From dusk until the early pre-dawn hours on September 30, 2006, Toronto buzzed with excitement as Scotiabank Nuit Blanche was first unleashed on an unsuspecting city. Torontonians left behind the comfort of their beds en masse, as 425,000 people ventured out onto the city’s streets for an all-night exploration and celebration of contemporary art.
As remarkable and distinctive as the art was, the magic came from the audience response and interaction. Most importantly, through this event a new audience was introduced to contemporary art by making it fun, engaging and accessible.
This event brought together a wide range of sectors and the exceptional talents of more than 400 artists and curators, 300 onsite logistical staff, 200 docents and volunteers, 87 galleries, museums and art institutions, and 13 corporate sponsors and media partners.
Within hours of the sun rising on October 1, hundreds of enthusiastic e-mails, letters and phone calls poured in from artists, participants, volunteers, councillors and event attendees. The inaugural edition of this event received widespread acclaim and accolades. Toronto's Mayor David Miller recognized the importance of bringing this event back as an annual celebration and included it in his political platform when running for a successful re-election in 2006.
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2007 took place on September 29 and featured a 45% increase in projects, a 55% increase in community participation and close to double the audience attendance, securing its place as one of Canada’s major cultural events. Streets overflowing with 800,000 revellers experiencing contemporary art from dusk-to-dawn offered a strong indication that it had reached a critical mass of popularity and participation – no small feat for an event only in its second year.
In only two years, the economic impact of the event increased from $1 million to $4.9 million. More than 500 artists and 125 cultural institutions participated in the 2007 event, and the TTC remained open all night for the first time in decades.
Support from the arts community, corporate sponsors and the City of Toronto has been unparalleled – providing the resources to further expand the event into new exhibition sites, to improve traffic flow and increase the scale and scope of monumental art projects. Additionally, a Volunteer Advisory Board was established to assist in selecting and guiding curators and the curatorial process for years to come. The event is highly dynamic, evolving to reflect the talent and vision from which it began. Toronto continues to embark on its cultural renaissance, and no event reflects this more than Scotiabank Nuit Blanche.
Nuit Blanche International
Nuit Blanche was originally conceived in Paris, France in 2002, in an attempt to bring contemporary art to the masses in public spaces. Now universally translated as ‘Sleepless Night’, Nuit Blanche brings more than a million people to the streets of Paris every year. In 2005, Paris organizers contacted the City of Toronto's Special Events office with an invitation to join the ranks of approximately six other European cities producing similar all-night events. The international success of Nuit Blanche continues to build each year and has expanded its reach beyond Paris to Brussels, Rome, Bucharest, Riga, Madrid, La Valette, Portugal, Tokyo, Montreal and Leeds – each offering its own version of the all-night art extravaganza.
Toronto was the first North American city to fully replicate the Paris model, and has inspired similar celebrations throughout North America, including in San Francisco, New York, Miami and Chicago.
At its core, Nuit Blanche is a 12-hour event with a mandate to make contemporary art accessible to large audiences, while inspiring dialogue and engaging the public to examine its significance and impact on public space. Nuit Blanche is both a “high art” event and a free populous event that encourages celebration and community engagement. From sunset to sunrise city spaces and neighbourhoods are transformed into temporary exhibitions. Unusual or forbidden spaces become sites of contemporary art open for all-night discovery and rediscovery. Cultural institutions, from museums to galleries to artist run centres, open their doors and offer free access to contemporary art. The everyday is suspended as the city’s landscape is changed to welcome a variety of artistic experiences.
Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche has wholeheartedly embraced these principals, and has become a cultural phenomenon the likes of which the city has never seen.
Urban Leadership Award
The Canadian Urban Institute awarded Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2006 with the prestigious Urban Leadership Award (City Initiatives category). The Urban Leadership Awards program honours those who have made a profound and lasting impact on the quality of urban life.
Globe & Mail Business for the Arts Award
Scotiabank has been awarded the Globe and Mail Business for the Arts Award for Best Arts/Entrepreneur Partnership for their highly successful collaboration with the City of Toronto on Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. Business for the Arts is a national business association dedicated to increasing the quantity and quality of partnerships between business and the arts through a cohesive set of programs that foster and promote business leadership in the arts, facilitate funding relationships and connect business volunteers to the Arts. The Globe and Mail Business for the Arts Awards recognize companies that show outstanding commitment to the arts in Canada.
In honour of the 2006 & 2007 event, a legacy project was created by the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art – The Canadian Art Database Project, where the past events are archived and celebrated.