Olivia Ansell: Everlasting Success At Luminato

A global search has brought in Australia’s Olivia Ansell as the new artistic director of Luminato Festival Toronto.
For almost 20 years Luminato Festival Toronto has been a “one degree of separation” for the city, bringing a diverse collection of artists together in a spirit of connectivity. Unrivalled as one of the world’s most renowned arts festivals, it is now poised to reach new heights of imagination and creative inspiration.

Leading that ascension will be Olivia Ansell, recently named as Luminato’s new artistic director after an extensive global search. Ansell, the current festival director of Sydney Festival and former head of contemporary performance for the acclaimed Sydney Opera House, was enticed to the Northern Hemisphere to spread her creative and curatorial talents.

“I work in the arts because creativity has the power to challenge and inspire people,” says Ansell. “I am honoured to join Luminato and curate for a renowned multidisciplinary festival at an international scale. Toronto is a remarkable city, and I look forward to fostering creative exchange among artists, organizations and communities, locally and worldwide, to amplify the vibrancy of this city’s identity through cultural storytelling and ambitious public play.”

“Public play” is an apt description of Luminato. Creatively speaking, almost anything goes for the festival, which is a convenor and catalyst for big, bold contemporary works of art displayed each June. In welcoming the world to Toronto, Luminato commissions, produces and presents exceptional Canadian and international artists in a collective display of imagination and artistry, perhaps needed now more than ever.

“She has a natural talent for understanding the pulse of a city and presenting it in an authentic manner.”

It is supported in this quest by its founding government partner, the Province of Ontario, its major partners the Government of Canada and the City of Toronto, along with its government partners the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Throughout the year, Luminato works with artists from diverse cultures and communities in the Toronto region, supporting creative development and bringing their art to the world stage. Toronto is often called the world’s most diverse city, and perhaps no other time is that diversity on better display than at Luminato. The festival connects local voices with global conversations and grounds its work in equity, inclusion, accessibility and sustainability. Luminato’s guiding light, its driving force, is its belief in the power of art to start conversations and inspire audiences. With that mandate, a global leader in creativity would be the perfect fit for it to achieve greater heights.

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“I am filled with immense excitement and enthusiasm to welcome Olivia as our artistic director,” says Celia Smith, CEO of Luminato Festival Toronto and noted city-builder. “Ansell’s dedication to cultural storytelling, audience engagement and animating place will help deepen Luminato’s impact as a cultural city-building organization. She has a natural talent for understanding the pulse of a city and presenting it in an authentic manner.”

Ansell is a highly accomplished arts curator and executive, with experience ranging from performer, choreographer and director to executive producer and curator across non-profit and commercial art ventures. “I think that arts festivals play a really important role in making sure they ignite culture and collaborate deeply with artists so we can retain that sense of cool in places that we live and work,” says Ansell.

She certainly did that by leaving her mark on Sydney, where she was voted one of Vivid Sydney’s Top 100 Creative Catalysts, helping to elevate the cultural landscape of that city while providing rich opportunities for people to rediscover and re-experience the city in new and unexpected ways.

In the midst of the global pandemic she fearlessly guided the Sydney Festival through a period of uncertainty, recovery and rejuvenation as its festival director. After a remarkable year in 2023, Sydney Festival surpassed its box office goals while significantly growing new audiences. In recognizing her exceptional leadership, Sydney Festival extended Ansell’s tenure through to 2025, when she will move to Canada. Ansell will be curating her inaugural program for Luminato Festival Toronto next year, which will be the festival’s 19th year.

The extensive local and international talent search to identify and then secure Ansell’s services was led by Caldwell Partners, a globally recognized executive talent provider that considered world- class local, national and international candidates. “In the next few years, Luminato Festival Toronto will celebrate 20 years of animating and delighting this great city,” says Douglas Knight, C.M., chair of the board. “Adding Olivia’s innovative artistic vision to Celia Smith’s exceptional organizational leadership establishes a new era for our festival to keep growing our impact and enhancing the experiences of people living in and visiting Toronto.”

Ansell’s vision for Luminato is bold and confident, reflective of her own personality. “What I envision over the next few years for Luminato is to be known as that experiential intellectual arts festival with a bold personality and an appetite for taking risks,” she says.

Given Olivia Ansell’s accomplishments and considerable talents, from her roots Down Under to her new heights at the very top of Luminato Festival Toronto beginning in 2025, creativity in Toronto should strap in and enjoy the ride.


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Rick Muller

Rick Muller