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Nocturne: Art at Night

A celebration of art in Halifax

The streets of Halifax were teeming with activity late into the night from Thursday, Oct. 12 to Sunday, Oct. 15 as thousands of people flocked to see artwork on display. The cause of this commotion? The annual Nocturne art festival.

According to the organizers, “Nocturne is an independent, free, contemporary art festival in Kjipuktuk/Halifax presented by the Nocturne: Art at Night Society.” The society prides itself on celebrating the visual arts, and does so with the festival which showcases art all around the city. 

Nocturne began in 2008, and now, in its 16th year, the festival has become a Halifax classic. In its first year, approximately 4,000 people attended the festival. Last year, numbers reached around 60,000. 

Making art accessible

Melany Nugent-Noble is certainly excited about this year’s Nocturne festival—and has every reason to be. As the executive director of Nocturne, Nugent-Noble has worked hard to make this festival a success. An artist herself, she works to highlight the connection art creates in communities. This isn’t her first time being involved in the festival. 

“I’ve been in this role since August of last year, but my first experience with Nocturne was as an artist in 2021,” she explains. “I came from B.C. to participate and loved it so much I ended up coming back.”

For Nugent-Noble, the goal of Nocturne is to provide the city access to art. “One of the things that’s really important to us is to reduce barriers as much as possible—so, ensuring that it’s free, that artwork is accessible.”

Nocturne is the perfect place to showcase artwork and boost Halifax’s artistic communities, with dozens of artistic projects located around the city meant to catch people’s eye and make them think differently about the world around them. 

“We recognize that for a lot of folks who come out to Nocturne, it may be the only time throughout the year that they have that exposure to art. They might not necessarily be regular gallery visitors or patrons.”

Nocturne 2023

This year, 80 different projects took place across Halifax. There were installations to enjoy on Spring Garden Road, on the waterfront, downtown, in the north end and in Dartmouth. 

One installation this year was Echoes Calling Back by Jordan Bennett, a giant inflatable antler that utilises bright colour and bold design to engage with history, space and connectivity. Land’s End by Myron Campbell was another installation that uses augmented reality and projections to explore personal memories and imagined experiences. 

These installations were just a few examples of the beautiful artwork visitors of the festival were able to enjoy. 

In addition to the artwork itself, Artist Talks and new Noc-Tours were spread throughout the weekend. Artist Talks gave visitors the chance to hear artists speak about their creations and practices, while Noc-Tours were guided walking tours which showcased the incredible artworks and taught participants about the histories behind each piece. 

The festival normally has a theme for their artists to follow, but this year did things differently. Artists were asked only to reflect on the format of the Nocturne Festival and create their artwork presented in a non-traditional way. 

The point of the festival, explains Nugent-Noble, is to transform the city so people are able to experience it in a way they haven’t before. She says the festival is“creating an opportunity for folks to see their city in a new light and to see things a bit differently than they normally would and just to be kind of swept away—provide a bit of inspiration.”

Including everyone

The Nocturne: Art at Night Society is also always looking for ways to get the community involved. 

“There’s a broad spectrum of ways different community groups are able to participate, which is really nice,” says Nugent-Noble. 

For instance, the Dalhousie Art Gallery stayed open until midnight on the nights of the festival, and Spontaneity Improv put on an improvised horror installation called Jesters of the Macabre: Haunting Hilarity

This year, Nocturne drew a crowd of not only local artists but artists from around Canada and beyond. 

Showcased this year are projects by Inuit artists from “all over Canada, the United States, Alaska [and] Greenland,” says Nugent-Noble. 

From educational opportunities to creative art displays and the beautiful work done by both local and non-local artists, Nocturne is a wonderful experience for art lovers and curious visitors alike. Participants get the chance to engage with art and artists while experiencing community in a unique and exciting way. 

As the festival grows, Nocturne is an event Haligonians are sure to look forward to every year.

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