Jun 14, 2024

Nuit Blanche Toronto is back! Plan your night out with these insider tips

For the first time since 2019, Nuit Blanche Toronto is set to return as a city-wide outdoor extravaganza. It all begins Saturday at sundown, but Canada's top all-night art thing won't be the same as you remember it. This Nuit Blanche is going to be bigger — way bigger — than anything that's come before it, comprising more than 175 free public art projects and stretching beyond the usual programming hubs (downtown and Scarborough) to reach new zones in North York and Etobicoke.

As per tradition, the action starts at 7 p.m. and lasts until the sun comes up. That's a full 12 hours to explore the program, and while most people won't be pinging around the GTA to see it all, there'll be at least one person attempting the ultimate Nuit Blanche experience, and that's the event's artistic director Julie Nagam.

"I want to go see everything!" she says, and she's determined to make it happen. Since joining Nuit Blanche for the 2020 edition, Nagam's never had the chance to do Nuit from the street. In 2021, the event went into hibernation. The year prior, Nuit was almost entirely digital, and the AR and VR projects created for that lockdown version follow the same curatorial theme as the 60+ commissioned works that are part of this weekend's event.

A singular curatorial focus is another first for Nuit. Expect to find projects that explore a few central topics: our relationship to the environment is a recurring subject, as is inter-cultural connection.

So which Nuit projects are worth the risk of sleep debt? That all depends on you.

What do you want to get out of the experience? Is Nuit an excuse to party all night long, or are you chasing pure spectacle and wonder? Maybe you need to get the kids out of the house — or you just want something to Instagram.

To navigate this year's program, CBC Arts asked Nagam to play concierge. Whatever you're looking for, she has insider tips for your Nuit.

Nobody can predict the big "social media moments" of the night, but Nagam has a few educated guesses. These works, for example, are begging to be photographed.

Untying Space, Sun K. Kwak

Made with masking tape and adhesive vinyl, this abstract whorl will envelop the Deloitte building at Bay and Adelaide downtown. "She's done pieces in Tokyo and other really great spots," says Nagam of the artist, who's based in New York. "That piece will probably be photographed a lot."

Location: 8 Adelaide St. W (downtown)

Tailings Pool, Tsēmā

Could this be the ultimate urban oasis? Thanks to Vancouver artist Tsēmā, the Scarborough Civic Centre is getting an outdoor pool for Nuit. "That piece is going to be huge," says Nagam, and performers in bathing suits will be roaming the site. The project is hardly a pool party, though. Visitors: you can look, but don't splash. "It's actually a commentary on extraction and mining," Nagam explains.

Location: 156 Borough Dr. (Scarborough)

I am the river, Johnson Witehira

Yonge-Dundas Square is going to look completely different come Saturday, and that's got to be worth a post. Especially 'grammable? The billboards. Maori artist Johnson Witehira will be taking over the square's mammoth screens.

Location: 1 Dundas St. E (downtown)

Avataq, Couzyn van Heuvelen

Not far from Yonge-Dundas Square, this 30-foot silver balloon will be bobbing at the intersection of Yonge and Temperance Sts. The work's in reference to a traditional Inuit hunting tool, a lure that's usually made of sealskin (not high-shine foil). And who wouldn't be drawn to a big, shiny object like this one? For those exploring other Nuit neighbourhoods, smaller Avataqs are appearing elsewhere in the city. Find them in a window at 10 Bay St. (downtown) and inside Scarborough Town Centre.

Location: Yonge and Temperance Sts. (downtown)

Namahisvárri, Carola Grahn

Inflatables are definitely crowd-pleasers. Who doesn't love a bouncy castle — or a bouncy holy mountain, for that matter? "The idea of a gigantic inflatable mountain sitting in a pond in North York is just, I think, a lot of fun," says Nagam.

Location: 5100 Yonge St. (North York)

CN Tower projections, blackpowerbarbie, Caroline Monnet, Kereama Taepa

Sure, you could add those previously mentioned inflatable artworks to this category, but in terms of sheer scale, nothing can compare to Nuit's plans for the CN Tower. Projections by three different artists will wrap the exterior, specifically the "Radome" — the architectural Timbit near the top of the landmark. "I think it's going to get a lot of fanfare," says Nagam.

Location: 290 Bremner Blvd (downtown)

Mana Moana, Michael Bridgman and Rachael Rakena

A version of this project was included as part of 2020's virtual Nuit, but that experience will be dwarfed by what's planned for Saturday. Video of Māori and Pacific performers will be projected on towering water-screens that will rise out of Lake Ontario. "It looks like people are dancing on the water," says Nagam.

Location: 25 Queens Quay W (downtown)

"I thought a lot about family," says Nagam, discussing the curation of Nuit, and several programming hubs — Mel Lastman Square in North York, for instance — have been designed to be "audience friendly," she explains. "You know, there's lots of nice lighting and food trucks so it could be a kind of family night out."

That said, there are a few individual projects that might prove especially popular with the kiddos. "I'm a parent, and there's definitely projects that are interactive and engaging," says Nagam. One example?

A point and a line, makes a curve, then a circle, Soft Walls Collective

Toronto's Soft Walls Collective will be collaborating on a "sonic tapestry" that incorporates sound and glow-in-the-dark yarn. Nagam describes it as a weaving project. "People will be using their bodies to create the weave and they'll be doing that performance all throughout the night."

Location: 2 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Dr. (Etobicoke)

RATs, Salome Asega

"It's an actual truck," says Nagam. "A big, monster rat truck. I don't know how else to describe it!" she laughs. "I think some kids will get a real kick out of that." Kids aged 1 to 100, most likely.

Location: 16 Yonge St. (downtown)

Saputiit – Fish Weir Skate Plaza, Mark Igloliorte

"You can't skate at Yonge and Dundas and everybody wants to," says Nagam. But Nuit Blanche is changing that. Starting Saturday night, the public will be free to skate Yonge-Dundas Square when it's transformed into a skate plaza/art installation by Mark Igloliorte. The ramps, etc. will mimic the form of a traditional Inuit fishing weir, and for those who consider skateboarding to be a spectator sport, the project involves a second interactive component.

If you're getting video of the scene, consider adding virtual arctic char to your footage. An AR experience has been built especially for the project, which will remain open to the public for several days beyond Nuit (schedule TBA).

Location: 1 Dundas St. E (downtown)

Yonge-Dundas Square

If you're in a party mood, Nagam expects Yonge-Dundas Square will be hopping. "We're going to have live performers and DJs for a good chunk of the night," she says — entertainment that will stoke the excitement already happening in the skate plaza.

An Occupation, Amrita Hepi

A few blocks from the square, artist Amrita Hepi will be throwing a karaoke party inside the CF Toronto Eaton Centre Bridge. The project incorporates a big inflatable sculpture too, a piece that will pulse in time with dancers' heartbeats. (Oh yeah. Did I forget to mention the backup dancers?) "I feel like that's going to be pretty popular," says Nagam.

Location: 8 Queen St. W (downtown)

கோலம் (Kolam): A Parallel Coexistence, Whyishnave Suthagar

Nuit can feel like a riotous street party at times, but if you're looking to avoid that kind of scene, there are plenty of opportunities for quiet contemplation. Whyishnave Suthagar is the featured artist in this year's Nuit Connects program. "She has these beautiful kind of sculptural pieces that will be very mesmerizing," says Nagam. " I think people will just be able to kind of sit with those for a long period of time."

Location: 300 Borough Dr. (Scarborough)

BlueGirl, Rah Eleh

Despite the sobering subject matter — survivor accounts of self-immolation — Nagam highlights the stunning visuals of this three-channel video installation, describing it as a mesmerizing experience.

Location: 5100 Yonge St. (North York)

iskocēs: okihcitāw-iskwēw-kamik ohci (sparks/embers for the leading-woman-lodge), Cheryl L'Hirondelle

Beams of light will converge at Nathan Philips Square to create the illusion of a luminous tipi. And under its glowing poles, artist Cheryl L'Hirondelle will host 13 performances by musicians, poets, Indigenous knowledge keepers and other invited guests. "Not only will it be a beacon overtop of city hall," says Nagam," but there'll be opportunities for people to participate and learn a little bit about what the tipi means."

Location: 100 Queen St. W (downtown)

"For people who are still a little bit apprehensive about coming out and being in large groups, we are going to continue Nuit in Your Neighbourhood," says Nagam. That's the name of the digital program Nuit launched for its 2020 edition, and there are more than 30 AR and VR works that you can try from anywhere you feel most cozy.

Location: Nuit Blanche website

Nuit Blanche. Various locations, Toronto. Oct. 1. 7 p.m. to sunrise.

Senior Writer

Since 2015, Leah Collins has been senior writer at CBC Arts, covering Canadian visual art and digital culture in addition to producing CBC Arts’ weekly newsletter (Hi, Art!), which was nominated for a Digital Publishing Award in 2021. A graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University's journalism school (formerly Ryerson), Leah covered music and celebrity for Postmedia before arriving at CBC.

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Untying Space, Sun K. KwakLocation:Tailings Pool, TsēmāLocation:I am the river, Johnson WitehiraLocation:Avataq, Couzyn van HeuvelenLocation:Namahisvárri, Carola GrahnLocation: CN Tower projections, blackpowerbarbie, Caroline Monnet, Kereama TaepaLocation:Mana Moana, Michael Bridgman and Rachael RakenaLocation: A point and a line, makes a curve, then a circle, Soft Walls CollectiveLocation:RATs, Salome AsegaLocation:Saputiit – Fish Weir Skate Plaza, Mark IgloliorteLocation:Yonge-Dundas SquareAn Occupation, Amrita HepiLocation:கோலம் (Kolam): A Parallel Coexistence, Whyishnave SuthagarBlueGirl, Rah ElehLocation: iskocēs: okihcitāw-iskwēw-kamik ohci (sparks/embers for the leading-woman-lodge), Cheryl L'Hirondelle Location: Location:Nuit Blanche. Various locations, Toronto. Oct. 1. 7 p.m. to sunrise.