Luminato is back: live, in person and occasionally on the train

In some ways, the 2022 edition of Luminato represents a well-known task. The citywide arts festival was founded in the mid-’00s in an effort to bring people back to Toronto in the wake of the SARS pandemic of 2002-03, launching its first proper festival in 2007. Now, a decade and a half later and after two Years as a virtual festival, it’s part of a larger effort to do the same: reinvigorate culture in the city in the wake of a pandemic.

Of course some things are also different. First, the pandemic in question is very different. SARS has not resulted in two years of on-and-off lockdowns and an almost total shutdown of live events.

“We haven’t changed our habits [for SARS]”says Luminato creative director Naomi Campbell. “We didn’t go on Zoom. We just started using more hand sanitizer. You had to wear a mask when you went to the hospital. That was about it. That Rolling Stones concert [SARSstock] happened in July of the year, and SARS happened in March and April. It was a very different scenario.”

Luminato Artistic Director Naomi Campbell and CEO Celia Smith at Union Station in Toronto, which will be the culmination of the festival’s “Art in Transit” project. (Illuminated)

The other thing that’s different is that, despite what you may have heard, the COVID pandemic hasn’t really ended yet. It’s still happening a lot. That’s why the festival continues to take health precautions and has made certain pandemic-related programming choices, according to creative director Naomi Campbell, such as booking fewer non-Canadian artists and performers, asking to vaccinate all performers and making masks mandatory backstage. Still, Campbell sees the return of the festival as an important part of bringing collective experiences back to the city.

“Public art experiences create bigger stories and webs than we are even aware of at the time,” she says. “If you’re just going because you love that band or you want to see that play or whatever, in a way you’re also preoccupied with your future. That’s how you make new friends and have conversations with people you would’ each other.” meet them differently, and you create common experiences with them.”

Some of the pieces at this year’s festival, including photographer Edward Burtynsky’s “In the Wake of Progress” — a large-scale outdoor experience showcasing humanity’s impact on the planet — were originally supposed to be part of the canceled 2020 festival, Campbell says. that the postponement for that particular piece had a silver lining.

“The show has benefited from the extra time,” she says. “Ed and his team have continued to work on it. They’ve tweaked it. I’m super excited to finally see it happen in a public place.”

One of Campbell’s goals for Luminato is to bring it to more parts of the GTA. This year’s festival will feature works in Brampton, Vaughan, and Woodbine Beach in Toronto’s east side. She says it’s important to expand the festival to more neighborhoods, because it’s increasingly the suburbs, not the inner city, that are spawning Toronto’s new generation of art stars.

“When you think about the artists who are major international successes from Toronto, they don’t all come from downtown Toronto,” she says. “They’re from Brampton, they’re from Mississauga, they’re from Scarborough. So let’s go there. Let’s be there. Let’s deal with those communities in a more real way.”

Another way Luminato is reaching more parts of the GTA is by hosting an event on GO transit. The project, Art in Transit, follows a grumpy fish in a suit. While taking the train downtown, he meets dancers, musicians and other performers, who help him get in touch with his true aquatic nature. The show will be on a different GO line every day.

“The entourage arrives at Union Station and there is a band, choir or performance group that greets them and helps Fish get to the lake,” Campbell says. “The costumes are super magical. It’s going to be awesome. Some eyes rolled on this one just because it’s a little weird and hard to describe, and it probably isn’t for everyone. I’m sure there will be some people on the train who are like, ‘Oh my God.’ [But] we don’t go in the silent car. We have worked very closely with Metrolinx on this. They’ve been really super supportive and Union Station has been super supportive. And there will be people that this can be their only [Luminato] experience. But it will be an unforgettable one. And the next time they hear about Luminato, they’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah, okay. That’s the thing that was on the train.’ It’s going to be a blast.”