A radical reimagining of the role of arts and culture in a modern democracy.


A radical reimagining of the role of art and culture in contemporary democracy, The Compassionate Imagination proposes a new Canadian Cultural Contract that re-humanizes our way of living together by tapping into the instincts for generosity and compassion that find their expression in art.

Over the last forty years, the arts have been increasingly deemed unimportant to the creation of an educated workforce. Reflecting a broadly held political view that in a market-based economy the arts were “a frill,” they were deemed “unnecessary” courses compared to sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

But what kind of Canada might we make if we were to place art and culture at the heart of our mutual decision-making, and return the arts to a central position in our education, shifting to steam rather than stem?

What might be possible if we integrate the creative imagination into our responses to the great social challenges we face? What impact would it have on the future shape of our democracy?

It’s time to find where the Compassionate Imagination can take us.


  • Short-listed, Balsillie Prize for Public Policy 2023


“At a time when our world is in crisis, this stellar book brings clear vision and strategy. The Compassionate Imagination presents a beacon of hope. Thank you, Max Wyman.”

- Angela Elster, President and CEO at Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

“A readable and timely book that expertly shows how the arts contribute to human flourishing in all its manifestations … purportedly written for a Canadian audience but in fact it appeals to readers outside that country … its wealth of examples make it a compulsive page-turner.”

- Professor Anne Bamford, OBE, Strategic Director of Education, Culture and Skills for the City of London, U.K., Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts, Founder of The Engine Room, Wimbledon College of Art, and author of <i>The Wow Factor</i>

“The culmination of a life’s work dedicated to the arts and culture in Canada, this wonderful and important book is filled with information, insight, and history. Max Wyman is that rare individual and writer who can cross the boundaries between the arts and build bridges among Canadians. He unlocks the keys to the future in a superb exposition of the benefits, challenges, and potential of culture in Canada.”

- Dr. Ron Burnett, President Emeritus of Emily Carr University, Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres, C.M., OBC and Research Director of The Centre for Transdisciplinary Studies

“A monumental work both of daunting analysis and of impassioned argument. It is difficult to come away from this book without wondering whether there is anyone other than Max Wyman who could have written it. The sheer level of knowledge is jaw-dropping.”

- Marlo Alexandra Burks, <em>The Literary Review of Canada</em>

“… the book is worth reading because it does something rather special: it celebrates Canadian arts and offers ideas to promote their continued cultivation. Wyman’s command of this country’s dance scene, for one, is impressive, and his enthusiasm for the variety and calibre of projects is infectious.”

- Marlo Alexandra Burks, <em>The Literary Review of Canada</em>

“The organization and synthesis of such a broad range of information provides us with perspectives and arguments that are both logical and emotionally accessible for a broad range of readers.”

- Judith Marcuse, LL.D. (Hon.), Artistic Producer, Judith Marcuse Projects, Founder/Director, International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC), Senior Fellow, Ashoka International

“Highly recommended.”

- Tom Sandborn