Written by David Olive
Published in the Toronto Star
At one and the same time, the late David Pecaut exemplified the power of one person to make positive change, and the unique power of teamwork in moving mountains.
Often referred to as “the best mayor Toronto never had,” the U.S. ex-pat spearheaded — with just one partner, fellow civic leader Tony Gagliano — the annual Luminato international arts festival that attracts about one million tourists in the early summer of each year.
By contrast, the Toronto City Summit Alliance (now CivicAction) that Pecaut headed for its first six years is a triumph of coalition teambuilding across ethnic, vocational and institutional lines, with passionate individuals drawn from every walk of life.
Launched in 2004, Luminato, a tourism asset that showcases Toronto as a leading centre of international art and creativity, seemed to kick off a cultural renaissance in Toronto. In its wake came the latest modernization of the Royal Ontario Museum; Frank Gehry’s daring re-imagination of the Art Gallery of Ontario; and the long-awaited opening of a new opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
Those and other additions to Toronto’s inventory of cultural assets, like Luminato itself, resulted from Toronto’s first concerted private-sector effort to step up and make a contribution rivalling that of government in getting big things done.
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