Jessica Dargo Caplan, Director of Education & Community Outreach, Luminato

5 questions to...

Jessica is Director of Education and Community Outreach at Luminato Festival and also oversees the Volunteer Programme, so I have had the great pleasure to work directly with her for the past six months. I’ve been wanting to ask her my “5 Questions” for a while, but given that we were both in the same festival boat, I know very well how busy she has been lately. She took it upon herself to rewrite and rearrange the questions in a fitting manner for a post-festival interview.

1. Luminato Festival’s Education & Community Outreach projects are very different year-to-year, but what are your programming principles?

As part of the festival’s core programming, our Education & Community Outreach projects reflect the Luminato Festival’s guiding principles of accessibility, diversity, collaboration and transformation, with a strong emphasis on the creative process, to ensure meaningful community engagement and authentic experiences.

2. The 2013 Luminato Festival just wrapped up on 23rd June – what was your favourite moment, the one that made it all worth it?

Getting the chance to see how our Education & Outreach project participants directly engage with our Festival artists. This year we worked very closely with the incredible Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) on L’Allegro Movement Project – an intergenerational dance initiative which involved young students from Winchester Junior Public School and Nelson Mandela Park Public School, as well as participants with the Toronto-based Dancing with Parkinson’s group. Together they explored the expressive possibilities of movement through the choreography and music from MMDG’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.

Five months of weekly workshops and rehearsals culminated in a final public performance on Wednesday June 19th at the Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park. This meaningful public performance, featuring the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, highlighted the impact the arts can have on improving the quality of life in both youth and adults.

The most magical moment for me was walking into the theatre right before the final dress rehearsal… seeing our dancers moving around nervously and enthusiastically in their bright and colourful costumes, while the Tafelmusik musicians tuned their instruments… just feeling this beautiful spirit of true artistic collaboration in the room was completely, and overwhelmingly, beautiful.

3. You’ve been at the head of the Education & Community Outreach department since the inaugural year of the Luminato Festival. What gets easier with time? And what doesn’t?

Juggling the work flow never seems to get any easier – it’s like childbirth… I forget how difficult the Festival season can be, but my work is incredibly rewarding so it’s worth the stress (and many sleepless nights!).

4. During this post-Festival period, what’s a typical day like right now?

There isn’t really a typical day — I spend much of my time in meetings with colleagues in the office and arts/community partners analyzing and reflecting on the projects and programs, process and outcomes. (The worst part is sorting through what seems like mountains of paperwork!) At the same time I start to transition into a major planning phase for next year’s Festival.

5. What other festival would you love to attend as audience member?

I would really like to get the chance to experience and learn more about some of the incredible outreach and creative learning projects in the UK and other parts of Europe. There are too many to list, but festivals like Manchester International Festival (which is going on right now), Latitude, Hay Festival, Ruhrtriennale and Augenblick Mal! are doing really interesting collaborations and progressive outreach work.

– – –

This year’s Education and Community Outreach projects also included Future Tastes of Toronto: At the Kids’s Table, a collaboration with performance company Mammalian Diving Reflex around kids and food (of which a trailer is available here, alongst other food-focused programming at other festivals); and School Days, a joint concert with musicians from the Arts & Crafts label and Regent Park School of Music students. A documentary about L’Allegro Movement Project filmed by a youth apprentice team during the Festival will be screened in November 2013 as part of the Regent Park Film Festival, Toronto’s “only free-of-charge community film festival”.

Luminato Festival returns for its 8th year in 2014, from 6th to 15th June.

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