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Vancouver’s Winter Arts Festival is coming to Victoria for the first time

The February festival will feature public art installations and pop-up parties around the city
A past Winter Arts Festival in Vancouver. (Courtesy Winter Arts Festival)

A large-scale Vancouver-based arts festival is set to light up Victoria for the first time over February’s Family Day long weekend (Feb. 16-19).

Produced by VMF (the team behind Vancouver Mural Festival), the acclaimed Winter Arts Festival features light, art and storytelling featuring sculptures, projection mapping, augmented reality, laser art and performances. The festival started in Vancouver in 2021 and won the IDA Award of Excellence. It has now expanded into Victoria thanks to a partnership with the City of Victoria.

“This new festival is part of our new $950,000 Downtown Revitalization Program, known as OUR DWTN,” said Victoria Coun. Matt Dell. “While the summer is wonderful in Victoria, it’s important we bring more arts events in the winter months and off-season, and the new Winter Arts Festival will do that. I’m incredibly excited about light shows, music and new experiences downtown.”

On the festival’s art walk, attendees will be able to explore clusters of public artworks and light displays on a walking route through downtown Victoria’s historic core.

“We’re working with some independent property owners to take over vacant storefront windows for art and some really cool augmented reality projects,” said Natalia Lebedinskaia, VMF creative director. “We have lots of businesses who have agreed to open late for us, late meaning 5 to 9.”

“It’s really shaking up what we think of as public art because it’s often perceived just as sculpture and maybe murals but this takes a much more wide approach to it.”

The Winter Arts Festival will transform Victoria into an open-air gallery and celebration featuring 3D art, light projections, digital and augmented reality, laser animations, and more. (@carrot_ee, courtesy Winter Arts Festival Facebook)
The Winter Arts Festival will transform Victoria into an open-air gallery and celebration featuring 3D art, light projections, digital and augmented reality, laser animations, and more. (@carrot_ee, courtesy Winter Arts Festival Facebook)

For example, 2023’s Winter Arts Festival in Vancouver saw a Black History Month project by Vancouver artist and curator Tafui called PRESENT.

“That included some really cool combinations of visual art and poetry, so we’re bringing text into public art as well,” Lebedinskaia said.

An attraction of this year’s festival is the official party for ages 19-plus, After Dark Victoria, with presale tickets now available (the full program and location are to be announced in January). Celebrating diversity, queer identity and colourful self-expression, the party promises to be a creative and energetic night of entertainment.

Lebedinskaia received many local artist applications to be in the festival, and as creative director, she paid attention to applicants’ use of this year’s theme and those who use their mediums in new ways.

“In recognition of the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages, we’ve chosen this year’s theme to be Light and Language. Like a warm spotlight in the darkest time of year, the festival uses light as a symbol of illumination, understanding, and connection through art, communication, and technology,” said Lebedinskaia, who has been with VMF for three years.

She also looked for artists from communities that are generally underrepresented in public spaces, such as those with disabilities, emerging and BIPOC artists.

“It always takes a village,” Lebedinskaia said when describing the scope of the project.

“Victoria is actually a really great place for it because there’s a young art community there and it’s really blossomed in the last few years.

“To me, one of the really cool things about public art, especially more experimental public art, is that it brings people who maybe wouldn’t normally have the chance to work on art projects into working with artists. You can have technicians doing augmented reality work or designers who are working with artists to reimagine their art pieces, or you have engineers or programmers,” she said.

The festival will also have an all-ages Winter Arts Hub, which will serve as an indoor focal point with food vendors, artisan booths and scheduled live entertainment and talks.

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Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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