Gabriel Safdie: Canadian immigrant still happily giving back
Is it possible to grow a business, maintain an active artistic career, and help support your community, all at the same time?
That’s the challenge Gabriel Safdie took on when his dad’s sudden death brought him into the family business in 1986. He agreed to leave a vibrant teaching career having chaired the English department at Dawson College to become president and CEO of what was to become Canada’s largest home textile supplier, Safdie & Company, on the condition that he could continue his work in the arts.
My approach to business was not at all conventional,” he said. “But I did it my way. While I was running the company, I published poetry; I helped turn the Playwrights’ Workshop into a national institution; and I did many other things in music, theatre and photography. My photography grew out of my travels and then my yearly calendars grew out of my photography. It’s been 12 calendars now – several on Asia, one on Stanstead last year and for 2017 I featured photos I recently took on The Day of the Dead on a trip to Mexico, where I have a home. I could not have done the business if I had not had the fulfilment of doing the other [creative] stuff.”
Running a successful business also gave Safdie, who was born in Jerusalem and moved to Canada with his family at the age of thirteen, the means to dedicate funds and time to projects he really cared about.
I give money to theatres, $1000 here and there. It’s not big money. I also make donations. I’ve also been able to help several artists along the way, sometimes to get a recording out, to get a book out. Some is institutional, some is personal.”
Read the rest of this profile in The Montrealer’s January 2017 issue.
About the Author
Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.