The Wuchien Michael Than Foundation Fund was established by Michael Than in partnership with the Ontario Arts Foundation in 2013. Funding began in 2013 and contributions continue to grow the fund and support a granting program.
Michael Than created the Fund to help create opportunities for the creation, development of Asian-Canadian theatre and to develop new works by Asian-Canadian playwrights.
Grants from the Fund now extend across all Canadian provinces.
Michael Than arrived in Canada in 1970 when theatre was largely the domain of Caucasian performers and producers.
“I always had a passion for theatre (but) it was clear that, at that time, opportunities for Asian Canadians were very limited,” says Than. “To be honest, I was shocked that all programming and audiences were ‘white’. I could not see a future for myself in Canadian theatre.”
He decided to shift his focus to building a successful business career, while remaining an active theatre supporter.
In the early 1980s and late ‘90s, he began to consider estate planning to further his commitment. He says that leading up to his retirement in 2009, “I began planning and exploring how to support the development of Asian Canadian theatre not just its organization – but including playwrights developing concepts, scripts and play content that had an Asian focus.”
He created a private foundation, but “found it exceptionally frustrating trying to secure charitable status.” As an alternative, he explored public foundations and approached the Ontario Arts Foundation. He says of that positive turn of events, “I really feel people need to be more aware and understand that a public foundation is a simple, effective solution.”
Through the eyes of both an avid arts supporter and results-oriented business person, he says, “I’m pleased that since establishing the fund with the OAF that our theatre development and playwright grants are generating results. For example, this year four of six Factory Theatre productions were supported in some way through the fund we established.”
Than does not seek recognition. “What is important is the impact the fund has in stimulating growth at the grass roots level for Asian Canadian theatre (and) getting the money to where it is needed the most.”