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Dems and Doll: Sarah Doll and Chris Seiler. Photo courtesy of Dems and Doll's website.

Night Lights: Art and Light Festival—11.17.18 & 11.18.18

By Apartment613 on November 12, 2018

By Eve Blouin-Hudon


Husband and wife art duo Dems and Doll has been creating stage props and painting murals across Ottawa for the past five years. From November 17th to 18th, 2018, they are presenting the second edition of Night Lights: Art and Light Festival on Preston Street.

This immersive art experience follows the story of a little girl who was led by a fox into an enchanted forest. Visitors can expect giant glow trees, crystals, interactive sculptures, playhouses for children, glow-in-the-dark face painting, fire performers, and much more. Visitors are also encouraged to dress up and become part of the magic!  

We were all kids once, doing cartwheels in the grass on a hot summer day, jumping through bushes, finding shapes in the clouds. Playing house. Playing anytime, anywhere, no matter what. But as adults, playing seems kind of silly. I mean, how can it be productive?

But what if I told you that participating in playful activities can help you approach life in a more creative way? It can help you get a fresh outlook on your projects, whether these are for home improvement, self-growth, work, or hobbies. Creativity knows no limits. And play can help get you there.

Photo: Ross Brown/Apt613

Public art is so important. It is the backbone of the culture in a city.

Enter Sarah Doll and Chris Seiler of Dems and Doll. This husband and wife art duo has been creating stage props and painting murals across Ottawa full time for the past five years. Last year, the Preston Street BIA asked Sarah and Chris to curate a two-day festival in order to give the area a playful boost during the gloomy November season. This is how the first Night Lights was born. This free event is happening November 17th through 18th from 7pm to 11pm (with free parking in the St. Nicholas high school lot).

We sat down with Sarah and Chris to talk about their creative process in making this year’s festivities more immersive, more playful, and grander than life.

Apt613: How did you come up with the Night Lights theme?

Sarah Doll: We didn’t want it to be the regular Christmassy light display. We have a street art, graffiti background to us, so we wanted to make that obvious within everything. But at the same time, really attract the general public. So we started off with a forest vibe last year. We made a storyboard with a bunch of panels and it told a brief story of a little girl holding a rabbit. She was going through the forest following a fox that was going to take her somewhere magical. So that was the whole point of it. When you come through a light tunnel—that’s our entrance—you come in and you would now be in this magical enchanted forest. We had a 17-foot light tree and different light-up flowers.

How did people react to this concept?

SD: We had a few thousand people come by over the weekend. People though it was really weird but awesome. There was dancing. People brought their families. People dressed up.

Photo: Ross Brown/Apt613

We didn’t want it to be the regular Christmassy light display.

How are you building on that this year?

Chris Seiler: We wanted to build what we started from last year but fill more space. More immersive. More magical. We’re trying to get things to be more interactive this year. Some of our statues that we made last year, we had kids that wanted to interact with them but they were a little too delicate. So we decided this year to put things up on podiums so that kids can touch them.

SD: This year we’re adding more giant trees. We’ve got the crystals. We’re going to do this giant bunny cottage where kids can walk in. We’re trying to add on from what we had last year, but in a really big way.

That sounds like a perfect opportunity for folks to get out and play into an experience that takes them out of their immediate reality.

SD: Absolutely! We encourage dress up. There’s going be lots to see, lots to play with. There’s going be fire performers, living statues, and glow in the dark face painting too.

Why do you think interactive art like this is important for Ottawa?

SD: Public art is so important. It is the backbone of the culture in a city. It’s where people first see new trends. It’s where new ideas have the chance of spreading. That’s where it all starts.

How do you go about making your public art?

CS: We build everything here [at home]. So we have to build everything to break down into small bits so that we can transport it. That’s the point of being an artist, using stuff that’s around you and transforming it. We love to source materials too. We love to take recycled pieces.


Night Lights: Art and Light Festival happens November 17–18, 2018 on Preston Street from 7–11pm. This event is completely free. There is also free parking available in the St. Nicholas high school lot.  


About the author: Eve is a PhD candidate in Psychology. She is an expert on creativity and imagination, and has conducted research on these topics for the past 6 years. She also teaches an undergraduate course at Carleton University on creativity, play, and innovation in the workplace. She is passionate about helping people remove creative blocks, collaboration, and community!