Many shades of cool: Nordic Bridges comes to a close

Nordic Bridges – the most extensive international joint Nordic cultural venture to date and a year-long festival throughout Canada – opened in the depths of winter on 27 January, in a Toronto still in full COVID-lockdown. 

It has been hosted at Harbourfront Centre, one of Canada’s leading arts and culture institutions, as well as at some 20 partnering venues across the country, and has featured performances, exhibitions, workshops and discussions throughout the year.

Built on such principles as artistic innovation, sustainability and resilience, Nordic Bridges launched with outdoor light installations and online events, at a time when the resilience of our societies was being challenged. Now it will be wrapped up in a more upbeat mood at Harbourfront Centre’s Festival of Cool, running from 8 to 18 December.

“Nordic Bridges has shared Nordic and Canadian contemporary arts and culture programming across the country all year long. Festival of Cool is a brilliant way to celebrate the initiative’s final month, while additional partner events continue across Canada,” says Laura McLeod, Director Cultural Engagement at Harbourfront Centre, who has been Lead Producer of Nordic Bridges 
 

The grand finale

Over ten days in December, Festival of Cool will feature Nordic culture, art and ideas in an extensive programme. Among the Nordic artists presented, festival guests can enjoy the band Tuuletar from Finland, and Scandinavian sextet VÍÍK who create a fusion of progressive jazz and alternative rock with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish song traditions. 

There will also be performance acts such as Moby Dick by Norwegian-French puppetry company Plexus Solaire, alongside a photo exhibition, Eyes as big as plates, by Finnish-Norwegian artist duo Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen, and the exhibition Kjøt by Heiðrik á Heygum from the Faroe Islands.

In addition, guests can experience contemporary arts organisation Art Spin’s art-filled sauna, the performance Post Capitalistic Auction and an exhibition showing the output from the young journalists in the Nordic Canadian Fellowship on Environmental Journalism. Just to mention a few of the highlights from a packed programme of events.
 

Bridging the Atlantic

Nordic Bridges is an initiative by the Nordic ministers for culture as part of efforts to create opportunities for Nordic artistic and cultural collaboration worldwide. This international venture has involved hundreds of artists, numerous scientists and academics, as well as political debates and a scholarship programme for young journalists specialising in environmental reporting. It has also featured a special series of Nordic Talks, bringing contemporary societal topics to the table.

In the words of Marah Braye, CEO of Harbourfront Centre, the aim of Nordic Bridges was to create a meaningful and sustained exchange between Canada and the Nordic Region, a goal she felt had been reached successfully. 

“Nordic Bridges is about cultural exchange and how we can use international co-operation to bring about change. It has been an important conversation with a long-lasting legacy that creates real connections,” she said at a recent conference in Oslo on Nordic cultural co-operation after COVID-19.

“New pathways for collaboration have been created and strong links between Canadian and Nordic artists and other professionals have been forged,” she added, stressing how culture is critical to the wellbeing of a democratic society.
 

The beginning of many new connections

In attendance at Festival of Cool is Eva Englund, senior adviser at the Nordic Council of Ministers and responsible for Nordic Bridges, who says:

 “We’ve reached the grand finale of Nordic Bridges, but this initiative is only the beginning of many new Nordic-Canadian connections and networks.”

Nordic artists and stakeholders from all the Nordic countries have collaborated with and performed alongside Canadian artists at festivals, arts institutions, and museums across the country in a truly co-creative spirit.

Nordic Bridges is about cultural exchange and how we can use international co-operation to bring about change. It has been an important conversation with a long-lasting legacy that creates real connections.

Marah Braye, CEO of Harbourfront Centre