I have had the pleasure of seeing Calgary 2012 grow from even before its official inception. I clearly remember being part of the 100 panelists chosen to discuss Calgary's bid to become the nation's culture capital way back in October 2010, so I was naturally overjoyed when Calgary was official named Culture Capital of Canada. Each month since, 27 Grassroots Inspired Grants have been distributed, funding Calgarians' favourite culture initiatives. As the project comes to a close in March of 2013, I took a moment to consider what my favourite event was. From the Sweet City Lip Dub to the Artist in Residence program, the projects implemented this year have all been unique. However, my absolute favourite event was Nuit Blanche.
Let's start with some cultural literacy. What is Nuit blanche? French for 'All-Nighter', it is a cultural takeover in the given city in which it takes place. The 'White Night' has spread to countless major cities around the world including Canada's own Montreal and Toronto as well as Europe's Rome and Paris and Australia's Melbourne. Calgary's very first Nuit Blanche festival took place on September 15, 2012 at Olympic Plaza as a part of the Calgary 2012 events for this year. Lasting from 7:00pm to the wee hours of the morning (3:00am), the event gave the best of the night owls in Calgary a chance to roam the city at an unusual time to experience various art exhibitions at their finest. Fortunately, the city has decided to keep this new festival alive for the next five years.
Let us take a journey through my Saturday night or rather Sunday morning, (12:00am) at Nuit Blanche. The first exhibit, I ran into at the festival was the Carousel, a physical merry-go-round type 'ride' that the audience members could ride in while being pushed by acrobatic Parkour athletes who would climb onto the structure itself and perform complicated acrobatics. The unofficial theme of the night appeared to be "reduce-reuse-recyle" as this first exhibit was created entirely out of recycled crowd barriers, metal fences and a lamppost. Since the wait to ride this popular exhibit was two hours, I decided to move on.
The next attraction (and my personal favourite) was simply entitled Cloud, although the actual
sculpture was anything but simple. Calgary's own artist Caitlind Brown, started collecting recycled burnt-out lightbulbs for her cloud long before September arrived. Composed of burnt out incandescents, lit fluorescent bulbs and mesh, the cloud is a giant rain cloud sculpture in which the audience members can meander through, pulling light swtiches to watch the corresponding lights flash on and off above , similar to random flashes of lightening. More than 5000 light bulbs were used to create this breathtaking display.
After I had reluctantly finished my fair share of fun playing with the Cloud, I was off to Arts student Emily Promise Allison's exhibit. Rather than a physical exhibit, Allison took the stage that
night, dancing with countless audience members - how much more interactive can a performance get? She created an outdoor night scene complete with fake snow and a throne to give the night a truly ethreal feel, as she took on a princess-like look. I stood curiously contemplating what entrancing conversations she was quietly having with each successive dance partner as they waltzed on with her, mesmerized.
The most humorous of all the exhibits, would have to be two works labelled The Moon and The Mountain. Atop a high platform, 'town-criers' would call out poetic scripts generated by the audience members below who would text their thoughts to be read out. Each message was
followed by a successive ringing of a bell, reminiscent of the olden times when towns really would have a town crier responsible for informing townspeople of important public announcements. At Nuit Blanche, the messages ranged from inspiring and sometimes inappropriate, to downright hilarious.
My last stop was obtaining a delicious steaming chocolate 'Chocolat Chaud', before heading home. In fact, many food trucks, such as "Holy Crepes" paid a visit to the festival that night - Food Trucks being another newly introduced project in Calgary.
I enjoyed seeing the collaboration of two of Calgary's finest pilot projects together, which have played a key role in enriching the Calgary Arts Scene this year. I look forward to seeing the growth of these ongoing legacies created by Calgary 2012.