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The National Arts Centre (NAC) (in French: Le Centre national des arts (CNA)) is a centre for the performing arts located in Ottawa, Ontariomarker, between Elgin Street and the Rideau Canalmarker. The NAC is also home to the Le Café restaurant and a large underground parking garage.


Ottawa had not had a major performing arts venue since 1928 when the Russell Theatre had been expropriated and demolished to make way for Confederation Squaremarker. Performers and orchestras visiting the capital were required to use the stage of the Capitol Cinemamarker, which had been designed for vaudeville and films. In 1963 an organization named the National Capital Arts Alliance was founded by G. Hamilton Southam and Levi Pettler. They successfully convinced the city and government to build the new centre.

The NAC was one of a number of projects launched by the government of Lester B. Pearson to commemorate Canada's 1967 centenary. It opened on June 2, 1969 having cost $46 million (CAN) to build . The site had at one time been home to Ottawa City Hall, and the city donated the land to the federal government.


Interior view showing suspended glass sculpture.

The building, designed by Fred Lebensold, is a large brown structure based on the shape of the hexagon. The roof of the building is attached to the Mackenzie King Bridge and contains gardens that are open to the public. Much of the building is below ground on Elgin Street, with the lower level looking out on the Rideau Canalmarker. Its outer walls are made of a pebbled concrete that from a distance appears a flat brown colour, but on closer examination is made of thousands of small pebbles buried in concrete. Inside the building the hexagon theme is much in evidence. As well as the dramatic arts the centre is also a showcase for several major pieces of visual art that are displayed in the lobbies and stairwells.

In 2000, the NAC was named by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada as one of the top 500 buildings produced in Canada during the last millennium.

Artistic aims and performances presented

One of the largest performing arts facilities in Canada (at 1.158 million square feet), the NAC works with thousands of artists, both emerging and established, from across Canada and around the world, and collaborates with dozens of other arts organizations across the country. The NAC is strongly committed to being a leader and innovator in each of the performing arts fields in which it works--classical music, English theatre, French theatre, dance, variety, and community programming. It is at the forefront of youth and educational activities, supporting programs for young and emerging artists and programs for young audiences, and producing resources and study materials for teachers. The NAC is the only multidisciplinary, bilingual performing arts centre in North America, and one of the largest in the world.

The National Arts Centre is home to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, one of the world's leading classical-size orchestras. Pinchas Zukerman, renowned conductor, violinist, violist, and teacher, has been the orchestra's Music Director since 1999.

The Artistic Director of English Theatre is Peter Hinton, the Artistic Director of French Theatre is Wadji Mouawad, Cathy Levy is the Artistic Producer Dance, and Michel Dozois is the Producer of Community Programming.

The NAC is a co-producer of the Canada Dance Festival and is the venue for the Ottawa International Animated Film Festival.

Performance facilities

The NAC has four stages:
  • Southam Hall, with 2,323 seats, is the largest stage and is home to the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, Opera Lyra Ottawa, as well as ballet and other major visiting shows and productions.
  • The Theatre, with 897 seats, is mostly used for theatre and dance events. It has been home to the English-language and French-language theatre companies.
  • Studio, with 300 seats, is also a theatre venue.
  • The Fourth Stage, with 150 seats, has been recently added and is home to a wide variety of community programming.


See also

External links

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