Thursday Q&A with Jayne Watson

Jayne Watson, CEO of the National Arts Centre Foundation, at the NAC gala this year. Photo: Jana Chytilova

Jayne Watson is CEO of the National Arts Centre Foundation. She has spent 20 years as a senior executive, political adviser, and consultant. Prior to joining the NAC in 2001, she served as the director of communications at Export Development Canada, and held senior communications roles in the office of the Speaker of the House of Commons and Canada Post Corporation. She took some time to answer our many questions.

OCS: Who are your style icons?

JW: My daughters Olivia and Nicola.

OCS: What’s on your bedside table?

JW: At least six books going at once. Current fave is Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel’s second novel on Thomas Cromwell; bottle of melatonin (poor sleeper); water glass.

OCS: Best home accessory?

JW: Black and white photo of my daughters when they were three and six and told by the photographer not to smile. Beautiful, but also a bit disconcerting to see two normally exuberant children looking so sombre. It is framed and hanging in our family room.

OCS: Best recent fashion find?

JW: Chanel-inspired jacket from Massimo Dutti, a Spanish retailer that makes really affordable but stylish and well-made clothes. Both my daughter and I liked the jacket so much we each bought one on a recent trip to London. (She is living in Scotland this year so we won’t run into each other while wearing it.)

OCS: Whom would you invite for dinner if you could choose anyone in the world?

JW: Melinda Gates. I think she is the catalyst for so many of the great philanthropic projects that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports.

OCS: You can see the debut of any piece of music in history. What would it be?

JW: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. He was almost completely deaf when he composed it. To see the reaction of the audience would have been amazing.

OCS: What’s your earliest memory?

JW: Going to my first day of French school and not having a clue what was being said. I was the only English-speaker at the local French school in my hometown of Lachute, Quebec. I am grateful that my mother (once a French teacher herself) sent me to learn French at such a young age.

OCS: Your biggest fashion faux-pas, when, where and how?

JW: Floppy bow ties in the late 1980s.

OCS: Proudest moments?

JW: When our then nine-year old daughter beat a 13-year old boy to win our tennis club junior championship. When our oldest daughter was accepted into University of Edinburgh for her third-year of university. And when my brother Jim was elected Mayor of Ottawa.

OCS: Favourite piece of furniture?

JW: Glass waterfall coffee table. It makes a room look larger.

OCS: Qualities you most admire in a person?

JW: Sense of humour, humility.

OCS: With whom would you most like to work?

JW: Ryan Gosling in a play at the NAC. He’s a great film actor so it would be very interesting to see him on stage. I am pretty sure we would sell some tickets to that performance!

OCS: Describe a perfect day off (it can be anywhere in the world).

JW: Latte, newspaper, tennis match, afternoon at the spa, drinks with friends and then dinner out. Ideally, all happening in Italy!

OCS: Favourite visual artist, living or dead?

JW: Tony Scherman, a Toronto artist that does portraits that are strange, compelling and unfortunately for me, very expensive!

OCS: Favourite local artist?

JW: Anne Alcorn

OCS: Best book you read in the past year?

JW: Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel

OCS: Favourite food?

JW: Italian.

OCS: Most-oft-played song on your iPod or MP3 player?

JW: Takin’ Care of Business.

OCS: Wine, beer or both?

JW: Wine. Have not had a beer since 1986.

OCS: Mac or PC?

JW: PC at office; MAC at home

OCS: Fine dining or plain old diners?

JW: Fine dining in old diners, please!

OCS: Best restaurant in Ottawa?

JW: Beckta dining & wine

OCS: Person, place or thing that makes you proudest/happiest that you live in Ottawa?

JW: That our city is full of generous people who support so many important causes, including the arts.

OCS: Fave blog or website?

JW: Goop.

OCS: Twitter, Facebook or both?

JW: Twitter.

OCS: What’s your guilty pleasure?

JW: Manicures and pedicures. Lots of them.

OCS: Favourite place to spend time?

JW: On my sofa with a good book or Sunday New York Times, fire going and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

OCS: How would you like the world to remember you? What would your eulogist ideally say?

JW: “She raised two lovely young women.”


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