The seventh annual Culture Days festival takes over communities across the country this weekend in an attempt to promote art creation and awareness. In Manitoba, there are a record-setting number of events that are part of the festivities.

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The seventh annual Culture Days festival takes over communities across the country this weekend in an attempt to promote art creation and awareness. In Manitoba, there are a record-setting number of events that are part of the festivities.

Melissa Courcelles, project manager for Culture Days Manitoba, says there are 385 registered events in the province, up from 345 last year, and she also expects attendance to increase from the 50,000 Manitobans who came out in 2015.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Artist Sandra Vincent works in her studio in the newly renovated ARTlington.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Artist Sandra Vincent works in her studio in the newly renovated ARTlington.

"It’s really exciting to see it growing even though it’s seven years in, and it’s really nice to see the community come together and put on events from year to year," she says. "And we have a huge variety of events; anything from cultural groups to arts organizations large and small to independent artists."

The driving force behind Culture Days is to "raise awareness, accessibility, participation and engagement of all Canadians in the arts and cultural life of their communities," which Courcelles says starts by breaking down the barriers some people might feel surround art in its more typical setting.

"I think the goal long-term and the mission for Culture Days is to really promote interactions between art creators and the citizens, and also that there’s no right or wrong or no matter what age, location, experience or situation you’re in, you can access art and be part of your community and experience the culture," she says.

Saturday’s Nuit Blanche — a free, all-night celebration and exploration of contemporary art — is the highlight of the weekend for many. Taking place in three main zones (the Exchange District, downtown and St. Boniface), Nuit Blanche runs from dusk till dawn and features art of all kinds from local artists and visitors alike.

This year, three feature installations are being brought in: Cloud, a work by Calgary artists Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett that’s made of 6,000 incandescent light bulbs and will be set up at the base of Esplanade Riel; Deep Dark, again by Brown and Garrett, is a collection of illuminated wood frames that can be walked through; and Quadriga by Toronto’s Max Streicher, which is comprised of four humongous inflatable horses that will be mounted on a rooftop in the Exchange.

As in previous years, there will be a free trolley to shuttle attendees from zone to zone, though some might notice an extra stop on the route at 618 Arlington St., a collection of studio spaces that house artists from every field — a new addition to both Nuit Blanche and Culture Days this year.

Only a few steps into the more-than-a-century-old building and it’s clear the space is filled with creativity. The wooden halls of the first floor are lined with ornate iron doors that lead into various studio spaces — from glass work to ceramics to paint, it’s all there — while antique furniture pieces are found along almost any wall. It feels simultaneously aged and fresh.

The building, built in 1912, was purchased in 2010 by John Hunsberger, who has slowly renovated the first three floors. Ceramic artist Crystal Nykoluk cannot speak highly enough of the work Hunsberger has done to the building, including replacing all the old windows and fixing the plumbing and electricity.

"He did it right," Nykoluk says of the ARTlington renos, adding that the fourth floor is under construction to add more studio spaces.

The third floor also houses studio spaces, while the second floor is home to a surprisingly large gallery, which has works on display for Culture Days created by artists who are tenants of the building. All three floors, including the gallery, will be open Saturday and Sunday — during the day, more than 20 artists will be in their studios working and chatting with visitors about their art, while in the evening, the studios will remain open, but the artists may not be working.

For Nuit Blanche, there will be a handful of guest artists, including vintage clothing sellers as well as buskers on every floor providing the soundtrack for the night and a pop-up pie shop that will feature some hand-crafted pie plates.

Though 618 ARTlington is somewhat away from the action in the Exchange District, downtown and St. Boniface, Culture Days has added the extra trolley stop to make the commute a non-issue.

"They’re really putting everything they’ve got into something big," Courcelles says.

"We’ve also added a trolley stop, even though it’s a bit out of the way in our zones, we’ve added a stop there so people can go visit it and then get back into the action, too."

Nykoluk, who has been in her ARTlington studio since 2012 and is one of the artists helping plan the venue’s Culture Days program, says the experience of just being in the building is well worth the trek over.

"It’s an experience, it’s freedom, it’s giving you the ability to choose what you like... it’s something new, something different, it’s something expressive, and the building itself is the experience. We really try to build the experience of 618 ARTlington, so it’s artists working in here, and the ambiance really adds to everything," she says.

"We have a diverse group of people here who make really good art, and it’s not necessarily trendy, but you can like it, you can be a part of it, and we need you to be a part of it."

Culture Days begins today and runs through Sunday. For more information about Culture Days and Nuit Blanche, including event schedules and trolley-stop maps for Winnipeg, as well as events in other communities, visit mb.culturedays.ca.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Manager of audience engagement for news

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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