Toronto Light Festival Returns to the Distillery District

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The Zoa by Martin Taylor at Toronto Light Festival
The Zoa by Martin Taylor at Toronto Light Festival

By Lory Diaz

The Toronto Light Festival is back and once again adding vibrancy to the beautiful Distillery District! The festival runs from January 19, 2018 to March 4, 2018, giving tourists and residents alike plenty of time to enjoy the sculptures and installations to be found in and around the historic neighbourhood created by artists from around the world. The event is completely free, and the perfect way to enjoy some outdoor time during Toronto’s dark winter days!

Torontonicity was invited to attend the opening festivities that were held on January 18, 2018 at Archeo Restaurant for an evening that featured delicious eats from some Distillery District favourites! The bright lights theme was brought into the loft-like space in the most unique way: guests were treated to a neon-yellow cocktail made with white cranberry juice, Hendrick’s Gin, and Vitamin B12. The cocktail was refreshing, light, and super fun to carry around!

Hendrick's Gin and Vitamin B12 cocktail at Archeo Restaurant
Hendrick’s Gin and Vitamin B12 cocktail at Archeo Restaurant

Toronto Light Festival Creator and Creative Director Matthew Rosenblatt spoke at the opening reception, explaining that the organizing team didn’t develop the festival for the art elites of Toronto – they don’t care what they think – Rosenblatt and his team want to give people an exciting reason to get out of their beds, and the gloomy winter rut. The organizing team chose the winter season in hopes of bringing fun, joy, and child-like discovery to Toronto during our longest and coldest season.

Before heading out to discover some of the sculptures, I grabbed a hot and freshly made bowl of French Onion soup from Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie! Delicious light flavours, in a hot savoury broth that come together with the creaminess from the melted cheese. Amazing!


French Onion Soup from Cluny Bistro at Toronto Light Festival
French Onion Soup from Cluny Bistro at Toronto Light Festival

Opening party guests could also try the pork bratwurst with crispy onions, sauerkraut, Dijon mustard, and light mayonnaise. The crispy onions added a lovely crunch to each bite!

The first piece we visited after exiting Archeo was the Gummy Bear Pyramid, by Dicapria. The pyramid rests on a raised platform allowing visitors to step under and appreciate the colours from the inside. I would recommend that everyone stand closely and really appreciate the size of the pyramid and just how many gummy bears have been laid out in very intricate design.

Gummy Bear Pyramid by Dicapria at Toronto Light Festival
Gummy Bear Pyramid by Dicapria at Toronto Light Festival

Another crowd favourite is the HEAVY META fire-breathing dragon, located just south of Balzac’s Coffee. This dragon was born in Toronto, and traveled south to Burning Man, where it gained massive notoriety. It’s back and will absolutely amaze Toronto Light Festival visitors!

Heavy Meta Dragon at Toronto Light Festival
Heavy Meta Dragon at Toronto Light Festival

The Electric Dandelions by Abram Santa Cruz are right beside the dragon and add a very beautiful colour accent in the large open space!

If you head east along Case Goods Lane towards the Artscape’s building, make sure to look down the small alleys so you don’t miss one of Manfred Kielnhofer’s Guardians of Time sculptures. Slightly eerie, but beautifully made, this sculpture looks incredibly real.

Guardians of Time by Manfred Kielnhofer at Toronto Light Festival
Guardians of Time by Manfred Kielnhofer at Toronto Light Festival

Various Guardian sculptures welcome you as you head into the Distillery Studios, including my favourite seated figured.

Pure Spirits Mews will lead you to the two Sweet Treat huts where you can pick from Chimney Stax, and their neon Electric Lemon treat, or the new Waffle on a Stick treats! The slender waffles are airy, fluffy, warm and super sweet. I would recommend trying the white chocolate and pistachio, or the strawberry flavour. If you have young kids with you, they’ll absolutely love these!

Walking just past the iconic Love Locks, you’ll see Viktor Vicsek’s Talking Heads: two oversized heads that use a series of patterns to communicate with one another.

Talking Heads at Toronto Light Festival
Talking Heads at Toronto Light Festival

If you get cold around the Talking Heads, you could stop by El Catrin and grab some tacos. We were treated to their Baja Fish taco on opening night, and they hit just the right spot! I like to add some of their hot sauce, as the fish tacos have milder and vibrant flavours. (El Catrin Baja Fish Tacos.jpg)

If you keep walking along Tank House Lane, make sure to check out Martin Taylor’s Zoa. The Zoa is inspired by a baby jellyfish and is meant to resemble a microbe. It’s colouring, and slight pulsating movement, make it hard to ignore and worth seeking out.

The Zoa by Martin Taylor at Toronto Light Festival
The Zoa by Martin Taylor at Toronto Light Festival

Another great sculpture to check out is Reaching Through, by Jessica Levine. This piece has another Burning Man connection, as its kinetic nature was meant to come to life as people climbed the coral-like sculpture.

Reaching Through by Jessica Levine at Toronto Light Festival
Reaching Through by Jessica Levine at Toronto Light Festival

As someone who attended the previous Toronto Light Festival, I can see that the organizing team is striving to create an art playground to be enjoyed by visitors of the Distillery District. More pieces have been added since its opening week, so I will absolutely be checking out the Festival again before the March 4, 2018 closing date. Not only does this festival allow for family-friendly fun, but also plenty of selfie opportunities, making it a cute and romantic date-night adventure! Enjoy!

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