Art and the City

Nuit Blanche breathes life into Winnipeg’s core

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By Gavin Boutroy

On Saturday September 28, 2013, Nuit Blanche, Winnipeg's all-night cultural celebration, drew crowds to the streets. In Osborne village, the Exchange district and St. Boniface, art exhibits, be it live music or erotic paintings, forging or light shades, were put on display for all to visit. Many walked and took the bus, turning Winnipeg’s hollow core into an anthill of formicating elderly couples, teenagers, middle-aged couples and students. Rare are those who would decide to venture into Winnipeg’s downtown in the dead of the night; practically every morning the latest sordid centre-ville stabbing is described in the news. Nuit Blanche was a whole different affair. Nuit Blanche: a night without sleep, what better way to approach the evening than with coffee?

A friend and I walked into Peasant Cookery, one of Winnipeg’s culinary crown jewels, and simply asked for an espresso. A very busy and competent server went out of his way to quickly bring us our coffee, and sent us off, refusing payment with an “enjoy your night” and a broad smile. This simple yet touching human interaction was to become a recurring theme of the night. The quantity of people in the streets made everyone comfortable. My friends and I walked down Portage, Broadway, Princess and Osborne; laughing, greeting, and meeting old friends well past midnight.

The dark and forlorn downtown nights were nowhere in sight. In fact, they had been illuminated and repopulated by Nuit Blanche. It seems that the increased presence of real live humans encourages concord amongst citizens. Recently there has been a lot of talk about the fate of Winnipeg’s downtown, and how to bring it back to life. The answer is simple: it needs people, not only high-end condo owners, but people of every walk of life. Nuit Blanche serves as a fine example of a safe and rejuvenated city core. Its cultural realisations are as significant as its contribution to the downtown.