Love of Asian Art Sparks Lifelong Journey

Bayla Balaban

Bayla Balaban (2nd to left) attending the opening of the Helga and Mike Schmidt Performance Terrace and Reed Family Plaza in 2019. Pictured left to right: Gilles Huot, Former President, ROM Department of Museum Volunteers; Bayla Balaban, Co-Chair, Bishop White Committee; Nita Reed, Currelly Legacy Society Executive; Jean Read, Chair, Currelly Legacy Society; Sharon Allan, Former President, ROM Department of Museum Volunteers. Photo courtesy of ROM Governors. 

Bayla Balaban has always been interested in arts and culture. She studied art history at the University of Toronto, but it was her 20 years in the family business importing souvenirs from Asia that ignited her passion for the rich and diverse artistic heritage of the continent.

“On my first trip to Taipei with my husband, I spent seven days at the Palace Museum, from opening to closing,” she recalls. “I read everything - every poem on every scroll, every inscription on every bronze pot.” 

Taipei made such an impression, in fact, that Bayla went back every year for the next 10 years. “I was really intrigued by the use of colour and perspective in scroll paintings, which were very unlike the oil on canvas images I was used to, as well as the quality and beauty of the porcelains and the incredible jade and ivory carvings and bronze pieces.” 

After retiring from the business in 2004, Bayla joined the ROM’s Department of Museum Volunteers and immediately asked to work in the Museum’s renowned East Asia Section.  

“It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” says Bayla. In addition to broadening her knowledge of Asian art and culture, her experience as a Docent also brought her closer to the collections and curatorial staff. One of her favourite memories was the group trip to China in 2018 alongside Dr. Chen Shen, Senior Curator of Chinese Art and Culture at the ROM.    

“That was the trip of a lifetime,” she recalls. “We learned so much with Chen as our guide, seeing different museums, meeting the curatorial director behind the Terracotta Warriors exhibition and even visiting the Forbidden City before opening hours.” 

Bayla’s commitment to the Museum goes beyond leading tours - she has also served as Docent Chair, Membership Committee Chair and President of the DMV. She currently co-chairs the Bishop White Committee, a group of dedicated volunteers who support curatorial research, collection preservation and educational programming under the East Asia banner. 

The ROM has meant so much to Bayla and her family over the years. So when it came time to update her Will a few years ago, she didn’t have to think long about the legacy she wanted to leave. A bequest to the ROM in her Will would ensure the passion and dedication she gives every day as a volunteer will continue long after she is gone.  

“It was all very easy to set up - we just asked our lawyer to add a line to our Will and it was done,” says Bayla.  

When you include the ROM in your estate plan, you are investing in the future of Museum. You can also direct your gift to the area that means the most to you. Bayla has designated her bequest to support the Bishop White Committee Endowment.  

“I would encourage anyone who dedicates their time and energy as a volunteer - or just loves the ROM like I do—to make this commitment today.”  

Like Bayla, you too can leave a legacy at the ROM that will last beyond your lifetime. To learn more, please contact Janice Correa at