Nuit Blanche Winnipeg is one of the city’s most anticipated fall events, typically spanning across the core urban area with multitudes of art installations running late into the night.
“The audience participation and the energy that comes from people being out and about checking out all the art projects is part of what really makes Nuit Blanche something special,” Jennifer Cheslock, general manager of Culture Days Manitoba and producer of Nuit Blanche Winnipeg, says.
“One of the jewels of Winnipeg is a thriving arts and performing-arts scene. It’s one thing that draws people here.”
This year, Culture Days is reducing the size of the event but taking a more accessible approach.
“We’re expanding from just a single evening event that most people would probably be familiar with, the typical Saturday night, to a month of exploration that audiences can visit at any point,” Cheslock says.
“We’re very happy to be able to provide an opportunity ... that artists can share what they’re working on with audiences, and audiences can have that great experience of being able to connect with art, connect with one another and be out and about in the community again,” Cheslock says.
While artists, galleries, curators and businesses can create and host their own projects around the city as part of Nuit Blanche, Culture Days Manitoba also hosts a program called Illuminate the Night, selecting projects that “will enhance the audience experience.”
Cheslock says the nine Illuminate the Night projects are all different from one another, exploring the theme of illumination through various media, including sculpture, video projection and poetry.
These projects will be displayed in windows and visible at all times for the duration of the month. Cheslock believes this will make the projects more accessible, eliminating safety concerns with crowds and indoor spaces.
The decision to adapt Nuit Blanche into a longer format was made in the late spring and early summer.
“We were looking for a way to be able to still share the fun, exciting experience,” Cheslock says. “But to do so on just one night comes with so many potential pitfalls, especially as public-health regulations are potentially changing into the fall and as people are concerned about making sure that their own health is a priority.”
Cheslock says the artists and organizations involved are excited about the new format. “It gives them a better way to connect with audiences.”
This year, the Culture Days theme for Nuit Blanche is RE:IMAGINE.
“The idea behind that was reimagining how arts and culture could play a role in people’s lives and helping them move beyond the challenging time that everybody’s been going through in this past year and a half,” Cheslock says.
“I think we’re kind of imagining how life could be different than it was in the past ... and how each of us can contribute to making life a little bit better. So I think ‘reimagine’ as a theme offers an opportunity for people to consider the changes that we want to see in the future of arts and culture.”
Cheslock says the mandate for Culture Days is to give Manitobans the opportunity to engage with arts and culture, noting that admission fees are a barrier for many. Nuit Blanche “creates a space where people don’t have to worry about those kinds of financial barriers.”
“Offering arts and culture events and activities for free is a great way to get people interested and engaged with the new art forms that they might not have learned about otherwise. So, again, taking away that barrier of cost helps people to try new things out, discover things that they might really enjoy and learn about their own passions,” Cheslock says.
For Nuit Blanche 2020, Culture Days offered an equal split of programming online and in person. This year, most events are scheduled for in person, with only 20 per cent online. Cheslock says they haven’t decided what they’ll do for 2022.
“It’s been tough to try to adjust things from the way that they used to be. But at the same time, we’re looking to find what works for everybody. And if that means a change, let’s go for it,” Cheslock says. “I think it’s important to, you know, take the positives where we can. I mean, we don’t know what the future holds.”
Nuit Blanche takes place from Sept. 24 to Oct. 24, coinciding with Culture Days Manitoba. Find their pocket guide at nuitblanchewinnipeg.ca.
Published in Volume 76, Number 4 of The Uniter (October 1, 2021)