Glittering purple and blue, the snow was painted in the soft light of the churning ferris wheel, standing amidst a crowd of milling viewers in the heart of Place des Arts. In the background, a projection danced across the face of a building—one of many art installations at Montreal’s 12th edition of Nuit Blanche.
Each year, Montreal joins hundreds of other cities across the world in an annual celebration that showcases the arts. The concept stemmed from Helsinki’s Night of the Arts festival in 1989 and Jean Blaise, the founder of the Research Centre for Cultural Development in Nantes, France. He organized a festival known as Les Allumées—The Lighted Up—in Nantes in 1990, where he transformed the city into an outdoor art gallery from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., showcasing six different artists from six different cities. Twelve years later, Les Allumées inspired the first installation of Nuit Blanche in Paris—which was also directed by Blaise—and since then has spread to countries like Canada, Australia, and Chile.
Unlike other cities, however, Nuit Blanche forms part of a greater initiative known as Montreal en lumière. The festival draws around 900,000 fans each year over a 10-day period to experience a range of visual and performing arts. This February, Montreal itself was the muse for its own festival. Renowned Montreal-based chefs contributed to the gastronomy aspect of the festival, while artists found inspiration from the city in the pieces they created for showcase.