MAX WYMAN is a Vancouver writer and arts policy consultant, and one of Canada’s leading cultural commentators. Born and educated in England, he spent several years as a journalist in London before emigrating to Canada in 1967. He was dance, music and drama critic for The Vancouver Sun and CBC Radio for over 30 years, and is the author of a number of books on the arts in Canada, among them Dance Canada: An Illustrated History (named as one of the “165 Great Canadian Books of the Century” in 2000), a biography of ballerina Evelyn Hart, a collection of his dance writings over three decades, and The Defiant Imagination: Why Culture Matters, a passionate manifesto asserting the central importance of the arts and culture to modern Canada. The Black Tulip Conundrum was his first venture into fiction. He has also completed a biography of Oleg Vinogradov, former artistic director of the Kirov (Mariinsky) Ballet of St. Petersburg. He recently completed a sequel to The Defiant Imagination, The Compassionate Imagination, and is currently working on a memoir.
He was for six years a member of the board of the Canada Council for the Arts, the country’s principal arts funding agency, was a member of the board of the successful Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Olympic Bid committee, speaking to the cultural aspect of the Games, and in 2006 completed four years as President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. He served as Mayor of the Village of Lions Bay from 2005 to 2008, and was founding chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional Cultural Committee. He was a member of the board of the BC Achievement Foundation from 2007 to 2016, chairing its national non-fiction book prize committee.
He has written extensively on arts topics for magazines and encyclopedias in Canada and abroad, has consulted on arts policy and strategy for the federal government and for the governments of Alberta and British Columbia, and has lectured on public arts policy across North America. He has also taught critical writing and dance history extensively in Canada and Europe.
He is deeply involved in issues around the integration of the arts, culture and creative activity into education. He was a founding member of the multi-agency Canadian arts and learning action coalition, chaired the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s cross-Canada consultations on the topic, led the Canadian delegation to UNESCO’s first world summit on arts and education in Portugal in the spring of 2006, spoke at the second world summit in Seoul in 2010, and was a keynote speaker at the World Creativity Summit (a follow-up to the Portugal event) in Hong Kong in 2007, Taipei in 2008 and Newcastle in 2009. He recently completed several years as a member of the steering committee of the International Network for Research in Arts Education, was a member of the board of the Canadian Network for Arts and Learning, and was chair of the advisory board for the Imaginative Education Research Group at Simon Fraser University.
He has occasionally worked as an actor (The X-Files, Millennium, The Lone Gunmen and the movies Letting Go and Frankie and Hazel, in which he played Mischa Barton’s Russian dancing master) and is a Past President of the board of Vancouver’s PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. He has written a number of plays, the most recent a bio-melodrama with music loosely based on the life of Canadian expressionist dancer Maud Allan, a ground-breaking feminist who scandalized Edwardian Europe with her Vision of Salome dance.
For his services to the arts he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001, and received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Simon Fraser University in 2003. Other honours include the Queen’s 25th, 50th and 60th Jubilee Medals, the Canada 125 Medal and the inaugural Cecilia Zhang award from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In 2015 he and his wife Susan Mertens were appointed inaugural Jack and Doris Shadbolt Community Scholars at Simon Fraser University. The Max Wyman Award in Critical Writing, an annual $5,000 prize celebrating achievement in commentary on the performing, visual and literary arts, was launched in 2017.