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Janice Price attends the Big Bang Bash & Luminato Festival and Yves Saint Laurent Opening Night Party, June 5, 2014.

Jenna Marie Wakani/The Globe and Mail

Her much-discussed Luminato paycheque identifies her as employee 001. But not for long. CEO Janice Price, who joined Luminato in 2006 to launch the festival essentially from scratch, is heading west to take on another one of Canada's top arts jobs, running the Banff Centre.

"It feels like leaving something you really did help give birth to and ironically it was nine months from the day I started to the opening night of the festival," Ms. Price told The Globe and Mail. "It really was blood, sweat and tears to get it going in the early days but I leave feeling really great, just so confident about the future of the festival. … I feel it's in a great spot and a good time for me to take on a new challenge. How could you resist the Banff Centre?"

Luminato, a multidisciplinary arts festival held each spring in Toronto, has featured 7,500 artists from 40 countries and commissioned more than 65 new works since it launched in 2007.

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Ms. Price, who officially had one more festival left in her Luminato contract, announced her departure to her board on Sunday, after signing a contract in Banff on Saturday. But she had told Luminato chair and co-founder Tony Gagliano that she would not be seeking a contract extension late last summer, as a number of top arts jobs were opening up – including the Banff Centre position and CEO at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where she was also a candidate. She submitted her official letter of resignation to Mr. Gagliano in October so he could begin setting up a search committee for her replacement.

"When you work all year long for an event that happens for 10 days in June exactly, you can't suddenly tell them in March oh, by the way, bye-bye."

Ms. Price, 58, grew up in suburban Toronto – Agincourt – and held positions at the Stratford Festival, the Hummingbird Centre, and the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall before moving to the U.S. where her positions included interim executive director at New York's Lincoln Center, and president and CEO of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

In 2006 in Philadelphia, Ms. Price was approached by Luminato co-founders Mr. Gagliano and David Pecaut, but was initially not interested in helping launch the "complete and absolute start-up," she says. After a three-hour meeting in Mr. Pecaut's sunroom in Toronto, she was convinced. The curtain rose on the inaugural Luminato in June, 2007. (Mr. Pecaut died in 2009.)

Her experience with the arts festival makes her a natural for the Banff Centre, which is an arts incubator and presenter, a conference centre – and has recently launched the Peter Lougheed Leadership Institute. Five shortlisted candidates were interviewed, and Ms. Price was the unanimous choice, according to Banff Centre board chair Brenda Mackie.

"She's a proven CEO that's got experience in both Canada and the U.S. in pretty big institutions so she just seemed like a really good fit in every way."

Ms. Price's $400,000 Luminato salary has raised some eyebrows. In Banff, her compensation will be "in line" with that of the previous president, according to Ms. Mackie, which was listed in the 2013/2014 annual report as $444,000.

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Ms. Price's Banff appointment follows the resignation earlier this year of Jeff Melanson, who returned to Toronto for personal reasons, and is now president and CEO of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Jack Davis, the former head of the Calgary Health Region, has been serving as interim president at Banff.

Ms. Price will stay on until Feb. 27 at Luminato, where a search is now under way to replace her. She starts at the Banff Centre on March 16, where she says she is planning her next "eight- or 10-year adventure."

Under Mr. Melanson, the Banff Centre approved a new strategic plan that would include an ambitious campus expansion.

Ms. Price says it's too soon for her to know how she will proceed with that or any other plans or programming at the centre. "I won't be making any big pronouncements … until I can really get there and dive in."

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