Carleton University is pleased to announce the creation of the Allan Slaight Chair for the Study of the Conjuring Arts, thanks to a $2-million leadership gift from The Slaight Family Foundation that has been matched by the university. The Chair will work with students on various topics in many disciplines and will join the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
“We are honoured to be the recipient of The Slaight Family Foundation’s generosity and excited for the learning opportunities this Chair will create,” says Carleton’s Interim President Alastair Summerlee. “As a society, it’s imperative that we understand when we are being deceived. It’s also important to remember that magicians are among some of history’s greatest performers and influencers.”
Topics related to the conjuring arts are respected and growing subjects of academic study in many areas — from the history of warfare, the use of political persuasion, neuroscience and psychology to the study of literary genres and devices, mathematics and game design.
The Chair is named to honour philanthropist Allan Slaight, and his lifelong dedication to and intellectual interest in magic as a performing art and creative endeavour.
“When my father was eight years old, he saw magician Johnny Giordmaine perform at a Toronto department store and was hooked,” says Gary Slaight, president and chief executive of The Slaight Family Foundation. Allan Slaight has written numerous articles on magic, and his book The James File documenting the work of Stewart James is considered a landmark of the field. Recently, the Allan Slaight Collection of rare magic posters and Houdini ephemera was donated to the McCord Museum in Montreal.
“Magic has always been an important part of my father’s life, and we are thrilled to partner with Carleton on the establishment of this Chair,” says Gary Slaight. “I’ve been involved with Carleton’s television and radio programs in the past and impressed by the university’s reputation and dedication to students.”
The Chair will also take the lead in developing Carleton’s strengths as a unique international resource for collections and artifacts related to magic.
Carleton is one of the only universities in Canada building a related literature collection. Archives and Research Collections (ARC) is home to the Art Latcham Collection of 300 books donated in 2012. A copy of Miracle Mongers and Their Methods, signed by Houdini, is available at ARC.
“There is enthusiastic interest in accessing these collections from our students and faculty, as well as community members,” says Patti Harper, head of Carleton’s research support services. “There is also a nice Ottawa connection—Dai Vernon, regarded as one of the most influential magicians of the 20th century, was born in Ottawa.”
An interdisciplinary search committee—with faculty members from History, Music, Psychology and Film Studies, among others—will soon begin recruitment of the Chair’s inaugural holder.
The announcement of the Allan Slaight Chair for the Study of the Conjuring Arts is part of Carleton’s Collaborate Campaign, a $300-million fundraising campaign in support of students, academic programs and research. Thanks to donors, the Collaborate Campaign is now more than 80 per cent of the way toward its goal.
About Allan Slaight
Allan Slaight caught the magic bug early — age eight — seeing Johnny Giordmaine behind his magic counter in the Eaton’s department store. As Slaight would later recall, it took dynamite to move him from the spot. As a teenager, Allan fell under the spell of Stewart James, one of the world’s most prolific inventors of subtle magic secrets, particularly with playing cards. In the 1940s, still a teenager, Slaight toured Western Canada as “Will Powers”, a mindreader, and as “Slaight & Co”, where he presented a larger-scale magic show. While his natural talents turned him to broadcasting, where he built up the largest, privately owned network of radio stations in Canada, his passion for magic never wavered. His magic tricks can be found in most major magic magazines of the last 50 years and his published works — particularly the 3,000 pages of The James File — rank among the most impressive magic publications. Allan, now in his 80s, continues to study magic and co-hosts an annual conference, 31 Faces North, featuring some of the world’s leading practitioners.
About The Slaight Family Foundation
Established in 2008, The Slaight Family Foundation is committed to making a difference. The Foundation supports projects at local and international levels related to health care, social services, arts and culture as well as at-risk children and youth. The Slaight Family Foundation undertakes bold new approaches to philanthropy to increase impact and improve the lives of those in need at home and abroad.
About Carleton Research
Carleton is a dynamic, interdisciplinary research-intensive institution with a creative international approach to research that has led to many significant discoveries and works in science and engineering, business, public affairs and the arts and social sciences. Home to many noted award-winning researchers, Carleton is uniquely committed to discovery, knowledge and understanding of the world around us. Carleton’s location in Ottawa — the nation’s capital — allows unique access for our researchers across many disciplines to such places as Canada’s national labs and museums, Library and Archives Canada, federal government departments and of course, Parliament Hill. Through the building of sustainable communities, we foster new ideas to create a more prosperous future for Canada and the world.
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