Why Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa give back

Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa | BCBusiness

A conversation with Michael Audain, chairman of Polygon Homes Ltd., and Yoshiko Karasawa, board director for the Audain Art Museum and the Vancouver Opera Association

“I’m afraid that we don’t have any grand notions about philanthropy,” says Michael. “We are just very keen about certain causes and try to support them with dollars and volunteer time.”

That lifelong—and exhaustive—interest in the visual arts is what led to their show Shore, Forest and Beyond: Art from the Audain Collection at the VAG in 2011-12, and what has helped create a new art museum in Whistler, due to open this year. Giving is part of Audain railing against inheritance: “I’m not for endowing one’s offspring with too much money, other than what’s needed for their education.”


Have donated more than $12 million to the Vancouver Art Gallery, including art; currently building the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, projected to cost around $35 million and due to open in late 2015; have also given to Presentation House Gallery ($4 million), Emily Carr University of Art + Design ($5 million) and UBC ($5 million) for various art facilities in the past two years.

Yoshiko, whose main interests are animal welfare and opera (she is on the board of Vancouver Opera), says that when she was young in Japan most charity was linked to the temples. “It was a revelation to me to find how widespread the interest in charity is in my adopted country,” she says. “I believe that charitable giving has certainly become more popular in recent years as people realize that government cannot address all the good things that need to be done in health and education.”

Yoshiko strongly believes the onus for giving is on those with resources. “Those of us who can afford it have a duty to help the less fortunate,” she says. “But one thing I cannot understand is why people would wait until their death to support causes that interest them. Why not have the satisfaction of seeing that done while you are still alive and kicking?”

This is the fifth in a series profiling eight local powerhouse philanthropic duos. Stay tuned.