The Culture Days festival, particularly Nuit Blanche, may look different this year, but their essential intentions remain the same.
Culture Days general manager Jennifer Cheslock says “The number 1 reason we chose to continue Nuit Blanche this year was to provide support to artists who were really struggling in this time with limited opportunities to work and showcase their art.”
“This is an opportunity to (highlight) the Illuminate the Night program that offers small honorariums to artists to create art pieces and present them at Nuit Blanche, which is generously supported by the Manitoba Arts Council,” she says.
Culture Days is a national celebration of arts and culture that has been going on since 2010, and every year as a kickoff in Manitoba, Culture Days Manitoba produces Nuit Blanche Winnipeg.
Cheslock says that in their eleventh year, Culture Days and Nuit Blanche will look different in more ways than one.
“Normally, we hold Culture Days during the last three days of September, but this year, it is expanding to offer more opportunities for people to participate, and it will run from Sept. 25 to Oct. 25 with in-person, self-guided events and pre-recorded live stream (programming) available online,” she says.
Nuit Blanche, normally an event that illuminates the Exchange District, downtown Winnipeg, St. Boniface and the West End with contemporary art will be held only on Sept. 26, running from 6 to 11 p.m.
“In past years, we have had 90 or more activities and (25,000) to 30,000 people who attended on the night,” she says.
“This year, we are looking at 15 to 20 events, (and) we expect to see much smaller crowds.”
With reduced events, size and locations, Cheslock says the organization is taking various things into consideration to keep Nuit Blanche as safe as possible for participants given the risks posed by COVID-19.
“Most of the events will take place in the Exchange District, which will make it easier for people to come down and walk around to the events,” she says.
“Almost all of the events are outdoors, so people can feel safe and comfortable being outside, and we will have physical distancing measures in place and hand sanitizer (stations) available. We encourage people to wear masks if they feel comfortable doing so, and we will have volunteers wearing white sashes who can help folks, answering questions and making sure everyone is maintaining that appropriate distance for people to feel safe for the evening.”
With Nuit Blanche continuing this year, fans have spoken up about how they feel, and three-year attendee Laura Friesen shares her thoughts and approach for this year’s Nuit Blanche.
“It was definitely a conversation I had with my friends, as to whether or not we are going,” she says.
“Ultimately, we decided to attend, but we are definitely going to be more cautious, looking for places that seem safe and with clear health protocols being followed, wearing our masks and only going to places where there are no enclosed spaces.
“We probably would not be as intense (about Nuit Blanche) as in past years, but that is okay.”
More information on events and locations can be found at nuitblanchewinnipeg.ca/events/.
Published in Volume 75, Number 02 of The Uniter (September 17, 2020)