The nuances of Nuit Blanche

Annual contemporary art event celebrates continued growth and artistic innovation

Photo by Jen Kostesky.

Nuit Blanche, a multi-venue celebration of modern art that takes over downtown Winnipeg for one night each year, is set to take place on Saturday, Sept. 26. Nuit Blanche features a plethora of artistic exhibits and events in various locations throughout downtown, the exchange district, and St. Boniface. The artistic happenings are both organized and contributed independently by members of the local community and, as is the tradition of Nuit Blanche, all events are free and open to the public.

Molly Karp, the communications and events coordinator for Culture Days Manitoba, promised the Manitoban that the evening will be “bigger and brighter” than Nuits Blanche’s past.

One particular addition highlighted by Karp was an exhibit titled ARTery. With funding acquired from Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, the exhibit will illuminate Graham Ave (you know, that place you catch your downtown buses) from its beginning on Vaughan St. to its near-end on Fort St.

ARTery is set to be constructed by local design organization Lights Unlimited and a group primarily composed of students from the U of M’s own architecture faculty, In the Middle. Both organizations have had their hands in artistic light installation in Winnipeg’s urban centre prior to Nuit Blanche.

The transformation of Graham Ave. won’t end with just the light display. According to Karp, ARTery will also feature DJ performances down the illuminated strip along with several dance groups, including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

“We got this funding from the Biz and we just really wanted to put it back into the arts community in a way that also showcased our downtown. Graham Ave. is a strip of downtown that people don’t necessarily associate with being a hub of contemporary art, so we wanted to shift perspectives about our city and allow people the opportunity to see new sights in different ways,” Karp said of the new addition.

As always, the Winnipeg Art Gallery will be a significant focal point of Nuit Blanche. Every year, in collaboration with the event, the WAG stays open until 3 a.m., is licensed to serve alcohol, and invites all patrons to check out the gallery’s current exhibitions to a pulsing, all-night soundtrack. In the past, the WAG has hosted live bands to perform over the course of the evening. However, this year’s musical entertainment will be a host of DJs performing various genres of electronic music, courtesy of local electronic festival organizers MEMETIC.

Despite the new initiatives and artistic endeavors to be put on display this year, Karp assured the Manitoban that Nuit Blanche veterans will still find plenty of familiarity with the return of exhibits from years past.

“There’s a really good mix of events that we’ve showcased in the past as well as new events. It’s nice to be able to work with new artists, but it’s also really good to have some consistency to the night and to develop the events that we’ve been working with in past years.”

The Boulevard of Books is one such event that will return to Nuit Blanche after a successful debut last year. This art installation, put on by Les Éditions du Blé in collaboration with the Maison des artistes visuels francophones will feature four outdoor “reading rooms” along Provencher Blvd.

“People really like those outdoor things where it’s kind of unexpected to see art or activities. I think it allows people to glean a new perspective of their city, and the way they experience night life in our city,” said Karp.

It seems city planning and urban design have become notably more frequent topics of discussion in the minds of Winnipeggers lately, with new initiatives in downtown ranging from the Interstellar Rodeo to Table for 1200 gaining varying degrees of prominence in the public eye. When asked by the Manitoban, Karp credited this to a younger generation’s desire to become more involved in their city, underscored by a sense of local pride.

“Young people in this city are starting to take an interest in their surroundings, and take initiative to be part of cool art collaboratives, and really work towards making Winnipeg a place that people want to stay. I think, largely, there’s been a trend towards moving out of Winnipeg to get that bigger-city life. But there are so many creative minds in this city that see Winnipeg as a place where cool stuff is happening and can happen.”

“It’s really showcasing the artistic talent we have here. The more we grow those events, the more people in Winnipeg are going to come out and see what a great place this is to live.”

Find out more information about everything this year’s Nuit Blanche has to offer at