Arts

What would the ultimate Canadian Nuit Blanche look like?

Fall is here, and Nuit Blanche events are happening all over Canada. We asked local experts, CBC hosts from the cities hosting upcoming art-at-night events, to share their top picks – the projects happening in their communities that most captured their imaginations. What if we let them curate the ultimate Canadian Nuit Blanche? What would each city’s contribution be?

CBC picks the must-see projects from all-night art events happening around the country

There were 200 activities on offer at Montreal's 2015 Nuit Blanche, including musical performances, art exhibits and open museums. (Radio-Canada)

The thing about doing Nuit Blanche is, no matter where you live — no matter if the public-art-party action is spread over vast neighbourhoods or a few city blocks — it's impossible to experience it all. The Fear of Missing Out is real.

Since Montreal's first Nuit Blanche brought the festival concept from Europe to Canada in 2004, cities around the country have been turning the streets into open-air galleries where anyone can admire (or critique) a bounty of installations and projects and performances while wandering through the night.

What we call it is different. Halifax has Nocturne, for example, and Saint John has Third Shift.

The time of year we celebrate is different, too. London, Ontario and Whitehorse do Nuit Blanche in June, but Montreal's is coming up in February.

Still, most Canadian cities will be rediscovering their communities through one of these events in the autumn. This Saturday, for instance, Nuit Blanche hits Saskatoon, Winnipeg and — for the first time — Edmonton. Sydney, Nova Scotia will also stage its own night-time festival, Lumiere, on September 26. The following weekend, Nuit Blanche hits Toronto — for the tenth anniversary of the sunset-to-sunrise spectacle.

We're already feeling the FOMO.

That's why we asked local experts, CBC personalities from the cities hosting upcoming art-at-night events, to share their top picks — the projects happening in their communities that most captured their imaginations.

What if we let them curate the ultimate Canadian Nuit Blanche? What would each city's contribution be?

SASKATOON

The Deep Dark

Caitlind R.C. Brown and Wayne Garrett

The Deep Dark. (Nuit Blanche Saskatoon)

 "People avoid parks at night, in general, no matter what neighbourhood they're part of," says Leisha Grebinski, host of CBC's Saskatoon Morning. And the setting of The Deep Dark is a special case. It's a light installation in Saskatoon's Victoria Park, near the city's 20th Street area.

"A lot of people call it a neighbourhood in transition," Grebinski explains. "There used to be a lot of old seedy hotels and there's a big segment of the population in Saskatoon that still to this day don't want to go down 20th Street. When all these artists converge — and a lot of them are using light in their projects — the place just takes on a whole new personality, it allows people to see it in a new way."

For The Deep Dark, specifically, the project aims to flip people's fear of what's in the shadows, inviting visitors to stroll through Victoria Park — beckoned by a series of illuminated doorways.

"It's a park right along the river, and it's a beautiful park by day. It's my pathway to my community garden. But it's not somewhere I've gone at night," Grebinski says. "This idea of lighting up that space, and then moving through it is just kind of cool."

SYDNEY, NOVA SCOTIA

The Machinists

The Bandshell Players

The Machinists. (Claudette Babin)

It's interactive, local, and a little hard to describe. "It sounds like they're doing a steampunk, rolling improvisational period thing," laughs Steve Sutherland of Information Morning Cape Breton, attempting to sum up The Machinists.

For Lumiere's late-night events on September 26, Cape Breton outdoor theatre company The Bandshell Players will roll around Sydney in what they call a "purpose-built human-powered wagon," delivering a 35-minute show — "a battle of wit and song" — at every stop.

"I've always seen Lumiere as turning our downtown, which is normally a staid and familiar place, into a carnival atmosphere," says Sutherland. "There's a bit of tongue-in-cheek mystery to it."

"The thing that appeals to me about something like The Machinists is it's ephemeral, it's improvisational, it only exists for that night just like Lumiere does," he explains. "It's for one night only. It's like a wave, or a bird song. … So to me it embodies the whole spirit of the evening."

TORONTO

Silent Knight

Ekow Nimako​

Silent Knight. (Scotiabank Nuit Blanche)

There are a few reasons why Silent Knight captured the imagination of Aparita Bhandari, Metro Morning's "What's On" columnist. It's at Toronto's Gardiner Museum, right on the subway line, "which makes it immensely accessible." It's also part of the 10 for 10th Memory Lane exhibition, a special anniversary collection that's been curated by Manifesto's founding director Che Kothari to mark a decade of Nuit Blanche in the city. But its appeal really comes down to one small thing.

Fifty thousand small things, really.

"What's interesting about Silent Knight is, I read it was sculpted with over 50,000 Lego pieces. I was like, 'what?!'" Bhandari laughs. "I have a very interesting relationship with Lego," she explains. As the mother of two young kids, the plastic blocks are a scourge in her household. She's always struggling to put the stuff away. For Silent Knight, Toronto-based artist Nimako is using Lego to build a larger-than-life barn owl, which will be displayed outside the Gardiner. "I saw the image of the piece and I'm just completely fascinated by the way in which he has re-purposed Lego," Bhandari says.

EDMONTON

Beacon

Andrew Buszchak

Beacon. (Nuit Blanche Edmonton)

On September 26, you'll be able to see Beacon from the CBC Edmonton offices. You might also see it from a far-off highway, a strange, twinkling anomaly on the city's downtown skyline.

The project, which takes over two structures in the city's downtown core — Chancery Hall and Epcor Tower — will use the programmed lighting systems in both buildings to deliver a message in binary code.What's being communicated as the lights flick on and off remains ambiguous — though to anyone viewing it from a distance, the message might as well be, "Hey! Edmonton's doing Nuit Blanche this year!" 

"I think a lot of people are going to notice it, and maybe they're not going to be aware of Nuit Blanche until they see it," says Edmonton AM host Mark Connolly. "They're going to go, 'What is going on? What's the deal?' So they'll seek it out."

WINNIPEG

Wall to Wall

Natalie Baird, Pip Skid, Julia Wake, Matea Radic, Dany Reede, Gibril Bangura, Pat Lazo, Ben Kroeker, Toby Gillies, Jade Rennie-Harper, Erin Ahl, Gabrielle Funk, Freddie Thomas

Rainbow Trout bike jam at Wall to Wall, 2014. (Teghan Beaudette)

"There are 12 different artists, it's outside, it's free, and there's going to be thousands of people there." That's how CBC Manitoba reporter Teghan Beaudette describes Wall to Wall, a live, collaborative mural-painting event that will transform the exterior of the C Space gallery in Winnipeg's Exchange District.

One more thing about those thousands of people... As part of the Nuit Blanche Wall to Wall event, which caps several days of mural painting at locations around the city, a mob of cyclists will be congregating at the site. "For Nuit Blanche they go gallery to gallery on bikes," Beaudette says, "and there are thousands of them." After watching the mural take shape, these bicycle jam cyclists will ride into the night. 

Are you taking part in an all-night art festival where you live this fall? Follow CBC Arts on Twitter and Instagram, and share your picks with us!

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