Winter lights shine in Tofino

Botanical Gardens’ outdoor display features 20,000 lights.

The new Tofino Winterlights display at the Tofino Botanical Gardens offers a refreshingly romantic experience for those dull winter nights.

NORA O’MALLEY

nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

 

For the next seven weeks, families, sweethearts and visitors to the West Coast can meander the Tofino Botanical Gardens amidst the allure of a new outdoor light display.

Between 15,000 to 20,000 LED string lights have been intricately woven into tapestries and suspended from structures to reflect the shapes around the garden.

“It’s not a classic neighbourhood light thing that you would see or even a commercial Christmas light thing that you would see downtown. It’s a little more, in places, impressionistic or abstract,” said Tofino Botanical Gardens director George Patterson. 

He likened the colour palette of the lights to Claude Monet’s garden paintings, twinkling with fuchsia, purple, blue and yellow.

And, the idea for the exhibit, he said, was inspired by a show he witnessed four years ago at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art by James Turrell.

“He’s a big time artist. Very famous and he works with light,” said Patterson.

“I see this as a 10-year endeavour. We’ve started off with the simplest ingredient. String lights. Each year we will try to introduce a new type of light,” he said.

With steadfast help from his son, Jorge, and resident garden keeper Phil Reimers, the project first took flight back in July. Since then, the team has poured hundreds of hours into creating an outdoor experience that celebrates light just as much as it celebrates darkness.

“One of the things we’re really going to try get right over the next couple of years is how to have areas that are dark and then you walk into lit areas,” Patterson explained.

“Tofino is so dark. There’s actually always been a strong core of people in town that want to prevent light pollution; having it become a bright place. And I’m one of them. I love the darkness of the area.

“The ambient light doesn’t reach out any place. We’re concentrating it here and we’re always going to stay aware of that. I don’t see big spotlights up in the sky or anything like that. Because I value looking up at the stars and the moon,” he said.

Worth noting, however, is Patterson’s future ambition…

He wants to project lights across the mudflats in such a way that it creates the illusion of Northern Lights.

“I want to make this something that grows and becomes a real attraction. People come up to Tofino to see the lights as well as the storms and to surf.”

The Tofino Winterlights exhibit will be open nightly from November 25 to January 8 between 5:30-9 p.m.

Admission is $10 for Adults, $6 for Students, and free for Tofino Botanical Garden members and children 12 and under.

Darwin’s Cafe will be open, serving hot beverages and Christmas treats. Various performances are also scheduled for the duration of Winterlights.

For more information visit: tofinowinterlights.com.