For Donald and Gretchen Ross, “the arts are the soul of the city”. The arts have the power to connect, and the ability to communicate the human experience. While the arts significantly contribute to our quality of life in Toronto, a great deal of the art we consume and the exhilaration we experience in the city would not be possible without the support of Donald and Gretchen Ross.
“Donald and Gretchen are tremendous champions of artists and of the performing arts – putting their passion, enthusiasm and support behind countless organizations across Canada. They are responsible for helping to make so many brilliant projects and productions possible. They are truly an inspiration,” says Emma Stenning, Executive Director of Soulpepper Theatre Company.
Throughout their philanthropic careers, the Rosses have been remarkably generous in their financial support and long term service to the arts. Guided by Gretchen’s passion for expression, movement and dance, the Rosses “recognize the ways in which they have been fortunate, and give back to the arts community whenever they can.”
Gretchen Ross recalls a deep appreciation for the many pieces that must come together to create a captivating performance. She has previously shared that her ”lifelong enjoyment of ballet has been greatly enhanced by meeting the dedicated artists, dancers, orchestra members and production craftspeople at The National Ballet of Canada. They care deeply about their work and I am fascinated to see the creative process in all aspects of the company. It’s so important to support this talent and creativity, to encourage our artists and to be an advocate for ballet.”
“The National Ballet of Canada has benefited in countless ways from their passionate support and remarkable generosity over many decades,” notes Karen Kain, Artistic Director, the National Ballet of Canada. Over the past 18 years, the Rosses have contributed to numerous productions, capital projects and campaigns, including the National Ballet’s historic move to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Gretchen has also chaired the Dancers First programme, since its inception in 2006.
Most notably, “the Rosses' leadership and generosity was integral to the purchase and retrofitting of the new production centre. Named in honour of Gretchen, The Gretchen Ross Production Centre opened its doors in October 2010. Without the Rosses, this incredible initiative simply would not have happened”, explains Kain. As a result of their contributions, The National Ballet of Canada is one of only a handful of North American dance companies that build and store their own sets and props.
Donald Ross’ successful career in finance has inspired and facilitated numerous philanthropic contributions. A recipient of the Order of Canada, his contributions span across multiple sectors and have reached 112 different organizations.
Donald recently retired from Soulpepper Theatre Company’s Board after serving as a member since it was established more than 20 years ago. In fact, his involvement with the organization precedes its incorporation. He was a trusted member of Soulpepper’s Finance Committee, contributing a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Among their other contributions, Donald and Gretchen created the Artistic Director’s Award in 2004, to recognize a member of Soulpepper’s ensemble for their excellence as an artist and mentor.
“We have been incredibly lucky and are very grateful to have had Donald and Gretchen’s support of Soulpepper for so many years. Donald served on our Board of Directors for over two decades and has contributed to our growth as a company in immeasurable ways. His leadership, volunteerism and philanthropy are guided by compassion and a genuine commitment to supporting artists and to the theatre they create,” says Weyni Mengesha, Soulpepper’s Artistic Director.
The Rosses are listed as inaugural donors to Luminato Festival of the Arts’ new Creation Fund, and spearheaded the Citadel + Compagnie’s renovation project of The Citadel, transforming it into a centre for dance. In honour of their contribution, The Citadel was officially renamed The Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance in 2016. The Rosses continue to support arts organizations including the National Arts Centre Foundation, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Gardiner Museum, Crow’s Theatre, the Canadian Music Centre, the Canadian Opera Company, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Smile Theatre, and the Canadian Film Centre to name a few.
Detailing Donald and Gretchen Ross’ philanthropic contributions would require a published anthology, complete with friendly anecdotes and tales of perseverance, all motivated by a desire to share that feeling of exhilaration brought on by the arts. While their lifetime of dedication to philanthropy is apparent, perhaps their generosity can best be summarized in three short statements from Sheena Macdonald, Chief Operating Officer, Canadian Film Centre. “They give enormously. They encourage others to give. And they give with ultimate humility.”