Building on the legacies of the Cultural Olympiad and the 125th birthday celebrations planned for 2011, a group of Vancouver curators, designers and producers is planning a Nuit Blanche for the city in 2012. The all-night celebration of contemporary art and culture will take place in February or October, likely in downtown locations that were popular gathering spots during the 2010 Olympics.
Heading up the effort is David James, an entrepreneur who has worked as a production manager for large-scale commercial theatre shows and concert tours (U2, The Rolling Stones). Co-curators are Kate Armstrong and Malcolm Levy, who collaborate as Revised Projects, which produced Code Live. Among the edgier offerings of Vancouver's Cultural Olympiad, Code Live's programming included late-night musical performances in a contemporary art-filled venue, and the large-scale interactive light show, Vectorial Elevation. Jane Cox and Steven Cox, who work together as the design team Cause+Affect, are also involved.
The group officially established a Vancouver Nuit Blanche Festival Society in late 2010 - which would produce the event - and plans to begin meeting with artists in early 2011. They've been talking over the last few weeks with corporate sponsors in an effort to secure the more than a million dollars in funding required to stage the cultural extravaganza.
"The critical point at the moment is purely down to our ability to fundraise," says James.
The team originally took the idea to the City of Vancouver, hoping it would come on board as producer - with funding - as is the case in Toronto. But while the mayor offered the city's backing in the form of a letter of support, there was no promise of money to go with that.
"The city is not in a position to take that same role [as the city of Toronto]as it stands at the moment," says James, whose Vancouver-based company Panther Group has supplied labour and production materials to the Toronto affair. (Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was not available to comment.) Toronto has been hosting a Nuit Blanche since 2006, during which it's grown from 425,000 participants to a million annually. Produced by the city with Scotiabank as the naming corporate sponsor, the late September/early October event has showcased the work of hundreds of artists and curators in each of its five years, serving as an economic driver as well. Montreal's Nuit Blanche - called Montreal High Lights in English - is coming up on Feb. 19, 2011.
James says the Vancouver event will not be anywhere near the scale of Toronto's Nuit Blanche - whose official programming is laid out over three zones with the addition of many independent projects - but says the quality will be right up there. "This thing will stand aside from the other things that you've seen in Vancouver," he said, suggesting that even some of the larger cultural events in B.C. can be "pretty folksy."
Levy says the goal will be to show themed, contemporary art that is also accessible to larger, mainstream audiences. "It's really important that ... people feel like they're on a journey or an adventure through the night; that there's a sort of an artistic narrative that's told."
Armstrong says making the evening user-friendly will be key to its success. "We're really interested in making sure what we're showing is considering the way that the audience experience is part of it and structuring it mindfully so it's not just a big crowd that has to fight to get in to see something. That it's more designed to work mindfully with that audience experience."
The plan was originally to hold the event in 2011, but the timing didn't work in terms of accessing corporate funding. "The funding is the biggest stumbling block," says Levy. "So that's what we're working on right now."