Nuit Blanche is a free annual art festival that occurs overnight or at night. The first one happened in 1990 in Barcelona. As the tradition spread to other cities and countries, they used their own language’s words for White Night as the name for this event.
Here in Toronto, Nuit Blanche generally occurs in late September or early October. It begins at 7 pm and ends at 7 am the next morning, but not every city follows this same exact schedule.
I’ve been attending this event for years now, and I thought it was high time to discuss it in detail with my readers. The photo that accompanies this post wasn’t taken there, but it did remind me of a cool exhibit from it from 2015. While I didn’t add them into my post for copyright reasons, you can see actual pictures from this year’s festival here.
If you’re ever in Toronto, Barcelona, Montreal, St. Petersburg, Buenos Aires, Naples, Cairo, Havana, Paris, or any other city that hosts its own version of Nuit Blanche when this festival is taking place, here are four reasons why I think you should check it out.
Art is for Everyone
One of the things I love the most about Nuit Blanche is how accessible it makes art. While some of the attendees are obviously experts on the creation and interpretation of this sort of thing, many more are people who are casually interested in the topic but who have no specific training or background on it. Some of them are even small children! This isn’t something that is specifically geared towards this age group, but there are exhibits every year that are child-friendly.
I adore the mixture of people that show up for an event like this in general. You’ll see very young infants all the way up to senior citizens enjoying the exhibits, and I’m not even kidding about that first part. I’ve watch the expressions on babies’ faces at the most colourful ones, and they were definitely liking what they saw. Tourists who can’t speak any English at all will marvel at the same exhibit alongside people who have spent their entire lives in English-speaking countries. People from every race, nationality, sexual orientation, social class, and every other possible demographic group you can imagine are there, too.
There’s something to be said for works that can appeal so many different groups simultaneously. It’s magical.
I’ve wandered into the middle of a zombie uprising, danced with spotlights, explored an abandoned subway tunnel while listening to music the creator thought would increase the chances of us spotting a ghost, and heard the stories of people who work or worked in the sex industry at this festival in past years.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the creative things artists have done for it. It’s incredible to see what the participants are able to come up with and how hard they work to make their ideas spring to life. As much as I enjoy wandering around art museums, too, this is nothing at all like that experience. It’s more like the energetic, joyful, and slightly rowdy environment you see on Church Street after the Pride Parade each summer.
No Two Years Are Ever the Same
Let me be really honest with you here. There have been a few years when I didn’t emotionally connect to any of the exhibits I saw for a wide variety of reasons. Not every Nuit Blanche has been spectacular for me as an attendee, but that’s actually a good thing.
I value risk-taking in the arts. Artists and other creative folks who are willing to stretch themselves and their creative works should be admired. It’s much easier to make something that could blandly appeal to most people than it is to drill down and come up with an idea that’s thought-provoking, shocking, humorous, or memorable.
This means that some years will be better for me than others, and vice versa. Not everything can or should appeal to everyone.
Your Definition of What Art Is Might Change
This year there was a dumpling exhibit that caught me a little off guard at first. You could go into it, buy real dumplings (all of which smelled amazing), and eat them while you walked around looking at other artistic displays.
I never would have thought something as ordinary as food preparation could be reimagined as art, but that exhibit was extremely popular. The lines for the dumplings were huge, and everyone who got one looked pretty happy.
As someone who is casually interested in this topic, I appreciate the fact that this event stretches my understanding of what art is or could be. It made me think of what I generally consider to be the fairly mundane practice of cooking and baking food in a new light.
The next time I make cookies, shepherd’s pie, or any number of other dishes, I’ll see it in a way I’ve never seen it before. (I still won’t look forward to washing the dishes, though!)
That’s the beauty of art. If nothing else, I hope that will be what you take from Nuit Blanche if or when you ever see it for yourself.