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Board Members

Board Member - Jesse Wente

Jesse Wente

Toronto, Ontario

Jesse Wente is a husband and father, as well as a writer, broadcaster, speaker and arts administrator. Born and raised in Toronto, his family comes from Chicago and Genaabaajing Anishinaabek and he is an off-reserve member of the Serpent River First Nation.

Jesse is best known for more than two decades spent as a columnist for CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. In 2018, Jesse was named the founding director of the Indigenous Screen Office. He received the Arbor Award from the University of Toronto in 2021 for his volunteer contributions and was recently appointed a Senior Fellow of Massey College.

His first book Unreconciled: Family, Truth and Indigenous Resistance is a national bestseller and was picked as one of best books of 2021 by Chapters-Indigo, Apple Books and The Globe and Mail. Jesse recently won the Kobo Emerging Writers Prize in Non-Fiction. 

Jesse Wente was appointed Chair of the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts for a five-year term effective July 28, 2020, to July 27, 2025. 

Photo: Ian Thorpe

Board Member - Marie Pier Germain

Marie Pier Germain

Vice Chair
Montréal, Quebec

As an active member of the family business, Germain Hôtels, Marie Pier Germain began her career in Calgary during the construction phase of the business’s first real estate complex in Western Canada. She then took the helm of Alt Hotel Montreal, where she leveraged her human approach, which is focussed on inter-team collaboration.

Today, as vice-president of sales and marketing for Germain Hôtels, she puts to good use the entrepreneurial values passed down by her family, which has been in business for several generations. Her determination, her desire to innovate and her focus on Canadian talent are the focal point of her results-oriented approach.

Marie Pier Germain holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Queen’s University and a master’s degree from the McGill HEC Montréal Executive MBA program. Fueled by a desire to contribute to her community, she is involved with various organizations like the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Tourisme Montréal, the LAB-École and La Dauphinelle. She also regularly takes part in conferences and training sessions dealing with customer experience and entrepreneurial succession.

Marie Pier Germain was appointed Vice-Chair of the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts for a four-year term effective December 17, 2021, to December 16, 2025.

Photo: Marie H Rainville

Board Member - Cheryl Hickman

Cheryl Hickman

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

Cheryl Hickman is the General and Artistic Director of Opera on the Avalon, which she founded in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, in 2009. A highly regarded and critically acclaimed soprano, she has worked with several opera companies such as the New York City Opera, the Florida Grand Opera, the Vancouver Opera, the Calgary Opera and the Canadian Opera Company.

Cheryl Hickman has received many awards and prizes, namely from the George London Foundation, the Metropolitan Opera and the Sullivan Foundation. She was named one of Atlantic Business Magazine’s top 50 CEOs in both 2018 and 2020.

A graduate of the Juilliard School and University of Toronto, she sits on the City of St. John’s Arts Advisory Committee. She is also an advisor for Business & Arts NL and is Honorary Patron of the Atlantic Boy Choir.

Cheryl Hickman’s term as a member of the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts was renewed for four years effective May 21, 2021 to May 20, 2025. 

Photo: Ian Thorpe

Portrait of Ingrid Leong

Ingrid Leong

Vancouver, British Columbia

Ingrid Leong is a CPA with deep expertise in finance, ESG (environment, social and governance), impact investing, and the philanthropic sector. She began her career with PwC, working with local Canadian companies and internationally in London, UK, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Since leaving PwC, Ingrid has worked with numerous families and high net-worth individuals, leading the family office function and providing critical expertise to the underlying operating companies. 

Complementing her work in the family office space, Ingrid serves as a director on several boards and is particularly focused on those which are advancing women’s access to capital, as well as sustainability and climate innovation. Currently, Ingrid is a director of InBC, a $500M strategic investment fund with the stated goal of achieving a triple bottom line mandate. 

Ingrid is deeply committed to community and serves as Chair of the Board of The Forum, an organization dedicated to the advancement of women and women-identifying entrepreneurs. Previous to this, she was a director on the Board of Ballet BC. She is now involved with several grassroots arts organizations.

Ingrid Leong was appointed to the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts for a four-year term effective December 13, 2021, to December 12, 2025.

Photo: Jackie Dives

Stephane Moraille

Stephane Moraille

Boucherville, Quebec

Stephane Moraille is an intellectual creative. She is an entertainment attorney and an international recording artist. She holds a master’s degree in Intellectual Property Law from Osgoode Hall Law School (York University), and her practice has covered the areas of music, film, television, museum, and technology law since 2006.

Stephane was the Director of Legal and Business Affairs at the prestigious institution PHI. She has worked in audiovisual properties development at VICE and in film and TV clearance at Lussier & Khouzam.

As a founding member of the collective Bran Van 3000, which was nominated in 2015 and 2022 for the Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize, she received numerous distinctions in the music industry (Much Music Video Awards, a Juno Award, a Canadian Radio Award, a Félix award, a Gold record, and a SOCAN Award).

A proven communicator dedicated to training the new generation of creative professionals, she actively participates in programs lead by the Minister of Culture and Communications of Quebec and has taught at the Phoenix Music Executive Development Program and at l’INIS. 

Stephane cumulates more than a decade of experience in governance and strategic management of cultural and art institutions, including the Songwriters Association of Canada, the Urban Music Association of Canada, MuchFACT, and Main Film. She collaborates with ADVANCE Music Canada. She has also served on the board of directors of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ).

Stephane Moraille was appointed to the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts for a four-year term, effective October 20, 2022, to October 19, 2026.

Photo: Geneviève Charbonneau

Ben Nind

Ben Nind

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Ben Nind is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada’s English Acting Program. He has written, produced, directed and performed original works throughout the Circumpolar North for over 25 years. He is the founder of Stuck in a Snowbank Theatre and former Artistic and Executive Director of the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre.

He served recently as Co-Chair of the Northwest Territories (NWT) Arts Council and has been actively involved with northern artistic and cultural initiatives including the NWT Minister of Education, Culture and Employment’s Special Committee on Arts and Culture, and the Arctic Winter Games Cultural Program. He has been honoured as an individual member of the NWT Minister’s Cultural Circle.

Ben Nind is currently the Executive Director of the Giant Mine Oversight Board. Ben Nind’s term as a member of the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts was renewed for four years effective May 11, 2021 to May 10, 2025.

Photo: Pat Kane

Board Member - Jan-Fryderyk Pleszczynski

Jan-Fryderyk Pleszczynski

Montréal, Quebec

Driven by an entrepreneurial flame, passionate about public affairs, arts and culture, Jan-Fryderyk Pleszczynski has been involved for more than 20 years in the business community, mainly in the creative industries.

Currently acting as an interim executive and as a strategic business advisor, Jan-Fryderyk puts his experience as a lawyer, entrepreneur and manager to help various companies navigate through a growth period, a transaction or a reorganization. Part of the executive team of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group as CEO of its multimedia company until May 2020, he is behind the production of major events, live shows and immersive experiences around the globe. He previously acted as president and executive producer of Digital Dimension, a multi-award-winning animation studio creating content for the film, television and interactive entertainment industry. Jan-Fryderyk also has significant experience in mergers and acquisitions, governance and financing, having practiced corporate law at the Montréal office of Fasken Martineau.

Very involved in the community, Jan-Fryderyk sits on various boards and was chair of the Conseil des arts de Montréal from 2013 to 2021. In 2015, he was the recipient of the Arnold Edinborough Prize awarded by Business for the arts, recognizing exemplary leadership and volunteerism in the non-profit arts sector in Canada. A law graduate from McGill University, Jan-Fryderyk is a member of the Barreau du Québec and the New York Bar.

Jan-Fryderyk Pleszczynski was appointed to the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts for a four-year term effective August 4, 2023, to August 3, 2027.

Photo: Laurence Labat

Board Member -  Irfhan Rawji

Irfhan Rawji

Calgary, Alberta

Irfhan Rawji is a Managing Partner at Relay Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm with offices in Toronto, San Francisco and Calgary. He is also the founder and Executive Chair of MobSquad, an innovative Canadian start-up that focuses on bringing technology talent from around the world to Canada.

Irfhan is Board Chair of The Logic, a digital media publication focused on the innovation economy, Board Chair of The Organic Box, Alberta’s largest organic food hub, and sits on the Board of the Canadian Western Bank.

Irfhan is actively involved in civic affairs, volunteering in governance roles with Glenbow Museum, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, Business and the Arts, Venture for Canada, the Aga Khan Museum and CIFAR. Previously, Irfhan has served on the boards of the Harbourfront Centre, imagiNation150, the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, and Creative Calgary. He was also part of the Calgary 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Bid Exploration Committee. 

Irfhan holds an MBA with High Honors from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar, and a BCom with Honours from the University of British Columbia, where he was a Wesbrook Scholar. He is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and Business and the Arts’ Arnold Edinborough Award. 

Irfhan Rawji was appointed to the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts for a four-year term effective April 29, 2022.

Photo: René Michaud

Karl Schwonik

Karl Schwonik

Calgary, Alberta

Albertan Karl Schwonik has had an extensive career in the arts, education and entrepreneurial sectors. In 2008, he founded the Wetaskiwin Jazz Society (WJS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing arts education to rural Alberta. While he served as President and Artistic Director, the WJS’s programs reached nearly 20,000 rural students and collaborated with stakeholders ranging from local small businesses to international banks and multinational energy companies.

Karl has served on a plethora of boards, including appointments to the Government of Alberta’s Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation, and Travel Alberta. He currently serves as member of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities within the Government of Alberta. In addition to teaching and working at several prominent post-secondary institutions, Karl has completed studies in music, business and arts leadership at Cambridge University, the University of Toronto, McGill University and the University of Calgary.

Karl has also received numerous awards and honours, including a Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award, a Queen’s Jubilee Award, and grants from both the Canada Council for the Arts and SSHRC. He was also named one of Calgary’s top 40 under 40 by Avenue Magazine.

Karl Schwonik was appointed to the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts for a four-year term effective June 14, 2018, to June 13, 2022. Karl Schwonik was reappointed for a four-year term from June 14, 2022 to June 13, 2026.

Photo: Martin Lipman

Portrait of Gaëtane Verna on a white background with black butterflies

Gaëtane Verna

Toronto, Ontario

Gaëtane Verna was recently appointed Executive Director of the Wexner Center for the Arts. Prior to this appointment, she was the Director and Artistic Director of the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, a role she has held for 10 years. She also serves on the Advisory Committee of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora, and on the Advisory Board of the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery at NSACAD University. She is a board member of the Sobey Art Foundation and a member of the Advisory Committee of the Mosaic Institute, in Toronto.

Gaëtane Verna has extensive experience in the arts, notably in arts administration and as a curator organizing exhibitions of artists from Canada and around the world. She was the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Musée d’art de Joliette in Lanaudière, Quebec, a role she held for six years. From 1998 to 2006, she was the curator of the Foreman Art Gallery at Bishop’s University. At the same time, she also taught in the Art History departments at both Bishop’s University and the Université du Québec à Montréal. 

Gaëtane Verna holds an International Diploma in Heritage Administration and Conservation from the Institut national du patrimoine in Paris, France. She holds a DEA and a Master’s in Art History from the Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and a Bachelor of Commerce from Concordia University. She was presented with the insignia as a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres [Order of Arts and Letters] from the Cultural Service of the Embassy of France in Canada in 2018.

Gaëtane Verna was appointed to the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts for a four-year term effective September 30, 2020, to September 29, 2024.

Photo: Michael Graydon

Board Member - Charlie Wall-Andrews

Charlie Wall-Andrews

Toronto, Ontario

Celebrated as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women, Charlie Wall-Andrews (MBA, MA, BA, CCIP) is a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, creative industries leader, and faculty sessional at Toronto Metropolitan University.

In her role at SOCAN Foundation, she established many programs, such as the Creative Entrepreneur Incubator and the Equity X Production Development Program, which prepares artists to turn their passions and talents into sustainable careers. She is a Management PhD (ABD) candidate at the Ted Rogers School of Management, where she specializes in strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and is conducting her dissertation research with the Diversity Institute.

She is on the Board of Directors of the Asia Pacific Music Meeting and is the inaugural Vice-Chair of Music Canada’s Advisory Council. In 2019, she was appointed a global Legacy Fellow for the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship (a prestigious initiative of The Edmond de Rothschild Foundations).

Charlie Wall-Andrews was appointed to the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts for a four-year term, effective October 30, 2022, to October 29, 2026.

Photo: Manav Matta

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