Winnipeg Arts Council

Carol A. Phillips, Visionary Cultural Leader To Retire from Winnipeg Arts Council

The Board of Directors announces the retirement of Executive Director and visionary cultural leader Carol A. Phillips from the Winnipeg Arts Council at the end of September 2024. Carol has been an esteemed leader and a dedicated advocate for Winnipeg’s artists and arts organizations, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of our city.

Since her appointment in 2006, Carol has exemplified dedication, passion, and a tireless commitment to the arts and the artists who bring them to life. Carol’s achievements are numerous and remarkable. Under her leadership Winnipeg has flourished in authenticity as a cultural hub and was designated the Cultural Capital of Canada in 2010. This is a testament to her vision and ability to bring together diverse initiatives under the banner of Arts for All, including the development of the International Cello Festival of Canada, Ticket to the Future Cultural Action Plan, and the iconic emptyful in Millennium Library Park among many others.

She has been an inspiring mentor to her staff, encouraging them to grow and follow the art wherever it may lead. Her advocacy for the arts has been unwavering, and her enthusiasm for good ideas is infectious. Her passion and great sense of humour have had a profound impact on everyone she has worked with.

Carol’s leadership extends beyond the local sphere. Prior to joining the Winnipeg Arts Council, Carol directed the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Plug In ICA and the Banff Centre for the Arts. She managed Canada’s award-winning representation by Plug In ICA at the 2001 Venice Biennale and served as Chair of Canada’s UNESCO Subcommission for Culture and the World Decade for Cultural Development. She has been recognized with the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, the Senate 150 Medal, and the Creative City Network’s Award of Excellence in Public Art. This recognition speaks to the respect garnered from local artists and communities across Canada.

Throughout her career, Carol has championed Indigenous voices and made the creation of Indigenous arts programs a priority. At the Banff Centre for the Arts, she created space for First Nations artists to design their own programs and initiated the Indigenous Arts Leaders Fellowship through the Winnipeg Arts Council. She co-curated the groundbreaking 1982 exhibition New Work by a New Generation at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, commissioned major public artworks by Indigenous artists in THIS PLACE, and spearheaded Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years, a cornerstone project of Winnipeg’s Cultural Capital of Canada program that was then the largest exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art ever staged in North America.

Carol’s vision has always been inclusive, forward-thinking, and community-oriented, rooted in the fundamental belief that the arts are essential to city building. Her depth of knowledge has been matched only by her willingness to embrace new ideas and push boundaries. She has been a staunch advocate for public art and basic income for artists, recognizing the importance of supporting those who enrich our lives with their creativity. The creation of the Mayor’s Luncheon for the Arts and Winnipeg Arts Council Awards is one of her initiatives that brings the community together to celebrate this annually.

Carol has been a remarkable leader at the Winnipeg Arts Council. Her contributions to sustaining and growing the arts and cultural sector in Winnipeg have been extraordinary. The Winnipeg arts council has been very fortunate to have her steady hand at the helm for so many years. She has grown and developed the organization to a place where it is well-positioned to sustain and support the arts community in Winnipeg into the future. We celebrate her innumerable accomplishments and wish her nothing but the best for the future.” – Andrew McLaren, Winnipeg Arts Council Board Chair.

The Board of Directors will work with Carol and staff to ensure a smooth transition. A recruitment process for a new executive director will be announced in the coming weeks.