Art, in all forms, holds the powerful ability to create cooperative dialogue among people from different backgrounds. For the past 14 years, the creative team behind the Luminato Festival Toronto has worked tirelessly to celebrate artists and connect the city’s diverse communities and cultures.
From October 13 to 17, everyone is welcome to attend the free festival, with online and in-person events, that highlights Toronto’s vibrant local arts and culture scene.
This year’s installment has the umbrella theme of Love Letters to Toronto, encouraging audiences to reflect upon and (re)discover the reasons why they love Toronto. In addition to celebrating the city’s culture scene, attendees will also have the opportunity to uncover pieces that draw upon some of the challenges our society is facing today.
“It’s important for people to understand that systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, and issues surrounding gender have held many artists down for a long time,” says Rosina Kazi, music curator and filmmaker for Luminato. “Even with things shifting, we aren’t quite there yet and this year’s festival attempts to show that we exist, we are powerful, and that there’s so much remarkable talent in the country beyond what’s been presented over the last 15 years.”
Despite always showcasing independent musicians, the pandemic forced the festival to focus on supporting the venues and local talent that were impacted by the lockdowns.
“The core of the shift is the idea of genuine relationship building. It’s not just about offering these artists a platform,” says Dian Marie Bridge, the associate artistic director and co-producer of Guided by Starlight, the festival’s highly anticipated music series. “It’s about mentorship and creating a network so the artists working here have the ability to go international. By creating circular communities, their work can be showcased all around the world. Toronto is filled with communities who have the ability to coexist and collaborate so we’re hoping to build lasting relationships opposed to just highlighting the stars.”
The Luminato Festival seeks to nurture a better future for those living within Toronto while showcasing the resiliency and tenacity of these communities and artists. Event attendees can experience interactive art installations, app-guided walking tours combined with visual stories like Henry G20, discussion panels, art exhibitions and streamed performances.
Love Letters to Toronto
This year’s theme was born out of the immeasurable respect that the festival’s leadership feels toward independent artists who create to earn a living. “It’s about supporting the folks who are doing work here and sending appreciation to the communities within Toronto,” says Bridge.
When the pandemic began, the Luminato Festival was in the midst of producing its 2020 live installment, which came to a screeching halt for health and safety reasons. Even though the festival was cancelled, its leadership chose to pay all of the creators they had contracted for the event. The team understood that the artists were depending on that money to come in.
“There were tons of people in the arts, music and theatre community who lost their income for the summer,” says Bridge. “We have an incredibly deep love for the community here and I think that’s really reflected our undertaking of focusing on the artists and the people in the communities with them. It’s about passing on the blessing.”
Guided by Starlight
The five-part music series features well-established and up-and-coming artists from different Toronto neighbourhoods, giving virtual audiences a glimpse into the unique music scenes hidden within the city.
Local artists TiKA, Zaki Ibrahim, Lenka Lichtenberg, Raging Asian Womxn Taiko Drummers (RAW), Säye Skye, Baobá, OKAN, Hex and more, will grace the festival’s virtual stage. For the full performer line-up, click here.
“As someone in the DIY music scene, I feel like there hasn’t always been support for local or independent artists and for me, Luminato has made an effort to do that,” says Kazi, who is also a singer and songwriter for LAL. “Our whole battle as musicians is that we need to propel our local artists, not just give them attention after they get a buzz. Instead, we need to create that buzz.”
From October 13 to 17, Guided by Starlight hosts an evening concert every day that will showcase local singers or bands. The performances will be available to watch on-demand until the end of November.