Written by: Lena Rye
When many people think of Nuit Blanche, they think of a city-wide party: Art, noise, people, and most of all, lots of fun. However, there’s a lot more to Toronto’s Nuit Blanche than meets the eye. Both my parents have made artwork for this event so I have experienced all that goes into it.
To the viewer, our annual art fair lasts only twelve hours but for the artist, it takes months to create the art pieces, along with hours of brainstorming and problem solving. A lot of artists consider turning down the offer of participation because it requires so much work, only for one night. Another issue is that often, after all expenses, the artists get paid very little. Although there is the chance of getting a lot of press and exposure for their work, because so many people see it, this cannot be guaranteed.
The most successful artworks in Nuit Blanche incorporate multiple aspects. They can be viewed by a large number of people, without lining up, they are outdoors and are durable to rain and wind, they will function all night, they are engaging to a wide audience, and are visually striking. As one can guess, this is very hard to achieve and it requires people to maintain or watch over it, and a large budget. A lot of artists are not provided with this.
My father’s experience of Nuit Blanche was quite challenging and there were faults in the system. He had to design the art piece far in advance. At this time, he also had to estimate a budget. Although this may not seem so hard to do, artworks are not predictable. They evolve with time and exploration and the budget can be incredibly inaccurate.
Once the plans have been submitted, the artist must start creating the work. This involves buying materials, equipment, then experimenting with sound, light, or movement. This is often the longest process and where the ideas start to take shape. One must also solve the problem of size. Many artworks in Nuit Blanche are large scaled. Because of this, it is difficult to build them before hand. One must find a place large enough to assemble the work or build it in separate pieces and assemble them on site. Both of these can be tricky and one can often run into problems on the actual night.
During Nuit Blanche, the artists are often exhausted. After a full day of set up, they must stay up all night to look after their art pieces. Then at seven am. they must take it down again. In Nuit Blanche 2013, my father had to repair his piece multiple times as things went wrong and he had to endure pouring rain in the early hours of the morning.
Knowing all this, I can no longer take works for granted, even if I don’t particularly like the pieces. Having an inside understanding helps me comprehend and appreciate artists for all their hard work.