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ZEALnyc FALL PREVIEW: Arts and Culture in Canada

By Caitlin Leonard, Contributing Writer, September 13, 2017

This fall, Canada’s arts scene is going strong with international ballets, film festivals, and tons of outdoor performances and activities. Venture up North to catch the biggest names in music, art, and the movies, and enjoy the fall the Canadian way with craft beer, haunted theme parks, and even a pumpkin carving festival. Make your plans now.


Actor Ryan Reynolds at previous TIFF event; photo: George Pimentel/WireImage.

TIFF starts off on September 7 and continues for a full ten days. This is the time of year when Toronto is alight with excitement welcoming some of the world’s biggest names in filmmaking—from actors and directors, as well as other creative personnel. Highlights will include the world premiere of I, Tonya, figure skater Tonya Harding’s story starring Margot Robbie, and the North American premiere of Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, a psychological thriller featuring Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Lawrence, and Javier Bardem.

Bringing the world to Toronto in a four-day festival, Small World’s annual program delivers the sounds of Mali, Korea, Cuba, Ethiopia, Palestine, Spain, Estonia and more to the city. Presented on the stages of the Small World Music Centre in the heart of downtown, this year’s festivities will include an album release party by Montreal’s Congo-born musician Pierre Kwenders, and a tribute to David Bowie by Set Jorge, one of Brazil’s most celebrated singers and actors.

Voted as Canada’s Best Beer City this year, Toronto will be celebrating all things craft beer in over 60 venues, 30 breweries and 200 events. Unique experiences will include beer dinners, brewing demonstrations, and cask beer tastings, all while getting a chance to explore the city.

This year’s Walk of Fame Festival will showcase the best of the rising stars in Canada’s music scene, including performances by indie artist Cold Specks, rapper Classified, bands Zeus and Great Lake Swimmers, as well as an appearance by the Toronto Raptors Dance Pak.

This rare festival celebrates the finest international poets, novelists, writers and biographers. This year’s program marks the 38th anniversary of the festival which takes place at the Harbourfront Centre, where the city meets the lake. It will feature readings, interviews, artist talks, discussions, and book signings by award winning authors.


Gardens of Light at the Montreal Botanical Gardens.

Dedicated to the contemporary image, this event, which began in 1989, is a unique opportunity to learn more about the latest trends in photography and videography. Presented in 15 venues across Montreal, guest curators will explore themes and feature works by photographers and artists across the field.

Montreal’s Botanical gardens are separated into three sections: The Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden and the First Nations Garden. This year the Gardens of Light celebration will include a new lighted path through all three cultural areas, each revealing its own wonders. The Chinese Garden celebrates its 25th edition of a lantern festival, the Japanese Garden gently reveals the changing of the seasons through colourful plants, and the First Nations Garden will illuminate a sacred poplar tree, complete with an audio and visual installation.

Montreal’s best known theme park, Laronde, is recognizable for it’s daredevil rides, but this fall will add an extra element of excitement and fun for the whole family with its yearly Fright Fest. At this spooky time of year, zombies and ghouls take over the park, and visitors can expect haunted houses, a vampire lair, and Halloween-themed rollercoasters.

  • Musée des Beaux ArtsYou Say You Want a Revolution through October 9; Love is Love through October 22

Take a self-guided tour of Montreal’s famous Musée des Beaux Arts. This year’s special collection includes You Say You Want a Revolution, a musical journey through the ideals of 1960’s fashion, film and design. Through over 700 objects on display, the exhibition explores themes of advancement in the civil rights movements, sexual revolution, legendary musical performances, and environmentalism throughout this important decade in history.

For the fashion guru, Love is Love is a must-see collection of the gallery this year, celebrating wedding bliss with designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s most beautiful bridal dresses. This audiovisual and musical exhibition also features 36 wedding gowns and suits created between 1990 and 2017, set around a tremendous wedding cake.

This wine, beer and spirits festival gathers more than 200 wine producers and distillers from around the world with over 13,000 visitors every year. The comprehensive tasting experience features the theme “Champagne Toasts Montreal,” and will include conferences on wine and gastronomy, with chances to meet producers from over 15 different countries around the globe.


Installation view of ‘Claude Monet’s Secret Garden,’ at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

This festival began in 1982 and continues to evolve each year as a platform for film screening and artist talks. This year’s VIFF will also showcase films from East Asia in The Dragons & Tigers film series, and will include a special screening of Okja to celebrate director Bong Joon Ho as a visionary.

Its motto “Where life flourishes” describes the feeling of visiting Vancouver’s Botanical Gardens. This fall the outdoor wonder will feature a Mushroom Show on October 22, and guided Bird Walk on October 28. In fall, the colors of the season are stunning at the garden, with lots of blooms still showing.

Famed french impressionist Claude Monet’s works will be on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery in one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of its kind in Canada in two decades. The 38 paintings tell a story of the artist’s career and development, attesting to his spirit of experimentation and individual approach to capturing the world around him.

This celebration will include everything from dancing and music, to delicious food, painting workshops and cooking classes. In downtown Vancouver, this vibrant multicultural festival of South Asian arts & culture brings together people of all backgrounds, with the biggest event Diwali Downtown Vancouver taking place on October 14 this year.

The Vancouver Writer’s Fest celebrates it’s 30th anniversary this year. A place for audience members to engage with transformative ideas, the festival will feature programs for children and appearances by award-winning authors including Margaret Atwood (October 22nd) and plasticine artist Barbara Reid (October 18).


Pumpkinferno in Ottawa.

This folk festival in Canada’s capital city will be staging the likes of Jack Johnson, Father John Misty, Broken Social Scene and Amanda Marshall this year. The festival is also a celebration of Canada’s rich traditions, through music, storytelling, dance and crafts.

A fun chance to see the glowing artistic creations of 7000 pumpkin carvers, Pumpkinferno, earned the title of Best New Event in Ontario this year. This all-ages seasonal experience is sure to thrill!

This fourth edition of the Canadian Biennial showcase will display works of contemporary art, indigenous art, and photography from both Canadian and international artists. Themes of an increasingly globalized world will also be explored through painting, sculpture, printmaking and video installations.

This beloved classic has been choreographed by German ballet company Semperoper’s Artistic Director Aaron S. Watkin in an exclusive Canadian engagement. This ballet of ballets has been uniquely reimagined to create a riveting, romantic and breathtaking version not to be missed.

Headed by Artistic Director and accomplished ballerina Karen Kain, this special performance of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in ballet form will be colorful, thoughtful and dramatic. With contemporary choreography by England’s Christopher Wheeldon, the performance is sure to be a true artistic collaboration of costume design, music and theatrics.


Bonus Tip: The Stratford and Shaw festivals (both in Ontario) continue performances through the fall (Stratford till the end of October; Shaw till mid-October). For more information, read ZEALnyc‘s feature on these two world-renowned festivals by clicking here.


Cover: Skyline view of Toronto, Canada.


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