In the summer of 2002, Toronto youth-run nonprofit Power Unit Youth Organization
(PUYO) transformed an empty Markham parking lot into a bustling night food market.
Now in its 11th year, Night It Up!
(in the past called Asian Night Market and Toronto Night Market) has become an annual weekend-long event. In 2011 the event attracted more than 10,000 visitors and is now being replicated, albeit at a smaller scale, in downtown Toronto
. This time out, the precocious organizers are focusing on being even more creative.
In addition to transforming ordinary parking lots into bustling food markets, they've taken to turning them into interactive art fairs. The new project, called Paint-A-Thon
, was officially launched last summer after a successful 2010 pilot.
"What we saw was that there were more and a more night markets [in the GTA]," says Donna Lau, Paint-A-Thon vice chair. "We still wanted to do the night market but we also wanted to do something different, something new, something creative, something that was interactive and fun."
Like Night It Up!, Paint-A-Thon raises money for PUYO as well as a national charity (this year it will be the Make-a-Wish Foundation). Here's how it works: on the day of the event canvases are erected in a Markham parking lot. Each canvas is assigned to a sponsored team which competes to create the most impressive artwork.
Even for those not painting there’s still a lot to do, says Lau. There will also be performances as well as interactive activities for visitors.
"We realized last year that when people came here, they somtimes just watch the other people paint and that can be kind of boring. So we fixed it by adding a lot more interactive elements." That includes the opportunity to buy and decorate T-shirts, tote bags and even pastries.
"Everyone will have come away with their own creations," Lau says, "so they can feel creative too."
Paint-a-Thon 2012 will be held just before this year's Night It Up on Saturday, July 14, from 2pm to 7pm outside the Markham Civic Centre.
Writer: Katia Snukal
Source: Donna Lau, Vice Chair, Paint-A-Thon