Sometimes a good idea becomes great idea in hindsight. After many successful Nuit Blanche public art events in places like Montreal and Toronto, the whimsical and creative all-night event came to Ottawa for the first time on Sept. 22.
The event, which featured 120 contemporary art installations, took place in and around Hintonburg and the ByWard Market where temporary physical and performance art installations gave visitors an opportunity to see some unique, impromptu culture.
Beginning at 6:22 p.m. on Saturday and ending at 4:23 a.m. Sunday, everyone from those out for a nighttime walk to students on their way to a pub or club got to experience a piece of Nuit Blanche. Many were surprised to find art almost literally on their doorstep.
Translated into into English as “white night,” the Nuit Blanche concept was born in France the 1980s and has since been adopted in countries around the world.
The theme of Ottawa’s inaugural year was La Vie est Belle, or Life is Beautiful. The event kick-off was at the Orange Gallery in Hintonburg.
Primary director Yves Larocque explained how contemporary art is “art that makes people reflect,” telling the audience that at the very same time Nuit Blanche Ottawa was kicking off, Nuit Blanche Nippissing was also kicking off in North Bay.
To bridge the two arts “zones” – Hintonburg and the Market – a shuttle bus spent the evening driving back and forth between the communities. Not only was Nuit Blanche Ottawa a way of exposing people to art, it was also a way of getting Ottawans to hit the streets and explore their own neighbourhoods, discover local artists and galleries, and simply take part in an exciting movement that’s far outside the box.
In the parking lot of Suzy Q Doughnuts on Wellington Street, Justy Dennis and her team of artists were putting the finishing touches on their yarn-bombed bus – a Para Transpo vehicle covered in over 500 crocheted squares and eight afghans, representing the combined effort of eight artist-knitters working since April.
“I’ve always wanted to crochet something big,” said Dennis in a media announcement.
Visiting the site Saturday night revealed Dennis and her team had achieved their goal, providing a good example of the kind of whimsical art that can be expected from Nuit Blanche.
Certainly, the yarn-bombed bus elicited a surprised reaction and lots of questions from some passers-by, including a couple who lives in the neighbourhood. Their feeling of surprise was shared by many, just part of the experience of seeing one’s city in a while new light.