A world of talent on stage in Toronto

Luminato Festival’s artistic director talks about third installment

By Elena Serra

Luminato, Toronto’s art and creativity festival, is back for a third year to celebrate the artistic spirit in all its forms starting on June 5. For 10 days, the city will be transformed into a single stage that will bring together – both indoors and out – dance, theatre, literature, classic and contemporary music, design, visual arts, and film.
With an event-filled calendar, Luminato fulfills all the expectations and hopes of its creators – who are motivated by the will and need to share art and beauty, spreading optimism, illuminating the mind, and inspiring the world.
This is the fascinating story as told by Chris Lorway, Luminato’s artistic director, who has worked in the international arts field for over 12 years, carrying out projects like The Lincoln Centre Festival and The New Yorker Festival.
He talked to Corriere Canadese/Tandem about Luminato’s past and present.

How did the idea for a festival like Luminato come about?

“There were two important events that profoundly damaged tourism in the City of Toronto. The first was Sept.11, which had repercussions on tourism all over the world, and the second was the inclusion of Toronto on the list of high-risk cities for SARS in 2003. The result was a city that was looked upon in a negative light. Two gentlemen, Tony Gagliano and David Pecaut, then asked themselves what could be done to demonstrate to the world how exciting Toronto was – a city that is recognized, among others, by UNESCO as the most multicultural city in the world. They wanted to reinstate it to its high level by using all its potential and highlighting its characteristics. And to best celebrate Toronto’s rich diversity, they turned to organizations such as ROM, L’Opera, the Ballet, and many others, promoting their idea and asking what contribution they were willing to offer.”

Turning to these organizations represented, then, a first step in the long journey that allowed for the development of Luminato?
“Yes, on that point we count on public infrastructures such as, for example, the Royal Conservatory of Music, which will open for a short while. I started working with Luminato three years ago when plans for the first edition were almost complete. What I tried to do at the subsequent edition was to research the connection between the various performances and artistic languages to create a sort of continuity, and I think that with this year’s edition, we’ve been able to give the festival a complete identity.”

What is the most difficult part of organizing a festival with these characteristics?

“You need to have a macro-vision of the situation. I spend a lot of my time traveling the world speaking with artists and trying to understand what appeals to the public and in what direction art is going. But the most important thing is to unify it all and create a story that will then be developed in the creation of the festival.”

What is the primary objective of the Festival?

“I think it’s based on the building of trust in Toronto and for Toronto. Public interest is very important as well – we need to answer public expectations, but at times trying to please everyone doesn’t achieve a satisfactory result. One can’t focus on too many things in this 10-day festival. That’s why we always set clear objectives and explore new areas each year. That way, in 10 years we can look back and be glad that we pleased the various tastes and communities of Toronto, and that we did it well.”

What makes Toronto the perfect city for this event?

“I lived in New York for a long time and came to understand that if, for example, there’s a concert by a foreign band, the public goes to see it out of curiosity because it’s something different. But what makes Toronto so special is the fact that there are so many different communities that – wherever the band comes from – 50% of concert goers will always be made up of those coming out for the sake of curiosity and 50% are actual fans. This way there’s always a subtle limit, and at times a real fusion of what is local and what is tourist-related, and from this comes a very interesting mix.”

Does this mean Luminato will remain in Toronto or is there a move or extension to the festival being planned?
“We’re not going anywhere. This is Toronto’s festival.”

What’s the biggest news at the Festival this year?

“The idea always stays the same, but the model can transform into various forms. It all depends on the budget available and the places where the exhibits will take place. There are events that always stay the same, such as at Dundas Square, which is perfect for attracting many visitors because of its characteristics – but each year we try to introduce new areas of the city, both outdoors and indoors.New areas of exploration this year are the celebration of the guitar – an eclectic instrument and promoter of culture – and contemporary communication and its effects on human relationships.”

Artists, the public, the city, organization, volunteers – what element makes the biggest difference to the Luminato Festival?
“They’re all gears in the same machine, and they all have to support each other and function together. What we do this year is attempt to unify all these elements, and that will take place daily during the festival, at 10 p.m., above Hard Rock Café, with events that will favour encounters between artists, volunteers, the public, and the Luminato staff itself. As well, artists participating at Luminato are always encouraged to participate at events of other artists to learn about and share various artistic visions. Artists inspire each other, and from these encounters, teamwork is often created.”

What has to occur so that the festival can be considered a success once it is over?

“There are several criteria. First of all, obviously, is the number of tickets sold, and the number of free attendance at the events. Also, this year it will be possible for the public to submit online comments regarding shows, which will allow us to see and monitor their reaction. All this because – beyond everything else – in other words what I take to heart is the quality of the performances, the public’s happiness, and that everything takes place without a misstep.”Which performances are not to be missed this year?
“There are many. For example, there’s a film called Tales of the Uncanny by Richard Oswald – a silent 1919 film – that will be screened at Dundas Square with a live soundtrack by Berlin artist Robert Lippok and two independent Canadian bands.And not to be overlooked is the presence of Cirque du Soleil during the festival’s closing weekend, between Harbourfront Centre and the Toronto Music Garden.”


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