Foster is known for being a prominent arts activist and having an important hand in governing many arts institutions in Canada. CBC News reports that in 1993-94, serving as chair of the Stratford Festival, she was fundamental in improving its economic footing following growth in the festival's deficit and a reduction in federal and provincial support.
Foster has also served on the executive committee of the Toronto International Film Festival. She is a member of the public affairs committee for the Art Gallery of Ontario and a director of both the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund and the Bata Shoe Museum. She has held senior positions at McCann Erickson Advertising and Environics Research Group, and also headed the Olympic Trust of Canada. Currently, Foster is a member of the board of governors at Toronto's York University, where she is also a chair of the fine arts faculty's advisory council.
This four-year appointment was made just six days after world-renowned (and controversial) violinist/conductor Pinchas Zukerman renewed his contract as the National Arts Centre Orchestra's music director.
In a press release, the NAC's president and CEO, Peter Herrndorf stated, "I am personally excited about working with Julia Foster, having known her for many years and having admired her extraordinary achievements with a number of Canadian arts organizations.