The Toronto Light Festival aims to outshine the winter blues

Art installations like a giant polar bear and floating face draw people to the Distillery District on dark, chilly nights

A light installation at Toronto Light Fest spells "Love" in blue light and has locks surrounding it.
Love Locks by Mathew Rosenblatt is among the installations on display during the Toronto Light Festival, which runs until March 9. Amanda Gibb/ Toronto Observer

The Toronto Light Festival is designed to get people out of their homes, give them a good community experience, and make them smile.

The event boasts light installations and other works from 21 artists or groups, both local and international, that light up Toronto’s dark winter nights. It’s on in the Distillery District until March 3.

“We look for art that we think will make people smile and that will make us smile,” said spokesperson Emily Zajac.

“(We look for) things that have a light and positive nature about them, because the whole festival is really about bringing light to a time when the city is otherwise quite dark.”

The festival’s team researches other festivals and researches artists through social media to curate their lineup. It takes the artists and crew about two weeks just to set up.

Installations that made the cut are sprinkled over 13 acres, giving Torontonians and tourists plenty of room to roam. This year, the lineup includes a glowing heart, a giant polar bear and a floating face.

Lee Van de Moesdyk, who works at Mill Street Brewery in the heart of the Distillery District, said that the area was not always as lively as it is now.

“It used to be a dead zone here … It was a desolate area (before 2001),” he said.

That’s when the area was bought by Cityscape, a real estate company. The area has been transformed into a picturesque collection of restaurants, coffee shops, artists’ studios, galleries and boutiques.

One of the Toronto Light Festival’s goals is to get people out of winter hibernation and back onto the Distillery District’s cobblestone streets, Zajac said.

“We want to give them reason to come out … and interact with the city in way that they might not have before — maybe even meet some new people, or bring a smile to someone else’s face, and just really have that community experience at a time that they otherwise wouldn’t,” she said.

Zajac’s goal is to expand the festival each year. She said Torontonians can “absolutely” expect to see the Toronto Light Festival reappear in 2020.

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Posted: Feb 12 2019 3:54 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life