Archive | May, 2012

Luminato Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt

30 May

Lunch with Mary 060

Date of lunch:
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The company:
Jorn Weisbrodt is the artistic director of Luminato. For those who don’t know, Luminato is an arts festival that takes place all across Toronto and encompasses all kinds of art from music and theatre, to dance and visual arts to literature, film and culinary. This year’s festival, the sixth year, begins June 8th and runs until June 17th. There are exhibits and events that will appeal to everyone, no matter how “arty” you may be. The festival also strives to be extremely accessible with most events free and open to the public. Throughout the festival, Jorn will be introducing several performances and exhibits. Jorn is in his first year as artistic director and just moved to Toronto in January. Prior to joining Luminato, Jorn was executive director for RW Work Ltd.in New York City, representing and managing the work of legendary visual artist, theatre and opera director Robert Wilson. Originally from Germany, Jorn studied opera direction in school and has had an incredibly interesting career that has spanned many forms of art with a definite healthy dose of opera.

The food:
We ate at Swish by Han on Wellington. I have never been here for lunch so I was excited to try it out. We each had the bi bim bap – Jorn had his with mushrooms and tofu and I had mine with chicken. The meal started with a soup that reminded me of miso soup but wasn’t. I didn’t love it. However, we both enjoyed our main. The rice got really crispy on the hot bowl and it was delish. Jorn had a cold mint tea and we both finished our meals with espressos. Total bill was $47 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
The lesson came right at the end of the lunch and will seem quite simple but it really was eye opening for me. I would say that when it comes to art, I am mostly a fan of music and dance. I find other forms of art can sometimes be confusing to me as I don’t always “get it”. I gave Jorn a few examples of performance art that I have heard about that I really don’t understand. He just looked at me and said “stop trying to get it”. He explained that it’s not about “getting it”, you don’t need to understand everything and just enjoy it. As someone who always excelled in math class and not so much in art class, I always thought I had to “get it” and everyone else was in on it except for me. It was a relief to hear that, sometimes, “getting it” isn’t the point. I think this will help me enjoy and appreciate art a lot more.

The lunch:
My lunch with Jorn was very lovely. I really enjoyed our conversation. And he got me really excited about Luminato this year. As a new Torontonian, Jorn asked me what I thought about the city. I told him how I just love the feel of the place, there is always stuff going on and people out and about. And it’s things like Luminato that make Toronto such a great place. You can just be strolling down Front Street and without expecting it, walk into a free concert by Jovanotti, a hugely popular Italian rapper. (Put that one in your calendar, sounds awesome). Or something straightforward like eating dinner ends up being so much more during Luminato as the entire preparation and eating of the meal is an art installation by Austrian artist Rainer Prohaska.

I took the opportunity of this lunch to hear firsthand from the artistic director what he was most excited to check out at the festival. As an obvious fan of opera, he is very excited about the staging of “Einstein on the Beach”, a five-hour opera collaboration between Jorn’s former boss Robert Wilson and Phillip Glass. It hasn’t been staged in twenty years and this is the first North American performance outside New York City. Jorn believes this may be the last staging with the involvement of the opera’s creators. According to Jorn, Einstein on the Beach is fun and beautiful, and can be a great intro to opera for a newbie like me.

Jorn is also excited about an exhibit at the ROM by Jorinde Voigt where she has illustrated a series of 32 Beethoven sonatas. He explained that music is an art form that doesn’t have a “place”, it doesn’t exist visually and this artist has managed to capture the music in a series of illustrations. Sounds very cool.

Since I gave away my love for dance, Jorn also recommended Sadeh21, a modern dance performance by Tel Aviv’s acclaimed Batsheva Dance Company. You can check out some snippets of Sadeh21. It looks incredible.

A big part of the Luminato experience is how you just end up being part of an art performance without even planning it. Luminato continues to have a partnership with the TIFF Bell Lightbox and this year, as people are leaving Luminato video screenings, they will walk right into a magic show in the TIFF Bell Lightbox lobby. Who doesn’t love magic?

For two weeks in June, there will be art everywhere. Before speaking with Jorn, I had no idea how much is really going on and how much is free and open to everyone. As a new Torontonian, Jorn was eager to hear from me about places to check out in the city. After leaving our lunch, I felt a bit like a new Torontonian myself with a whole list of things to see and do. Although I love Toronto, it’s been a while since I have felt like this and I’m excited.

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Former Mayor of Toronto David Miller

10 May

Lunch with Mary 059

Date of lunch:
Thursday, May 10, 2012

The company:
David Miller is one of the more well-known people I have taken out for lunch. It is a bit strange when everyone in the restaurant recognizes the person you are lunching with. So if you don’t know who David Miller is, he is Toronto’s former mayor. He was our mayor from 2003 to 2010. He was a Toronto city councilor for many years prior to that. In his life post-mayor, David is Counsel, International Business and Sustainability at Aird & Berlis, as well as Future of Cities Global Fellow at Polytechnic Institute of New York University, where he both teaches and assists in developing programs that connect technology and society to solve urban issues.

The food:
We ate at Mercatto on Bay Street. It is a very bustling place at lunchtime. We both had the soup to start, white bean and ham, and then I had a Caesar-like salad and David had the scallop appetizer. The soup was absolutely delicious, David had high praise for his scallops and my salad was pretty average, although very pretty on the plate. We both drank sparkling water. Total bill was $46 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
I asked David what he misses most about being the mayor. His answer was not what I expected. He said for seven years, eight years when you count the campaign, he was forced to be his very best. And he explained there are very few times in your life when you are forced to always be at your best and you start to simply exist at such a productive level. As an avid follower of Toronto city politics, I do see how long the hours can be and, as my lunch experience today taught me, it’s not like the mayor of Toronto can ever really be off the clock. So you’re always on and you’re always working and always working towards something. David said that was the thing he missed the most in the first few months when he was no longer mayor. However, he said he does now enjoy being able to coach his daughter’s soccer team and plan family vacations less than six months in advance and know that he will be able to actually take the vacation.

The lunch:
I was so nervous for this lunch. But as I was waiting for the Yonge subway to head down to Mercatto, I was just hoping for one of the new trains. Ever since the new subway trains started running, I feel like they are my good luck charm. I know I will have a good day if I catch a ride on a new subway. I may have once (transit nerd confession) completely gone out of my way and changed my entire commute just to stay on a new train for a few more stops. But today was not my day, a new train came heading north but alas, my southbound train was an old one.

But as soon as David and I sat down, I let him know how I was really wishing for a new train but didn’t get it. This got us started on Toronto transit. One of my favourite topics and, David let me know, one of the topics everyone wants to speak with him about. I ride transit to work every day and I am relatively positive about the TTC. Being from Ottawa originally, the subway is still impressive to me in how far a distance you can travel in such a short time. But our first transit topic was St. Clair. I live very near St. Clair and I am a HUGE fan of the streetcar right-of-way. It really bothers me when the route is called a disaster when I have seen first hand how great it is – both in terms of travel time and the noticeable improvements in the community.

This point is something that David feels strongly about. When you invest in a community, such as the $100 million investment in St. Clair, the community will benefit. You see it on St. Clair, you see it on Roncesvalles.

And this brought us to the idea of the “Future of Cities”, David’s fellowship at New York University. I asked him if there were other cities that he sees as great models. He did say that revenue-wise, there are models in Europe that simply are not feasible for Toronto, but he does love Berlin. He says it’s just an incredible city with great transit infrastructure, three operas and in general a lot of stuff going on. He says they want to do something and they just do it. I know a couple of fantastic Toronto artists who have moved to Berlin and have fallen in love with the art scene there. Seems like a place that I definitely need to visit.

We also talked about how I was able to set-up my lunch with David. I did it through a simple tweet. I just asked him, in a tweet, if he’d like to have lunch with me for my blog and he replied that he would. And here we are. He spoke about how Twitter has been such a great way for him to have conversations with Torontonians, both when he was mayor and since. I agree that it is a great tool for having access to people that we never used to have access to in the past. I am glad to see people like David Miller using Twitter so enthusiastically.

I left the lunch feeling that the culture of a city cannot be created by the government, such as, for example, a city’s music scene is often something that exists organically within a city on its own. But, and this is me speaking, investment in communities helps to build this organic growth. And, again this is me talking, a city is not a business – it is a mass of people with incredibly diverse needs be they business, cultural, health, employment, social, housing, transit, etc. – and, it should be noted, Toronto is a pretty amazing mass of people. I do love this place and I hope it keeps getting better.