This year’s Luminato Festival is like no other. It is centred entirely at the old Hearn Generating station near Cherry Beach. This decommissioned and derelict site is hosting theatrical performances, dance, music, visual art, restaurants and bars in its enormous and unrenovated expanse. It is now open, with free admission to the site every day during the festival from noon until late at night. Luminato wants Toronto to see what an amazing cultural centre this site could be – permanently. We were excited to get inside.
We found our way from the free Car2Go parking to the entrance along the Hearn Trail. Installed on the trail is Untilled by French artist Pierre Huyghe – a concrete female nude with a beehive as a head. The daisies and wild flowers along the trail contribute to the sculpture as bees collect their pollen and bring it back to the hive. I could only think of it as Bee-Headed.
The stunning scale of the old electricity-generating station hits as soon as you enter. The industrial wreckage is interspersed with temporary performance areas and art installations.
The Trove Exhibition, photographs of fifty of Toronto’s treasures, is mounted on the brick walls of the upper level. Access is by a temporary metal “Grand Staircase” or, thrillingly, by a construction-site type industrial elevator.
Once up there you may come face to face with the largest mirror ball in the world. Holds your attention for a long time as you are fascinated first by the balletic motion of light refractions over the dark recesses of rusted girders, steel vents and dangling cables, and then by the reflections in the mirrors themselves.
We had the foresight to put our names down on the waitlist for bar seats at Le Pavillon, the exquisite French restaurant collaboration between Frédéric Morin (Joe Beef) and John Bil (Honest Weight) which has taken over the Hearn’s control room. Would that they took control of all our meals! A half-hour later, after they texted us that our seats were ready, we sat down to a sparkling glass of cremant with our fois gras and asparagus, then espresso with the piece de resistance dessert. Slices of orange were inserted into the curled all-in-one-piece orange peel, drizzled with curaçao and simple syrup and garnished with candied violets. Surprising perfection; all we left was the exoskeleton.
The Luminato Festival runs from June 10-26. A huge variety of performances will take place in this exciting space. But even if you don’t buy a ticket to anything, don’t miss just wandering through the Hearn. It’s thrilling.
– Schuster Gindin
Photos by Schuster Gindin, food photos by Suzanne Long