Entertainment

1 million take in Toronto's Nuit Blanche

Organizers estimate a million people took in Toronto's third annual all-night arts extravaganza, Nuit Blanche. The city's streets, buildings and public spaces were turned into art galleries for one night only.

Organizers estimate a million people took in Toronto's third annual all-night arts extravaganza, Nuit Blanche, as the city's streets, buildings and public spaces were turned into art galleries for one night only.

Hundreds of thousands, some of whom came from out of town, took in live performances, installations, videos and other forms of art through Saturday night into the early morning hours of Sunday.

The attendance has doubled since the event's inception in 2006, according to organizers, attracting both art lovers and people who wouldn't ordinarily attend such events.

"It's just gained so much popularity … we thought, let's come. Let's check it out," said Brian Wilkinson as he stared at Into the Blue, a massive, translucent balloon piece floating above the crowds at the Eaton Centre.

Nuit Blanche, an idea imported from France, included both Canadian and international artists from Japan, Sweden, Spain, Germany and India.

Foreign artists included Project Blinkenlights, a Berlin arts group that turns the lights of a building into images. The group lit up Toronto City Hall in a display that was visible from the square outside.

As well, Jillian McDonald of New York presented her work, Zombies in Condoland, which used actors and art patrons playing the part of zombies in a downtown building.

Canadian pieces included:

  • A 25-metre garden under a drop ceiling in a back alley next to Massey Hall created by Sébastien Giguère, Nicholas Laverdière and Jasmin Bilodeau of Quebec City.
  • A sound installation by Luis Jacob of Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens.
  • Oil rigs set up over a downtown parking lot by Calgarian Rita McKeough.

The event, held in the middle of a federal election campaign, also had people talking about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent cuts to the arts, totalling more than $45 million.

"Look at the crowds … these are not artists in tuxedos. These are all average people out here," said Les Talbot, who was taking in an installation at the pond at Ryerson University.  The pond was shrouded in artificial fog and blue light, topped by rubber duckies.

Talbot was referring to Harper's rebuke to critics of his arts cuts, in which the Tory leader said that "ordinary working people" weren't interested in a "niche issue" such as the arts, especially when they see arts galas on TV, subsidized by taxpayers.

"We need more street art. When you go to Europe, you go around the cities [and] they have all these strange pieces of art all over the city. We should do more of that."

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