Rosemary Thompson

Building a Better Canada Through Artful Stratégies

 by Dan Lalande

“I have worked with so many incredible cultural organizations and leaders across the country. I thought it would be interesting to help several of them at once rather than one at a time.”

            With that, Rosemary Thompson—yes, the Rosemary Thompson, longtime CBC and CTV national reporter and bureau chief—established Artful Stratégies, an Ottawa-Toronto-Halifax-based marketing and communications company helping organizations in the sustainability, inclusion and inspiration spaces. In a mere year, this fast-growing interest has serviced such high-profile clients as Canadian Geographic, the First Nations Bank of Canada and the largest multi-disciplinary celebration of any Canadian artist ever, the 100th anniversary of Jean Paul Riopelle. If this mix strikes you as eclectic, it’s all part of a single goal to Rosemary: “Each organization we work with plays a critical role in strengthening Canada.”

Photo: Mark Cooper

A deeply ingrained care for the state of our nation has long motivated this enterprising Canadian. It’s what’s propelled the serial shapeshifter from career to career, first covering some of the biggest stories in our history, then boosting the health of our cultural institutions.

Rosemary’s patriotic activism is rooted in her Montreal childhood. When other Anglo families were fleeing the city in the wake of the Quebec sovereignty movement, her parents not only stayed put, they enrolled their kids in the French education system. There, the proudly bilingual communicator learned about the value of cultural integration, an agenda she has been pursuing ever since. “When I first started in journalism,” she remembers, segueing to her initial career, “my goal was to create understanding, find unity and build a better country.” Lofty ideals, on which she has made good. Inspired to enroll in Carleton University’s journalism program by cousin Shelagh Rogers, she graduated to find national prominence. In time, she brought some of the biggest stories in North American history to a national audience.

“At CTV,” she recounts, “I was the Montreal bureau chief during the 1995 referendum. I spent 37 days on the ‘yes’ bus with Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard as the country was nearly torn apart. Later, when I was posted to Washington, I was on the lawn of the White House on the morning of 9/11.”

“Television taught me everything about teamwork,” Rosemary reflects. “When you are in the field, sometimes in dangerous situations, you need a relationship of complete trust with your colleagues. Television is a team sport. Every person in the production chain is important. Everyone needs to be able to work at their highest level and feel the support of their colleagues.”

Rosemary continues to be a team member and builder.

Deciding to leave journalism to be more available for her growing family, she took a job under Peter Herrndorf, the highly respected media executive and cultural administrator who headed the National Arts Centre from 1999 to 2018. “Working for Peter was exciting. I learned how to make large cultural organizations work: building a great board, working with the public and private sectors to secure major funding, learning how to move a major proposal forward.”

It was also an opportunity to service another one of her loves: the arts. Early on, in fact, she had to choose between a life in music and a life on camera. “I view journalism and the arts as part of the same family,” says Rosemary, who once entertained being a professional pianist. “We are all storytellers, whether you’re a journalist or a musician; we’re all trying to bring stories to life through different forms of communication.”

After helping the “new” NAC open in 2017, Rosemary brought her refined communications, marketing and fundraising skills to the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and The National Gallery. The campaign she put together in Banff raised over $13 million; her rebrand of the gallery paired Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers and artists with a design team to publicly bring Canada’s original and adopted cultures together.

            Now, with Artful Stratégies, Rosemary and her fellow visionaries are revitalizing other organizations and initiatives. The company is the force behind Riopelle 100, helping to bring the story of one of our country’s greatest painters beyond the boundaries of his native French Canada.

The Riopelle Foundation is part of Artful Stratégies’ impressively expanding client base, handled by Rosemary and company with the utmost regard and a high degree of creative care. “When we take on a client,” she explains, “I always ask the team, ‘How can we do something very special for this organization?’ Because they are all building a better Canada.”