What is your vision for The GRAND theatre?
McGrath: As Calgary’s contemporary performing arts and culture house, and one of Western Canada’s oldest theatres, we will minimize social and economic barriers to entry and create a warm, welcoming space for innovation and unique artistic experiences.
We intend to bring together established and emerging artists in fields ranging from hip-hop to classical music, painting to digital media, and sculpture to dance in order to support ambition and invention in all creative fields.
The board and team at The GRAND believe that art is a right, not a privilege, and we will present exciting and engaging experiences for our communities and our time.
Why did you give up a lucrative consulting business to become CEO of the theatre?
McGrath: I think this was a deeply emotional decision for me. After some years of experiencing The GRAND as a patron, supporter, sponsor and philanthropist, the opportunity to step in as an interim leader was irresistible.
Once I was working in the building and felt its energy and history, I felt a compulsion to step up and not allow this majestic piece of Calgary history become a shoe store or worse.
I feel this is the first time in a long, and for me hugely varied career, that I have had a role with true community impact and true purpose. I love being here.
What skills from the business world will you bring to the world of the arts?
McGrath: I have held executive roles in banking and financial institutions, built entrepreneurial ventures, and mentored others building businesses through consulting. The technical skills are easy to define but leading people to succeed is my true passion.
What I bring is a strong work ethic, a complete commitment to team, and a desire to succeed and find a successor. I am an entrepreneur in my DNA and that brings a strong drive to innovate, take quantum leaps and disrupt.
What’s your philosophy in supporting other local entrepreneurs in the community?
McGrath: The GRAND has two key philosophies – we pay our artists and we totally commit to innovating with local entrepreneurs. There is a clear connection between creative arts and the entrepreneur, and we will be exploring this with our own lunch series to bring the two together.
The GRAND is Calgary’s theatre and we intend to give back all the support we have received in 101 years.
Many have said in the past that arts is one avenue Calgary should pursue in diversifying its economy. What are your thoughts?
McGrath: There are a number of great examples globally that demonstrate that when cities actually adopt culture as an industry they gain positive economic benefits by not only creating job growth but they turn quite ordinary cities into destinations, particularly when you create interconnections between arts and business.
I’m extremely encouraged that our arts community and its grant partners like CADA are talking and acting on significant initiatives to support this direction on an almost daily basis, and are totally committed to growth and contribution in Calgary.
– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business