Lights on the Exchange Festival will ‘bring something new to Winnipeg in the winter’

The Exchange District BIZ has announced its first annual Lights on the Exchange – Allumez le Quartier Festival, to be held from January to March 2023.

The festival features light-based art and design that “explores the notion of history and expands our understandings of histories,” said David Pensato, who is the executive director of the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone in Winnipeg.

Pensato said the BIZ provides historic walking tours in the summer months that focus on the history of the Exchange District’s architecture.

The Lights on the Exchange festival will focus on other aspects of the district’s history.

“It’s really exciting to be able to bring something new to Winnipeg in the winter,” he said during the announcement on Thursday at the Artspace building in the Exchange District.

The BIZ has been in discussions with Artspace to create a light-based art festival for a year.

Although there are many arts festivals and many lights festivals around the city, the two organizations wanted to take advantage of the assets already present in the Exchange District and its arts community, Pensato said.

Artspace, as well as the Winnipeg Arts Council and Manufacturing Entertainment, are working together to commission Canadian artists for the exhibit. Pensato said the organizations are still locking in the artists, but want to involve as many artists as possible.

Throughout its three-month run, works by different artists will be released in stages. Artwork will continue to be added to the festival during upcoming years.

Pensato hopes people enjoy the festival but also take a moment to learn and reflect on the history of the Exchange District, which was declared a national historic site of Canada in 1997.

“Winter is long. January, February and March are cold and dark. We’re hoping to bring some light to the area,” he said.

Artspace executive director Éric Plamondon said history is a big part of the new festival, including the time when the space was only occupied by the Anishinaabe, Cree and Dakota peoples. 

“We’re not paving over their history, because their history is important, too,” Plamondon said during the announcement.

“Our part is to keep the light on. Your part is to accept our invitation.”

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