Nina Centre for the Arts will thrive under her leadership

People need to participate in activities that bring them joy, even during times of uncertainty like we are experiencing now. And that is exactly what the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts has been doing, and will continue to do under the leadership of Rona Fraser, the new CEO.

Born in Edmonton, Fraser attended a business program at NAIT that focused on marketing and also earned an Arts and Cultural Management diploma from MacEwan University. After graduating, Fraser worked in event management and promotion, which led to her and her husband starting their own event company in 2001. Interestingly, one of her first contracts was to produce and promote the grand opening of the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts when it opened in 2003. 

“I absolutely fell in love with the centre and the amazing work that Wendy Hollo [co-founder and former CEO] and Paul Freeman, the artistic director, were doing,” says Fraser. She continued to take on contracts with the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts until 2015. It was then that she accepted the position as director of development at the Nina. “My main role was fund development. I loved this position and found it challenging and rewarding.”

Fraser explains she wanted to be a part of the organization because it’s inspiring and impacts and changes lives. 

Rona Fraser says she is inspired by the arts organization. | Stephen Strand

“With over 230 artists with developmental disabilities in our collective, we have the opportunity to witness the growth of our artists as they work with many different mediums,” says Fraser. A team of professional artists work with the collective and the community programs the organization offers, such as the free Family Art Night and Community Art Night classes. 

Fraser was the director of development for five years when Wendy Hollo, who was then the CEO, approached her. She wanted Fraser to take on the CEO role when Hollo retired. “I was very hesitant as Wendy had big shoes to fill. She had led and grown the centre to become what it is today,” says Fraser. But, with a bit of encouragement, Fraser accepted the position and took over the role as of July.

The art organization’s vision has been focused on making arts accessible to everyone, no matter their physical, mental, social, or financial barriers. They also focus on sharing their artists’ artwork with the community, with the intention of helping to change the perceptions about what someone with a developmental disability is capable of doing. 

This has been their focus since day one and will continue to be, even during the pandemic.

“COVID has drastically affected the way the Nina operates and impacted our fundraising capabilities. We once could accommodate up to 50 artists at a time in our studios and now, with safe social distancing, we are around 20 artists at a time,” Fraser says. They extended their hours and broke up their days up into two blocks to accommodate everyone. “This has been a big change, but we are so happy to still have our artists safely creating.”

“Everyday I am inspired by what happens here and feel so fortunate to be a part of it.”

Featured Image: Rona Fraser has been the CEO of the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts since July. | Stephen Strand