A Look at the New Toronto Light Festival

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Travel writer & photographer, Arienne Parzei, shows us around the newest winter experience in the Distillery Historic District.

The 1st annual Toronto Light Festival kicked off this year and it’s a bright addition to the line-up of festivals enjoyed throughout the year. Taking over the historic Distillery District in the city’s east end, over 20 light installations are scattered throughout the district, coming to life after the sun goes down.

Our House /
Tom Dekyvere -- Belgium

Walking amongst the cobblestone streets, there’s a sense of playfulness not normally found in the Distillery District during these winter months. The Christmas Market has long wrapped for another year and spring is still a number of weeks away. But with this addition of the Toronto Light Festival, there’s a new reason to get out of the house and enjoy the city no matter what season it is.

The goal of the Toronto Light Festival was not only to make the Distillery a better place, but also to bring a lighter feeling to the city during these winter months. The art installations come from local and international artists and are meant to be fun and accessible to the general public. They’re not meant to be overthought and no matter your background, they’re easy to digest.

Cascading across the old Victorian industrial buildings are hues of red, blue and purple. Art and light installations of various sizes and materials fill the area and can even be found within some of the buildings.

Run Beyond /
Angelo Bonello -- Italy

One of the standout pieces is Run Beyond by Angelo Bonello of Italy, a large-scale installation spanning the rooftops of two buildings. Running in sequence, an LED figure can be seen making the leap between the two buildings. The piece symbolizes the jump we all have to take in our lives – the jump to freedom. But it’s up to the viewer to interpret what that jump to freedom is.

Some of the installations are interactive, including the piece titled ‘Social Sparkles’ by Studio Toer of the Netherlands, where the lights above are triggered by movements below. I couldn’t help but run around; arms stretched wide, feeling like a kid again as the lights overhead buzzed to life as I passed underneath.

My favourite piece was the Magic Dance Mirror, another interactive installation that somehow captures your dance moves and projects them on a wall-sized screen using stylized graphics and animated visuals all while grooving to hip-busting music.

Digital Origami Tigers /
LAVA -- Australia

The Toronto Light Festival is also raising money for very important causes. The Angels of Freedom is an installation that takes over the central part of the Distillery District. Created by a group of architects from Israel, three massive angels with wings spread wide and fading between various LED hues sit facing one another. Visitors are encouraged to stand beneath each of the angles, snap a picture of themselves, and then share that photo on social media using #MillStLights”]. For every photo that is shared on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using that hashtag, Mill St Brewery will donate $1.00 to the Daily Bread Food Bank.

The Toronto Light Festival is great for families, couples, and even groups of friends. It runs from January 27th to March 12th and is open every day starting at sundown, plus it’s free to enjoy and very Instagram-worthy. Tag your photos with #TOLightFest to share!

For more information, visit the official website for the Toronto Light Festival.

The Uniting Lightstar /
Venividimultiplex -- The Netherlands

Featured Video: The Toronto Light Festival!

About the Author

Arienne Parzei is a travel writer, videographer and photographer from Toronto, Canada. Her insatiable curiosity for learning about different cultures first-hand has led her to some amazing destinations and experiences, including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, living in South Korea for two years, and backpacking for eight months through China, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Open to trying just about anything, she shares her adventure activities and cultural experiences on her website, SeeYouSoon.ca, and hopes to inspire you in the process.

All photos and video by Arienne Parzei.