Public Culture and Social Change: A Case Study of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

Authors: Cheryl Teelucksingh*, Ryerson University
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Cultural Geography, Canada
Keywords: public culture, cosmopolitan spaces, racialization, Toronto
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Galerie 6, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A culture renaissance is occurring in Toronto in part imposed by municipal planning and policy initiatives to apply components of Richard Florida’s (2004) creative class argument. A cultural scene is a key component to marketing Toronto as a Global City equal to New York, London, and Paris, and a means to gain a competitive advantage in the global economy and to draw the creative class. For one night in September, Nuit Blanche is a free, all-night contemporary art festival involving installations, performances, and social spaces, mostly in public spaces (parks, laneways) in the downtown core. Nuit Blanche exemplified multicultural Toronto at its best: an accessible event with people of all races, genders, and ages walking through streets, enjoying art, and occupying public space together. Public culture is a means to examine what Toronto is becoming. Nuit Blanche is the canopy (Anderson 2011) that must also be critically examined in light of the politics of racial profiling that occurs in Toronto’s streets that makes racialized people vulnerable in public spaces; the neoliberal cutbacks to artists and social services, and the corporate sponsorship that brands Nuit Blanche and attempts to construct an authentic Toronto culture. In this paper, I will examine the tension between the macro-level (how the event is structured by planners) and the micro-level (artists’ and participants’ perspectives) efforts associated with Nuit Blanche to represent various cultures amidst the context of protest, social change, and austerity.

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