On September 26, 2015, I participated in the inaugural Nuit Blanche Edmonton, staging a performance titled Dance of the Cranes. The project consisted of a choreographed dance performed by four tower construction cranes hundreds of feet above the city’s downtown core. I have participated in my fair share of one night arts festivals over the years in various cities across Canada. Besides the positive audience reaction to Edmonton’s inaugural event, my experience stood out for another reason: the organizers ensured that they treated the artists well, giving them the support required for their installations to be successful.
From the moment the first conversations about my participation began, the Nuit Blanche Edmonton team were on the ball – answering emails quickly, gathering information, staying organized and generally being responsive to the artists. They took care of hotel bookings, arranged multiple flights, and picked up artists at the airport. They dealt with staging logistics, press events and even made sure the cheques were ready on time. It may seem like these details are the standard business that an arts organization must successfully accomplish; however, Nuit Blanche Edmonton handled these details extremely well. I have been very lucky in regard to having mainly positive experiences, but I have heard horror stories about artist fees not being paid on time, emails going unanswered as deadlines approach, contracts broken and other stress inducing oversights.
Organizing large art events is consuming and complex, and like all professionals, some artists can probably be difficult to deal with. In my experience these events work best when there is a collaborative approach between organization and artist, with a fluid exchange of ideas and clear defining or responsibilities and expectations of all parties. I appreciate working with an art organization that treats artists as professionals, partners in a professional endeavor. As an artist, when I am not worried about which hotel I should book, how long it will take to get reimbursed for expenses, or who is booking the sound system for the event, it means I can focus on the creative act of orchestrating the best possible experience for the audience.
Nuit Blanche is a high stress, one shot event. Artists participating often have to rely on multiple people within the organization for their project to come together. When those people have a track record of returning your calls, meeting deadlines, and generally being reliable it permits the artist to have confidence that on the night of the event they will have the full support of the organization. Edmonton’s Nuit Blanche team is top notch, and I would not hesitate to encourage artists to work with them.