New Brunswick

Free, far-out art festival transforms uptown Saint John on Friday

Strange sculptures, spooky soundscapes, short films and street art will transform vacant storefronts and other unexpected spaces in uptown Saint John on Friday night.

Third Shift, the annual festival of contemporary public art, mounts its major exhibition

Lambchop, a international street artist, installs 'typographic fencing' at the corner of Princess and Germain Streets on Thursday in preparation for Third Shift's major event on Friday night. (Julia Wright/CBC)

Strange sculptures, spooky soundscapes, short films and street art will transform uptown Saint John on Friday night.

Third Shift — the popular annual festival of public contemporary artworks — will mount its signature nighttime exhibition Friday night from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Presented by Third Space, Saint John's not-for-profit artist-run centre, the event is now in its fourth year.

This year's instalment showcases a largely new lineup of local and international artists displaying cutting-edge, unexpected work in a wide range of media.

Vacant storefronts, other interesting spaces

At the 2017 instalment of Third Shift, attendees cavorted in the rain around giant wood cutouts in an installation titled Set Design for an Unrealized Production by P.E.I. artist Sandi Hartling. This year's festival promises to be similarly Instagrammable. (Submitted by Dan Culberson)

Friday evening's events take place in neglected alleyways, disused retail locations, and other unforeseen locations.

"Quite a few of our projects this year are taking place within vacant storefronts," Saab said. "Property managers and owners have been generous."

The festival kicked off on Wednesday with a series of artist talks and workshops.

"This is our first year expanding the festival to include two days of extra programming," said festival coordinator and Third Space executive director Emily Saab.

Third Shift is hosted by Third Space, Saint John’s not-for-profit artist-run centre. After months of planning, according to festival organizer Emily Saab, 'to see everything come together physically in real life feels surreal, exciting, and kind of emotional in a good way.' (Julia Wright/CBC)

Among the goals is to encourage New Brunswickers to imagine the city in new ways.

"We're really interested in temporarily transforming spaces, and these vacant storefronts are perfect for that," Saab said.

"We hope that people come in and experience them in a new way and activate their imaginations for how they may be used in the future."

Art, music, dance, surprises

An instrument and installation piece by Nova Scotia artist, composer and musician Jay Crocker, titled Bibelot, is housed in a vacant former beauty school at 30 Charlotte St.

The piece features 16 wooden boxes hanging from the ceiling that function as an orchestra.

"Each box is amplified, synthesized, and motorized and outfitted with individual paper scores," Saab said. "It's a lot like a player piano. The paper loops that run through each of these devices never play the same composition twice. It's quite amazing."

Bibelot, by Nova Scotia artist Jay Crocker, features 16 robotic boxes playing strange music, player-piano style, in a vacant former beauty school on Charlotte Street. (Julia Wright/CBC)

In Uncover: A Mobile Popsicle Project, artists Jenny Yujia Shi and Michael Hayes will distribute 100 homemade lemon popsicles to lucky attendees — which, once eaten, reveal a time and location printed on the stick. The information is an invitation to a pop-up printmaking workshop at a secret location, where people can leave with a handmade print of their own. 

An incognito street artist named Lambchop from Lexington Kentucky was hard at work Thursday at the corner of Princess and Germain Streets installing "typographic fencing."

The American street artist Lambchop installs her enigmatic, text-based designs using neon flagging tape woven around public fences. (Julia Wright/CBC)

Using neon flagging tape, Lambchop weaves the fence, pixel by pixel, to create words that invite people to ponder questions.

"I work in public places, usually around fences that no one has really thought of in a while — like this one that happens to be around a parking lot," Lambchop said.

Disco lights, an art car, and other funky weirdness were part of Philip Clark's interactive multimedia installation, 'Activation,' at the 2017 edition of Third Shift. (Submitted by Dan Culberson)

"This one is going to say 'I know now,' and the part going up the street will say 'you should have.' It's a rumination somewhere between hindsight and regret. I hope people think about how it applies to their life: maybe something that they would have done differently, or should have done differently."

It feels like it's going to be the biggest one yet.- Emily Saab, festival organizer

The festival also includes projects, dance pieces, and short films like Veronica Mockler's Canvassers, a 15-minute documentary about two people meeting for the first time and sharing a personal story in front of the camera.

An audiovisual piece, Road Trips — a collaboration between Andrew Reed Miller, Neill Rough and Nienke Izurieta — will feature improvised music and projections of photographs related to the concept of travel.

Thousands expected to attend

The footprint of the festival has also expanded this year to encompass all the city blocks from King Square down to Water Street. 

Canterbury Street between King and Princess Streets, and the entirety of Grannan Lane, will be closed to vehicles from 5:30 p.m. to midnight so that pedestrians can circulate freely between the installations.

Third Shift typically attracts thousands of attendees, including many families, Saab said.

As in years past, Grannan Lane, and Canterbury Street between King and Princess Streets, will be closed to vehicles from 5:30 to midnight. (Submitted by Dan Culberson)

"There are a number of projects that are particularly child-friendly," she said, including one by L'arche Creative Connections at 95 Prince William Street called Teatro della Differenza.

"It's this interactive puppet project where you can come in and make your own puppet and participate in a pop-up puppet play, or wear the costumes."

Everything is free and takes place rain or shine. "The show goes on no matter what," Saab said.

After months of planning, Saab said, "to see everything come together physically in real life feels surreal, exciting, and kind of emotional in a good way.

"It feels like a real team, community effort."

"It feels like it's going to be the biggest one yet."


Julia Wright

Host, Information Morning Saint John

Julia Wright is the host of Information Morning Saint John on CBC Radio 1. She previously worked as a digital reporter focused on stories from southwestern New Brunswick. She has a master's degree in English from McGill University, and has been with the CBC since 2016. You can reach her at