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This Month in Arts History – June


June 1

1951: The Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences tabled its Report. Among its proposals was the creation of the Canada Council.

June 2

1969: The National Ballet of Canada performed for the first time in the newly opened National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

June 3

1923: Phil Nimmons was born at Kamloops, British Columbia. His concerts and workshops with Nimmons ‘N’ Nine and other groups helped bring jazz into the mainstream of music in Canada.

June 4

1969: N.E. Thing Company’s Environment exhibition opened at the National Gallery of Canada. Iain Baxter and his wife Elaine formed this cooperative project to create conceptual artworks examining environmental issues.

June 6

1866: Maurice Cullen was born at St. John’s, Newfoundland. A great painter of snow, he was the first to apply Impressionist techniques to the Canadian landscape.

June 7

1989: Dancer David Peregrine died in an airplane crash in Alaska at age 35.

He was a longtime partner of Evelyn Hart at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

June 8

1929: Poet Bliss Carman died at New Canaan, Connecticut. In his lifetime he was Canada’s best-known poet and a respected editor of leading literary journals.

June 9

2001: Visual artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller won the Venice Biennale’s Special Jury Prize for their multimedia work, The Paradise Institute.

June 10

1949: Poet A. M. Klein won a Governor General’s Literary Award for The Rocking Chair and Other Poems.

June 11

1922: Actor Douglas Campbell was born at Glasgow, Scotland. An outstanding character actor, he is best known for his long association with the Stratford Festival.

1936: Theatre director Christopher Newton was born in Kent, England. Founder of the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, he was its Artistic Director for 23 years. He also founded Theatre Calgary.

2006: Writer Kenneth Oppel won the inaugural Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Children’s Author of the Year Award for his book Skybreaker.

June 12

1852: John Richardson died at New York City. A military officer and writer, he is best known for his novels set in the Canadian wilderness, and especially Wacousta or, The Prophecy: A Tale of the Canadas.

2003: Margaret Avison won the Griffin Poetry Prize for Concrete and Wild Carrot.

June 13

1912: Poet Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau was born at Montreal. Although he died young, his writing marked a turning point in Quebec poetry.

June 14

1894: Massey Hall opened. It was the gift of Hart Massey to the City of Toronto.

1957: After losing the election of June 10th, only a few days before resigning office, the government of Louis St. Laurent issued an Order-in-Council charging the Canada Council to take steps for the establishment of a National Commission for Unesco.

2005: York University presented honorary doctorates to visionary philanthropist Walter Carsen and his son, internationally renowned stage director Robert Carsen, in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to the arts.

June 15

1989: Writer Holley Rubinsky won the inaugural Journey Prize for her collection of short stories, Rapid Transits.

June 17

1845: Artist Paul Kane departed Toronto on a sketching and painting expedition across Canada’s west.

June 18

2000: Novelist Timothy Findley won the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Lifetime Achievement Award.

June 19

1973: Dancers Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn won the award for Best Pas de Deux at the Moscow International Ballet Competition.

June 20

1945: Singer Anne Murray was born at Springhill, Nova Scotia. One of Canada’s most popular performers, she won international recognition for her renditions of songs such as "Snowbird".

2006: Harlem Duet by Djanet Sears debuted at the Stratford Festival. It was the first play there to be performed by an African-Canadian and performed by an all-Black cast.

June 21

1949: Writer Jane Urquhart was born at Little LongLac, Ontario. Her novel The Underpainter won the Governor General’s Literary Award (fiction) in 1997.

June 22

2002: The Joy of Singing Festival, under the artistic directorship of Nicholas Goldschmidt, presented its final concert at Massey Hall, Toronto.

June 23

1997: Novelist Margaret Atwood won the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Author of the Year Award for Amazing Grace.

June 24

1911: Contralto Portia White was born at Truro, Nova Scotia. After attending the Halifax Conservatory of Music on a scholarship, she achieved international fame as a classical concert singer in the 1940s and 1950s. In Canada skin colour barred her from singing in some concert halls.

1976: Poet and chansonnier Gilles Vigneault performed his song "Gens du pays" for the first time at the Journée de la Fête Nationale du Québec in Montreal.

June 25

1942: Michel Tremblay was born at Montreal. Les belles soeurs, his first widely-produced play was written in joual (Quebec’s working class dialect).

Premiered in 1968, it ushered in a new era of Quebec theatre.

June 26

1927: Writer Robert Kroetsch was born at Heisler, Alberta. His novel The Studhorse Man won the Governor General’s Award (fiction) in 1969.

June 27

1998: Artist and filmmaker Joyce Wieland died at Toronto. Her work was passionately concerned with the aesthetic perspective of the woman artist.

June 28

1959: Candidly homosexual playwright Brad Fraser was born at Edmonton. His play Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love won him an international reputation.

1977: Soprano Measha Brueggergosman was born in Fredericton. Hew career rapidly gained momentum after praise for her role in James Rolfe’s opera, Beatrice Chancey.

June 29

1962: The Niagara-on-the-Lake Festival (now the Shaw Festival) opened its first season with a "Salute to Shaw" held at the town’s historic courthouse.

June 30

1996: Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre opened its newly renovated facilities with Bernard Slade’s Same Time Next Year. Formed in 1987, it is Nova Scotia’s longest-running professional repertory theatre.

Don’t stop here. Google this month’s featured artists to learn more about Canadian cultural history. And visit the Canada Council’s 50th anniversary web site at or the Historica Foundation’s web site at


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