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Founded in 1933 by the University of Alberta, Department of Extension, with a grant from the U.S.-based Carnegie Foundation, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity 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 and management programs in 1954.

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.

In 2016, The Banff Centre changed its name to Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.  

Today, the Centre continues its role as a catalyst for creativity. The global leader in arts, culture, and creativity, 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 “birth night 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.

1967   The Eric Harvie Theatre opens.

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   President 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 Artists' Colony) opens. David Suzuki speaks at the Centre for Management's national conference on resource management.

1986   The second 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. Multi-award winning Anishinaabe interdisciplinary artist Rebecca Belmore creates her iconic work Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to Their Mother at Banff Centre; it goes on tour across Canada and then returns to Banff Centre as part of our permanent public art collection.

1992   President Paul D. Fleck passes away. 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. The program Women in the Director's Chair is established to encourage the careers of Canadian women in film and television. 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 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    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. The Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC) is founded by Linda Gaboriau. Authors who have had their works translated through the BILTC program include Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Lawrence Hill, Madeleine Thien, and Rawi Hage.

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. The Banff Centre/Alberta Ballet co-production of Romeo and Juliet debuts to sold-out houses in Edmonton and Calgary. Mountain Culture presents its fourth Summit, Cultures at Risk, attracting musicians, dancers, artists, photographers and writers from mountain communities around the world. The Banff New Media Institute celebrates its tenth anniversary with Refresh!, the first international conference on the histories of media arts, science, and technology.

2006   Works begins on the first phase of Banff Centre Revitalization. The Alberta Government announces a $27 million contribution to the project, bringing the Province's total support for Revitalization to $50 million. Mountain Culture is awarded a 2006 King Albert Mountain Award for its "exceptional achievements in the mountain world.' The Centre launches a Science Communications program, and partners with the NFB and Inuit Broadcasting Corporation to support the Nunavut Animation Lab. The fifth biennial Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy is held at the Centre.

2007   Frobisher, the second new Canadian opera co-commissioned by The Banff Centre and Calgary Opera, premieres to sold-out audiences in Calgary, and is remounted for the Banff Summer Arts Festival. The new Dining Centre opens. The Campaign for The Banff Centre is publicly launched with a $10 million dollar donation by James S. Kinnear and Friends.

2008   The Banff Centre celebrates its 75th anniversary with reinvigorated programming in dance, drama, music composition, and visual arts. The Centre commissions a 75th anniversary public art work with the Alberta Foundation for the Art, a 75th anniversary National Play Competition, a new violin for The Banff Centre instrument bank by one of the world's most respected luthiers, Samuel Zygmontovich, and a new work by American composer John Adams. Watch 75th anniversary video.

2009  The Campaign for The Banff Centre exceeds its original goal, raising $128 million in support of Banff Centre Revitalization capital projects, programming, and scholarship endowments. New commissioned and co-commissioned works include John Adam's String Quartet, John Luther Adams' Inuksuit, Aszure Barton's Busk, the anthology Cabin Fever: The Best New Canadian Non-fiction, and Mark Clintberg's sculpture Meet me in the woods, commissioned in partnership with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

2010   The Kinnear Centre for Creativity & Innovation opens in the presence of HRH the Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, KG, KCVO. The Kinnear Centre is designed by renowned Canadian architect Jack Diamond to meet LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building System silver status. New creative works projects commissioned and co-commissioned include: Lillian Alling, co-produced with Vancouver Opera, choreographer Kevin O'Day's Face to Face, Melanie Gilligan's Popular Unrest, 2010; and Geoffrey Farmer's 'sculpture play' exhibition God's Dice. Canada's Cecilia Quartet wins the tenth Banff International String Quartet Competition.

2011   The iconic Brian Jungen sculpture The ghosts of top of my head, is unveiled. The Shaw Amphitheatre opens, marking the completion of the Banff Centre Revitalization project. Mary E. Hofstetter retires as president and CEO on December 31.

2015   Janice Price is appointed president and chief executive officer. The internationally renowned choreographer and dancer Crystal Pite co-creates Betroffenheit at Banff Centre, which premiered at the Pan Am Games in Toronto and went on to win Best Original Dance Production at the UK’s Olivier Awards, one of the most prestigious prizes in the world. Pite has been training and creating at Banff Centre for over 20 years.

2016   The Banff Centre becomes Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. 

2018   Orphée+, a contemporary re-imagining of the Gluck baroque operaopens at Banff Centre. This co-production between Banff Centre, Against the Grain Theatre, and Opera Columbus will later win 5 Dora Awards, including Outstanding Production.

2022   Banff Centre celebrates the opening of the revitalized Jenny Belzberg Theatre. Thanks to a transformational gift from the Belzberg family in honour of Calgary-born community builder and philanthropist, Mrs. Jenny Belzberg, Banff Centre’s most important training and performing arts venue, the Eric Harvie Theatre, got a major revitalization. The renewal of the 52-year-old Theatre permits an improved audience experience, and ensures that Banff Centre is able to meet the needs of artists who use it for education, creation, and presentation of their work. Banff Centre celebrates 50 years of Indigenous Leadership programs.

2023   Janice Price retires as president and CEO. Chris Lorway is appointed president and chief executive officer of Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity on April 10.