Vancouver, Canada is a year-round destination for visitors but in November, something rather special takes place: Lumiere Vancouver. This annual event is inspired by light and artistic expression and is responsible for illuminating a number of local sites with interactive art installations, light art, and pure light.
We spoke to Alex Urquhart, Managing Director of MK Illumination Canada West, to find out a bit more about the event.
“It’s really quite extraordinary what the Lumiere team creates each year. The 3-day event draws crowds from miles away, all of whom want to enjoy being bathed in light as they explore the city on foot.”
Each year is slightly different, with different artists being invited to participate. This keeps the event fresh and fun. The event is also designed to resonate with Vancouver residents as well as tourists, which is an important part of making the event the success that it is.
This year, a brand new light sculpture of a 24-foot (7.3-meters) grizzly bear will be making its first appearance.
“Grizzly bears are iconic Canadian animals and we have an estimated 15,000 of them living in British Columbia. They’re valued by all Canadians and are a popular attraction for tourists, too, so this new display is something special,” said Urquhart.
A bear in search of a name
Although Urquhart is loath to tell us too much about the grizzly bear – “Come and see it for yourself!” he laughs – Lumiere Vancouver is looking for a good name for the bear.
A commitment to relevant art that resonates with residents and tourists
Lumiere Vancouver has a history of commissioning extraordinary light art that is relevant to locals and popular with tourists, and MK Illumination has been part of this process for a number of years.
As far back as 2015, West END Business Association of Vancouver (WestEnd BIA) wanted to surprise visitors with a highlight in English Bay that would be an attraction in its own right and that would also tell a story that would be relevant and interesting to Canadians and visitors, too.
A whale of a tale
The result was an 8-meter long light sculpture of a whale that glittered with over 4,000 LED light points. It’s local relevance? It was designed to represent an orca whale that had lived in English Bay after being separated from his mother while still young, and who died in 2006.
“The combination, of light, art and storytelling is incredibly powerful,” said Urquhart.
The community was invited to come up with a name for the whale and Luna the Whale was born. The light sculpture proved popular. So popular, in fact, that it remained in English bay for a full 14 weeks instead of being dismantled at the end of the 3-day Lumiere Vancouver festival. It’s been a winter staple ever since.
Stanley joins Luna
In 2018, Luna was joined by a blue heron that was named “Stanley” in honor of Stanley Park, which is home to one of the largest urban Great Blue Heron colonies in North America.
Luna, Stanely and much more in 2019
Luna and Stanely will be joined by the as-yet nameless grizzly bear, as well as an action-packed and light-filled program that will take place in four locations in Vancouver this year.
Visitors can enjoy the experience at English Bay, Jim Deva Plaza, Lot 19 and šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square (formerly North Plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery) from November 1st to November 3rd 2019.