The Chalmers family has a well-known history as one of Canada’s premier patrons of the arts. Long associated with the founding and support of a number of arts institutions, they have also shown an extraordinary interest in honouring, through awards, prizes and grants, the individual artists who contribute to Canada’s culture.
The Chalmers Family Fund was established at the OAC in 1979 with a substantial donation and the transfer of the assets of the Floyd S. Chalmers Foundation. Subsequent donations from Floyd S. Chalmers, Jean A. Chalmers and M. Joan Chalmers reaffirm the family’s exemplary commitment to the arts and artists in Ontario. Floyd S. Chalmers entrusted the OAC with the use of the Fund to further the objects of the Floyd S. Chalmers Foundation to honour the talent and achievements of Canadians who made outstanding contributions to the arts, and to stimulate and encourage creative and innovative programs in the arts.
Since 1980, the OAC administered the Chalmers Awards for Creativity and Excellence in the Arts and the selection process. All awards except theatre were nominated and selected by national panels of arts professionals. The Floyd S. Chalmers Play Awards and Chalmers Play Awards: Theatre for Young Audiences was assessed by members of the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association and Toronto's professional theatre community.
In 2001, the final thirteen Chalmers awards totalling $325,000 were presented in Toronto, Ontario. The OAC hosted a series of consultation sessions with Ontario arts professionals throughout the province at which numerous ideas for the design of a new program were put forward. In February 2002, two grant programs were introduced to replace the Chalmers Awards: the Chalmers Arts Fellowships and Chalmers Professional Development Grants.