The corporate-free alternative to Nuit Blanche: Les Rues des Refuses

Toronto’s Nuit Blanche is an all-night arts festival with “a mandate to make contemporary art accessible to large audiences, while inspiring dialogue and engaging the public to examine its significance and impact on public space.”

However, despite these admirable intentions, Nuit Blanche’s corporate presence is simply too great. After all, Nuit Blanche, as the countless promotional posters endlessly repeat, is officially called the “Scotiabank Nuit Blanche.”

For those interested in a non-corporate alternative to Nuit Blanche that also celebrates art and showcases some of Toronto’s lesser-known artists, there is another event called “Les Rues des Refuses” or The Street of Rejects. Creator and curator Stephanie Avery describes the event as “realizing the spirit of Nuit Blanche…of making art more accessible and interesting for people.”

After her art installation didn’t make it into the 2008 Nuit Blanche, Stephanie did not back down. Determined to display her art, Avery decided to find and connect with other artists that weren’t officially part of Nuit Blanche but still wanted to share their art with the public.

This Saturday, October 3rd marks the 2nd annual Les Rues des Refuses. The primary goal, says Avery, is to “create publicity for alternative pieces that otherwise would be discovered only by happenstance during Nuit Blanche.” Sonya JF Barnett, Les Rues des Refuses media maven, firmly believes that “artists who aren’t as well known need some kind of voice,” which their alternative event provides.

This year’s Les Rues des Refuses involves a growing list of more than 30 artists. Like Nuit Blanche, some exhibits will be displayed all night. The program schedule is available on Les Rues des Refuses’ website and in artsy shops around Toronto (try Hartbeat 960 on 960 Queen St. W.) Avery and Barnett carry all costs associated with organizing and promoting the event, proving that corporate sponsorship is really not necessary. The response so far has been amazing; “people in general seem to react in such a positive way,” says Avery.

Artists that want to be part of this event are encouraged to consult the website or email Stephanie at ruesdesrefuses at gmail dotcom. It’s not too late to be part of the online program schedule.

Avery and Barnett were looking for an alternative to a corporate event and ended up making their own. “If you want something done,” they tell me, “you need to do it yourself.”