Olivia Ansell Named Artistic Director of Luminato Festival Toronto

The accomplished arts curator will present her inaugural festival program in June 2025.

By: Feb. 06, 2024
Olivia Ansell Named Artistic Director of Luminato Festival Toronto

Following an extensive local and global search, Luminato Festival Toronto has announced the appointment of Olivia Ansell as the new Artistic Director of the renowned annual international arts and culture festival.

Ansell, the current Festival Director of Sydney Festival and former Head of Contemporary Performance for Sydney Opera House, brings extensive experience and a unique viewpoint to this role leading the artistic and curatorial vision of the Toronto-based festival. Led by CEO and city-builder Celia Smith, Luminato eagerly anticipates Olivia's move to Canada. Ansell will curate her inaugural program for the festival's 19th year in 2025.

“I am filled with immense excitement and enthusiasm to welcome Olivia Ansell as our Artistic Director,” says Celia Smith, CEO of Luminato Festival Toronto. “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."

“I am honoured to join Luminato and curate for a renowned multi-disciplinary festival at an international scale,” says Olivia Ansell. “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.”  

Voted one of Vivid Sydney's Top 100 Creative Catalysts, Ansell has helped elevate the cultural landscape of Sydney, providing rich opportunities for people to re-discover and re-experience the city in new and unexpected ways. In the midst of the 2022 pandemic, she fearlessly guided the festival through a period of uncertainty, recovery, and rejuvenation. After a remarkable year in 2023, Sydney Festival surpassed its box office goals, significantly growing new audiences. Recognizing her exceptional leadership, Sydney Festival extended Ansell's tenure through to 2025.

"Following the remarkable success of the 2024 Sydney Festival, there's enthusiastic anticipation for Olivia's final instalment in January 2025. In additional exciting news, the Board and the entire team are thrilled to extend heartfelt congratulations to Olivia on her next role as the Artistic Director of the Luminato Festival in Toronto. We eagerly await Olivia's contributions, as she brings her passion, expertise, and boundless energy to engage with colleagues, artists, and audiences in Canada,” expressed Sydney Festival CEO Christopher Tooher.

Luminato Festival Toronto entrusted Caldwell Partners, a globally recognized executive talent provider, to lead the search for its new Artistic Director. The search process engaged world-class local, national, and international candidates. The final decision was made by a selection committee consisting of Celia Smith, CEO, Luminato; Douglas Knight C.M., Board Chair, Luminato; Maxine Bailey, Executive Director, Canadian Film Centre, and Vice-Chair, Luminato; Jason Ryle, international programmer, previous Executive Director, imagineNATIVE, and newly appointed board member, Luminato; Ravi Jain, co-artistic director/founder of Why Not Theatre and newly appointed Luminato board member; and Luminato's senior leadership team.

“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'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.”

About Olivia Ansell

Olivia Ansell is a highly accomplished arts curator and executive with experiences ranging from performer, choreographer, and director through to executive producer and curator across non-profit and commercial art ventures.

Olivia is the 2022-2025 Festival Director of Sydney Festival, completing her fourth and final festival in January 2025. Highlights have included: blockbuster immersive experience Frida Kahlo-The Life of an Icon attracting 86,205 attendees; transforming the majestic Sydney Town Hall into a lifelike beach for Lithuanian opera Sun & Sea; staging Puccini's one act opera ll Tabarro aboard the Carpentaria Light Ship in Sydney Harbour; curating extraordinary dance from across the globe and collaborating with Indigenous artists and companies to co-commission several new Australian works, including the world premiere of Big Name No Blankets - a rock ‘n roll musical about the Warumpi Band era.

Previously Olivia spent three years as Head of Contemporary Performance for Sydney Opera House Presents where she curated and championed a diverse range of maverick storytellers to the stage including: Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow's cult musical SIX; Hofesh Shechter's critically acclaimed Grand Finale; Lin Manuel Miranda's In the Heights; A O Lang Pho by Cirque Nouveau du Vietnam; Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg's Pure Dance and Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby's hit show, Douglas.

Her studies included time at New York's Alvin Ailey American Dance School before later graduating from Queensland University of Technology, the Australia Council's Executive Leadership Program and Australia's Chief Executive Women Leadership Program. Olivia was voted one of Vivid Sydney's Top 100 Creative Catalysts. She is a lecturer in Movement for the Sydney Conservatorium of Music's post graduate Con Opera School. Olivia is also a global nominator for the Sadler's Wells Rose International Dance Prize and a 2024 jury member for international music market Jazzahead in Bremen, Germany.

About Luminato Festival Toronto

Luminato Festival Toronto is a convenor and catalyst for big, bold contemporary works of art. Each June, Luminato kicks off the summer with a festival to welcome the world to Toronto, commissioning, producing, and presenting exceptional Canadian and International Artists. Throughout the year, Luminato works with artists from the diverse cultures and communities of the city's region, supporting creative development, and bringing their art to the world stage. We connect local voices with global conversations and ground our work in equity, inclusion, accessibility, and sustainability. Most importantly, we believe in the power of art to start conversations and inspire audiences.   

Luminato gratefully acknowledges the support of our founding government partner, the Province of Ontario; our major partners, the Government of Canada and City of Toronto; and our government partners, Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts.