How to Bring a Decommissioned Venue Back to the Future
The seventh annual Luminato Festival's futuristic theme allowed guests to explore areas of the decommissioned Hearn Generating Station that were previously closed to the public.
A decommissioned power plant isn't usually a go-to venue for a festival about arts and creativity. But for the Luminato Festival, the Hearn Generating Station served as an ideal location to kick off its 10th anniversary. The festival's back-to-back June 9 fund-raisers, the Big Bang Bash and Opening Party, marked the start of its 17-day residency at the power plant, which is normally closed to the public. The venue offered massive potential to the organizers, who saw the space as a cultural hub for the duration of the festival. "I wanted to show what the future of the Hearn could be—where the industrial past meets the creative energy of the future," said Jorn Weisbrodt, the festival's artistic director.
Weisbrodt, along with executive producer Clyde Wagner and the team at McNabb Roick Events, brought the festival's concept of “Today is the Future” alive by turning a blank palette with no electric power, water, or structure into a fully functioning and operating venue space that featured a theater, art gallery, and restaurant, with several performance events and artistic activations taking place throughout the evening and residency.
“This year’s festival proposes a model for cultural, community, and recreational use of the Hearn Generating Station that would be absolutely unique in the world,” explained Weisbrodt.
The Big Bang Bash gave guests an exclusive look at part of the building previously unavailable to guests—the third-floor mezzanine dubbed the Jackman Gallery, which was open for the festival's duration. “Last year, Luminato Festival only had two events inside the Hearn," said Martha Haldenby, the festival's associate director of development. "This year, we had an incredible amount of additional infrastructure and programming available to gala guests, including the ability to explore a part of the building previously unavailable to guests.” Attendees of the Big Bang Bash got an exclusive look at a citywide art installation titled "TROVE: A View of Toronto in 50 of its Treasures" by Scott McFarland, and sampled appetizers by North 44.
The re-imagined and temporarily transformed venue space also created a unique backdrop for the Opening Party. During the party, Eon Sinclair spun tunes for guests to dance under artist Michel de Broin's "One Thousand Speculations" installation, a gigantic mirror ball. Various parkour performances by festival arts partner the Monkey Vault also took place. Minimalist decor, color, and bright lights were used to highlight the raw and natural parts of the space, including dirt piles.
“The Hearn is certainly an adventurous place, and since we host the event in such a unique venue, we prefer to keep decor and technology simple rather than detract from the guests experience in the space,” said Haldenby. "Featuring so many diverse partners in the space has encouraged guests to think about how the arts community might play a role in the venue in the future.”
This year's Luminato Festival raised more than $850,000 from its opening-night events, according to the event's organizers.
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