Light It Up:
Toronto Light Festival Guide

More than 30 light installations come to life after the sun goes down, taking over the historic Distillery District in the city's east end. Travel writer & photographer, Arienne Parzei, shows us around this year's festival.

Light sculptures in front of a historic building.
Symbolic Peace

Cascading across the old Victorian industrial buildings are rotating hues of red, blue and purple. Art and light installations fill the area and can even be found within some of the buildings. The art installations are fun and accessible to the general public and come from local and international artists. They take on various shapes and sizes and are made from a variety of materials including LEDs, metal, spray paint and even car hoods.

A few familiar installations are back again this year, including The Electric Dandelions, The Guardians of Time, and Symbolic Peace. But dozens of new installations make this another exciting addition of the Toronto Light Festival.

Large pyramid covered in colourful, artificial gummy bears.
Long View

Standing tall in the middle of the Distillery District is Long View by American artist Don Kennell. Made from car hoods, this imposing 35-foot tall polar bear serves as a symbol for the connection between carbon footprint and habitat loss. ‘Long View’ refers to the position polar bears take in the wild, standing up on their hind legs to see far into the distance. The artist hopes we too will take a long view when it comes to our environment and climate change.

Some of the installations are interactive, including Double Helix I by American Dr. George R. Neil. Prominently positioned on Trinity Street and rising 75-feet in the air, the installation lets visitors literally take the reins of control. Consisting of 75 LED-illuminated 16-foot ribs suspended in the air, the installation takes shape as the two levers on one end are pulled, creating a beautiful wave motion overhead. Using fundamental physical properties, the artist hopes to excite participants’ curiosity in the principles governing large slow-moving waves.

Tucked into the courtyard between Archeo and El Catrin restaurants is Juladi by German artist Elke Radtke who specializes in analog video art. Participants are encouraged to dance and have fun as a camera captures their movements and projects them onto a large kaleidoscopic screen. Another interactive installation is Strange Attractor by Crispell Wagner of the United States. Comprised of a human-sized cylinder with programmed LED lights, the installation comes to life when you stand within the cylinder as it spins around you. The optic nerve is stimulated as the LEDs flash in algorithmic patterns, resulting in changes in visual perceptions. The experience changes for both participant and observers depending on the speed in which the cylinder spins.

Peace sign light installation covered in religious symbols.
Error 101

New this year, the Distillery District has added daytime experiences by offering arts, culture, and entertainment-centric activities during the day on weekends, including art produced by some of Toronto’s leading mural artists, a heated outdoor bar selling hot beverages (Thursday to Saturday), and weekend brunch served on the El Catrin patio.

The Toronto Light Festival is great for families, couples and even groups of friends and is free to attend. It runs from January 18th to March 3rd and is open every day starting at sundown (weather permitting). It also makes for some great Instagram posts, so be sure to use #TOlightfest on your images.

Peace sign light installation covered in religious symbols.
#tolightfest

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.

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Funding Provided By

  • City of Toronto
  • Government of Ontario
  • Greater Toronto Hotel Association

Lead Partner

  • Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Premium Partners

  • Art Gallery of Ontario
  • Beanfield
  • Casa Loma
  • CN Tower
  • Hockey Hall of Fame
  • Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
  • Royal Ontario Museum
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