Nuit Blanche in Toronto: Replace Art with some “thing” nicer

Most cities have a part of town where everything seems to happen. We mean everything. Theatre, beautiful parks and open spaces, universities and other civic places like museums and galleries. They’re where people work or wish they worked, where people live, or wish they lived. They’re where people’s friends all seem to move to, leaving behind only longing and anger.

Meet Toronto’s west end.

Nuit Blanche, the all-night “art thing” that we wandered around in on Saturday night, sat its situationist-inspired butt (and we’re not the only ones to say so) down on three zones of the city, all of them west of Yonge Street. How come? Simple.

There is no art east of there. Get over it.

You want art? You want restaurants? You want happening scenes? You gotta go where the action is: and that means leaving the “Danforth Peninsula.”

So that’s what we did the other night, and we can’t say we’re sorry we did.

We had fun.

Adrian Blackwell’s swirly meeting place, behind the Art Gallery of Ontario in Grange Park, was our starting point. There we made some music with a circle of people we hardly knew. The music consisted of mutterings, creaking, stomping, pattering feet, all under the direction of a guy in the middle of the swirly place holding up coded messages for all to see. The sounds we made were amplified and augmented by electronic microphones and three guys playing brass or reed instruments. What a gas.

It sounded great from afar, too, as we wandered away to the Settlement House where a bunch of 10-year-olds were D-J-ing a rave. This appealed to the kid in us in a big way, but we couldn’t stay too long because the place was warm. Too warm.

Outside under the Sharp Centre (or whatever you call Architect Will Alsop’s black and white-splotched cow blimp on oversized pencil crayons that hovers over the Ontario College of Art and Design) we watched someone sleep, and waited our turn for the marble tournament, and used the toilet near midnight inside the Art Gallery.

Fun! Did we say fun? What a nuit blanche we had!

And all in the West End!

We saw lots of people, all walking, stumbling, crawling, wandering. We saw uniformed security guards tangoing on the street. We lined up with hundreds of others to remind ourselves of a foggy night we once walked through in the south end of Halifax, many years ago.

We saw nearly everyone we know in Toronto.

Who wouldn’t have been there? It was great!

One other thing jumped out at us–we mean besides the fact that we had to take the subway back home, a long way in the east, when it was over.

What it was was people were bicycling and walking and scooting from place to place on buses. No one did the Nuit Blanche in a car. The people in cars were looking for a place to park, in order to get out and live for a while.

The advertisers got it too. The event went off under the sponsorship of some bank or other.

No car advertising required.

Did our Mayor, David Miller, have anything to do with the success of this Nuit Blanche? We haven’t heard him take credit, exactly. But we saw the weird slogan that’s come to be associated with the Miller era: “Toronto: Live with Culture,” everywhere. We suspect the Nuit Blanche has sealed his victory over Jane Pitfield, just like that last mayor, Mel Lastman, sealed victory over Tooker Gomberg with his “Moose in the City” imagery.

We hope so, anyway.

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