-chaired the first World Summit on Arts and Culture in Ottawa in December 2000, at which IFACCA was inaugurated.  She spoke in support of the establishment of the Federation, saying:   '... the new federation will build upon the Summit's momentum...[i]t will stimulate us to share our knowledge and expertise with each other, and develop concrete and practical ways of promoting and supporting the work of artists in all parts of the globe.'

In a statement released yesterday, Robert Sirman, current Director of the Canada Council and an IFACCA board member, said “[Shirley] was an indefatigable, passionate and formidable advocate for the arts... Shirley was driven by a boundless intellectual curiosity. She was deeply interested in the work of contemporary artists and youth in general. Despite a redoubtable presence, she could and did connect with people of all ages, rank and professions. Well known and respected internationally and in Canada, she was also a fervent supporter of the arts scene in Ottawa.  “

Sarah Gardner, Executive Director of IFACCA, said that Dr Thomson’s commitment to IFACCA had been a constant source of inspiration. ‘Shirley’s leadership of the board in its early meetings in Johannesburg, Barcelona and Sydney, as well as her enthusiastic promotion of the Federation from Beijing to Paris, has left a remarkable legacy for the CEOs of arts funding agencies globally and the communities they serve.  Her moral support, sage advice and keen attention to the activities of the nascent secretariat, were critical to IFACCA’s establishment and growth. The members and staff of IFACCA and Shirley’s colleagues and fans around the world will be deeply saddened to hear of her death and we extend our sympathies to her family and friends.   We join them all in acknowledging her enormous contributions to the arts and for leaving us with many wonderful memories.’

Dr Thomson has previously served as Chair of the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, Director of the National Gallery of Canada, Secretary-General of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Director of the McCord Museum in Montreal, and the special coordinator of the Largellière exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  In 1990, Dr Thomson was named a 'Chevalier des arts et des lettres' by the Government of France, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1994 and a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2001. Dr. Thomson was named a Fellow of the Canadian Museums Association in 2000 and in 2008, granted the Canadian Governor-General’s ‘outstanding contribution’ award for her work as a cultural administrator, gallery director and arts advocate.

A public Memorial Service will be held in Ottawa, at the National Gallery of Canada on Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 4pm.