Culture  Exploring Montreal’s Sleepless Night

City is Pretty Culture Column

Nuit Blanche, often referred to as ‘Sleepless Night,’ is an annual all-night arts and culture festival that encourages participants to explore Montreal in new and nocturnal ways. Scheduled on February 29, this year’s cultural and creative activities took place throughout the city’s neighborhoods until the late hours of the night. Nuit Blanche is a global phenomenon, as a number of countries and cities embrace this annual opportunity to hold an all-night festival. Montreal’s Nuit Blanche offers over 200 activities, mostly free, including late-night museum exhibits, concerts, dining, and so on. The festival is in part characterized by its accessibility, as it uses local spaces in new and distinct ways that allow spectators to take part in activities often only available during work or school hours.

Bustling with crowds, Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles district was a central location for Nuit Blanche celebration. Various fire pits provided a warm glow throughout the area, enhanced by the addition of orange-illuminated plastic trees. Despite the cold weather, the quarter was buzzing with people bundled up in winter gear. An illuminated Ferris Wheel, reflecting colourful lights against UQAM, drew a significant lineup. Various food trucks scattered throughout the area also gained attention, ranging from tasty snacks to a mini SAQ. Three large plastic tents offered the possibility to dine at an outdoor bistro, while a mini hockey rink placed at the center of the quarter was crowded with children. Near rue Saint-Catherine, a large stage drew a significant crowd as electronic music flooded the event. Meanwhile, a large and colourful slide stretching down rue Saint-Catherine encouraged fun for all ages. The events were accessible to all, as the different activities provided something for everyone — from young Montrealers enjoying a night out to families with young children.

Nuit Blanche festivities extended to the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal (MAC), also located in the Quartier des Spectacles. Instead of closing at its usual hours, the museum opened its doors until 2 a.m. and offered free admission. The museum offered a paint night and plastic tables with paper and paint supplies were full of groups of friends chatting and painting away. Visitors conversed throughout the usually quiet exhibits, generating a casual and excited feel. A sense of camaraderie pervaded the night, enhanced by the significant number of spectators utilizing the museum space and artistic displays as an opportunity to gather with friends and family.

Nuit Blanche events took place simultaneously all over the city, in addition to the scene at the Quartier des Spectacles. One such event occurred at Eva B, a vintage store located near Place des Arts on boulevard St. Laurent. While the store usually closes at 7 p.m., it opened its doors until midnight for a live art auction. A number o artists painted bookcases, mirrors mannequins, pool tables, and canvasses as onlookers observed and wandered throughout the venue. Bidding took place at the store counter, with each piece starting at $100. Eva B additionally offered a variety of $1 vegan snacks while its upper floor offered the opportunity to purchase $15 clothing pieces. The store provided a friendly and creative ambiance permeated with the joy of being somewhere usually exclusively accessible during the daytime.

It is only fitting that Montreal, a city renowned for its nightlife and culture, would host such a spectacular nocturnal event. Nuit Blanche provides a unique take on after-hours Montreal, bringing together residents of all ages to enjoy the city’s cultural and artistic contributions. The festival provides the opportunity for visitors to enjoy spaces that may normally be considered too expensive or “off-limits” for all to access. Those interested in nocturnal cultural events should look into the MAC’s Nocturnes, a similar concept to Nuit Blanche, which keep the museum open into the late hours of the night and providing a casual and fun spot for friends and family to get together. Nuit Blanche provides access to Montreal culture in a manner that allows for spectators to partake in free local activities — usually only available in the daytime — all night long.