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Remembering Michael O’Brian

Photo by Karina Hjort Petersen. Courtesy of Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

MOA is deeply saddened by the passing of visionary and arts supporter Michael O’Brian. His continued generosity and commitment to the Museum of Anthropology at UBC spanned two decades. Michael, along with his wife Inna, were instrumental in the expansion of the Museum’s physical spaces as well as its worldwide collections. Michael supported MOA’s Partnership of Peoples project in 2010 which saw the revitalization and extension of the Museum’s galleries, including the construction of the O’Brian Gallery, a versatile space supporting dynamic temporary exhibitions. In addition, Michael envisioned and established the Satellite Gallery, at 560 Seymour Street—an experimental space where, for five years, MOA, the Belkin Art Gallery, Presentation House Gallery (now Polygon Gallery), and the Charles H. Scott Gallery (now Libby Leshgold Gallery) could create innovative and creative exhibitions. Michael also instigated MOA’s Strategic Acquisitions Fund, making possible significant additions to MOA’s worldwide collections. He particularly encouraged the acquisition of works by living artists and makers.

In addition to his philanthropic giving, Michael contributed his time and expertise to bringing important initiatives to life at MOA. As a valued member of the inaugural External Advisory Committee in 2008, Michael applied his enthusiasm and knowledge to advancing MOA’s work. Most recently, he was working with the team at MOA to create a new external committee to support ongoing strategic acquisitions.

MOA is honoured to have been counted among the arts organizations that Michael held close to his heart. His devotion to and passion for the arts in Vancouver won’t be soon forgotten; they are reflected in the public spaces and collections of MOA for all to appreciate.

Dr. Susan Rowley

Director, Museum of Anthropology at UBC


Read a join statement from arts organizations around Vancouver here.

Read full obituary here.