One of the biggest weekends of the year in Halifax is here. Nocturne—the self-described “independent, free, contemporary art festival” that has brought Haligonians together under the night sky since its founding in 2008—is back for another year of public art installations and events. This year’s festival arrives jam-packed with exhibitions ranging from live artist panels to pottery programs to literary treasure hunts. Here at The Coast, we know it can be hard to keep tabs on everything—especially when you’re wandering around the city at night. Think of us as your guiding hand in the dark.
How long does the festival last?
Nocturne kicks off Thursday, Oct. 12 and runs all weekend until Sunday, Oct. 15. But in a return to pre-pandemic iterations of the festival, executive director Melany Nugent-Noble tells The Coast that the majority of the arts programming—“about 50 projects,” including a “collaborative circus” and the ever-popular “Ferry-Oke” aboard the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry—will fall on the night of Saturday, Oct. 14.
“It’s always been a festival favourite,” Nugent-Noble says of the latter. “It’s exactly what it sounds like.”
The festival wraps with a pair of Sunday events: “Collect/ive Grief Collect/ive Joy,” an interactive knitting exhibit at the Dartmouth Commons gazebo that invites festival-goers to sip hot tea and rework hand-knit blankets into pom-poms; and “Deep Ocean Listening,” a never-before-heard sound broadcast from the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean, in the Marianas Trench, airing on CKDU 88.1FM.
The latter project—a collaboration between sound artist Lindsay Dobbin and oceanographer David Barclay—was recorded with “a single glass sphere that is able to withstand static pressure at nearly 11 km of depth while measuring the smallest fluctuations that compose the underwater soundscape.”
What are the must-sees and dos this year?
Let’s start with the artist talks: Nocturne has invited a dream slate of Nova Scotia’s creative minds to this year’s festival, including the Black-led Erasure Art Collective (co-founded by multimedia artists Shauntay Grant and Tyshan Wright), fashion-influencer-slash-Halifax-landmark-icon Colin J Muise and Unnatural Disaster Theatre Co.’s Lucas Hernandez Nascimiento and Logan Robins.
The festival opens Thursday, Oct. 12 with a panel discussion, “Activating Art in Mi’kma’ki,” that brings together L’nu’skw artist and writer Tiffany Morris, multidisciplinary Mi’kmaw artist Jordan Bennett, Métis visual artist Amy Malbeuf, Cree-Métis artist Carrie Allison, T’Sou-Ke Nation photographer/artist Jordan Hill and Abegweit First Nation quill artist Melissa Peter-Paul for a discussion on living and creating art in Mi’kma’ki, and how their environments “contribute to the type of work they create.” It will be held at the Halifax Central Library’s Paul O’Regan Hall from 6-8pm. Admission is free, and ASL interpretation will be available.
Fancy a bit of a stroll? Friday evening comes with both a launch party at Propeller Brewing (7-10pm) and a guided mural walk on Quinpool Road (7-8pm, 9-10pm), the latter of which is led by Halifax Mural Festival creator and master muralist Mike Burt. (Burt, you might recall, just finished the incredible mural of late rapper Pat Stay on the Dartmouth waterfront.)
Saturday is a choose-your-adventure affair with events happening all across the downtown, but if you’re looking for the buzziest offerings, look no further than these exhibitions:“Land’s End,” held at Propeller Brewing (2015 Gottingen Street), uses augmented reality animation to explore “personal memories and imagined experiences while living in Kjipuktuk/Halifax” and examine “the relationship between our environment and the echoes it retains.”
“Qiaqsutuq,” a collaborative installation in the rear courtyard of the Halifax Central Library, brings five Indigenous artists together from across Yellowknife, Alaska, Nunavik and Greenland to reflect on the impacts of climate change, as felt by Iguttaq (bee woman), Tuktu (caribou), Nanuq (polar bear), Tulugak (raven) and Natchik (seal).
Kordeena Clayton, a queer artist of African Nova Scotian and Kalinago descent, shares her “Of The Water” exhibit at the Khyber Centre for the Arts (1880 Hollis Street). A blend of paintings, sculptures and found art (think shells and sand), Clayton’s work uses “imaginative storytelling” to shed light on the journeys of enslaved Africans and their ancestors.
“Les Noeuds de Gustav,” an excerpted offering from Francofest, interweaves dance, storytelling and scenography to follow the character of Abbacus, who continually tries to build and rebuild themselves. It’s held in the north corridor of the Queen’s Marque.
“Spíra: A Nocturne Choir” is an all-ages, drop-in choir at St. Paul’s Anglican Church (1749 Argyle Street). Each hour will teach participants a new song by a local artist.
Artist Arnie Guha’s “Psychedelic Portrait Studio” invites festival-goers to have their portrait taken at The Dart Gallery (127 Portland Street), after which their portraits will be projected onto the gallery’s windows by night.
“Stereo (For) Rough Waters X Ode (To) The Hustle,” a collaboration between artists Nahaniel Cole, Nathan “DB” Simmons and Dilshan Weerasinghe, is a listening room and multimedia installation at Ramblers Coffee (5576 Nora Bernard Street) that explores “the feeling of working and hustling in a city and in a world that is becoming increasingly harder to live in: An ode to working class people in the midst of rough waters.”
Kurdish-Canadian artist Roda Medhat’s “Killim” (pronounced kuh-leem) is an inflatable sculpture on the Halifax Waterfront that “aims to prompt viewers to contemplate the stark contrast between the nomadic way of life and the prevailing industrialized modern world.”
Colin J Muise’s “Becoming Halifax” will see some of his most iconic outfits reintroduced on a runway outside the Nova Scotia Power building on the Halifax Waterfront (1223 Lower Water Street).
Do I need to pay for any of this?
No. The festival is free. But if you’d like to support the artists and have the means to do so, you can donate to Nocturne or buy festival merch.