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Northern Spark 2017 Explores Creativity and Culture in Neighborhoods along the Metro Transit Green Line


Northern Spark 2017 Explores Creativity and Culture in Neighborhoods along the Metro Transit Green Line

The first Northern Spark Program Council, a leadership group of artists, inspires participation from community members to present projects that respond to climate change themes.

From sunset on June 10 to sunrise on June 11, Northern Spark 2017 is a free all-night art festival exploring the effects of climate change through participatory projects.

Northern Spark 2017 is all about exploring the creativity and culture of public spaces in neighborhoods along the Metro Transit Green Line. The festival will be immersed in the following neighborhoods, served by these light rail stations:

The Commons (U.S. Bank Stadium station in Minneapolis)
Cedar Riverside (West Bank station in Minneapolis)
Weisman Art Museum + U of M (East Bank station in Minneapolis)
Little Africa (Snelling station in Saint Paul)
Rondo (Lexington station in Saint Paul)
Little Mekong (Western station in Saint Paul)
Lowertown (Union Depot station in Saint Paul)

We welcome our first Northern Spark Program Council, a leadership group of artists working with us to inspire participation from artists and residents in cultural communities along the Metro Transit Green Line. The Program Council selected artists in Little Mekong, Little Africa, Rondo, and on the West Bank to present projects at Northern Spark that respond to community partner-identified themes such as water, migration and refugees, African and Asian heritage, and environmental justice issues created by climate change. We thank the Northern Spark Program Council for their insight and participation: Adan Dirie, Sara Endalew, Graci Horne, Filsan Ibrahim, Pa Na Lor, Brittany Lynch, Sagirah Shahid, Aki Shibata-Pliner and Ahmed Yusuf.

Northern Spark’s 7th year kicks off with the Launch Party from 7 – 9 pm on Saturday, June 10 at Thresher Square. Start your adventure with artful food created by 8 amazing local restaurants, beer from Fulton Brewing, a Northern Spark specialty cocktail crafted by Crooked Water Spirits, and musical guests ZULUZULUU!

Neighborhood Tour

The Commons
The western-most edge of the festival and downtown Minneapolis’s new green space. Beginning at 8:30 pm, our Opening Ceremony will include Mayor Hodges introducing MINN_LAB artists’ Orbacles project, this year’s multi-sensory Creative City Challenge winner. Listen and wander among the lights, sounds and smells of speculative infrastructure for the futures of bird populations in a climate-changed Minnesota.

After the Opening Ceremony, play in a carnival of climate games; visit the 3rd iteration of the Night Library to outwit overlord robots; watch a superhero action flick from a carbon neutral traffic jam; interact with underground tree networks; marvel at a pearlescent sculpture; paint a mural about water protectors; and take a string survey to draw your opinions on climate change in correlation with others.

And don’t forget to make an avatar for yourself and sign up to play Collective Action!, Northern Spark’s festival-wide game (find stations in each festival zone except East Bank.) Swing by the Fulton Beer Tent for a sip before heading on your way.

West Bank
Hone your debate skills at the Southern Theater with a sidewalk climate denier; or sit for a spell as 3600 seconds of multimedia movement are performed eight times over the course of the night, prompting the consideration of the vast effects of climate change in relationship to the minutiae of everyday life.

Travel down Cedar Ave to find pockets of interactive installations throughout the neighborhood. In the plaza in front of May Day books, find a game arena to play a series of activities linking drought, traditional food ways, and feminism. Cross the street, remove your shoes, walk the carpet and visit a dome of light, sound, and video that challenges progressive discourses on climate change.

Wander down to the Cedar Community Plaza, where—if you arrive by 8:59 pm—you’ll hear the call to prayer, the traditional end the day of fasting during Ramadan. Take a seat at an interfaith iftar and storytelling circle to share about your environmental ancestry. Stop off at the Northern Spark Info Tent to grab a recycled water bottle to fill at a Tap Mpls station and continue across the street to find a market of gifted experiences and a ritual / installation that calls us to reflect on the urgency of environmental genocide through the voices of immigrants and people of color.

Continue to walk and wander all the way to Currie Park to witness the intergenerational building and unbuilding of an aqal, the traditional Somali nomadic home. Weave your way back to the small park behind the Cedar Community Plaza and find a garden, tended by neighbors, growing greenery to blur borders. Stay for awhile and drink tea with a gathering of Somali elders sharing stories of an ancient nomadic life.

East Bank
Over the mighty Mississippi, near East Bank station, sits the Weisman Art Museum, host to several projects aglow on the grass. Travel a tunnel timeline of rising temperatures constructed by U of M students in Making Sense of Climate Change class; add your own image to a magic lantern carousel; re-visit the Backyard Phenology trailer that first appeared at Northern Spark 2016 to hear everyone’s stories; weave waste into an epic trash tapestry; and pause under the entrance to WAM to crowdsource some electronic sonatas that chronicle the states of our planet’s evolution from geological to technological.

Or, if nocturnal birds of prey are more your thing, time your visit to occur in the 11 pm hour to join the meet and greet with owls from the U’s Raptor Center.

Little Africa
Traveling down the line into Saint Paul. Exit at Snelling Station and walk one block north into Little Africa where Sherburne Ave becomes an outdoor cinema, festive eatery, and interactive installation hub. Check out wireless headphones and settle in to watch films about economy, ecology, and environmental justice at the inaugural Little Africa Film Fest. Express your commitment to extricating yourself from petrochemical culture; watch sculptures and paintings animate global warming; join others in a circle where water brings connection, healing, and creativity; and take a personal journey towards a tree sapling chosen specifically for you.

Little Africa’s staple eateries Fasika Ethiopian and Ghebre’s Restaurant will be open all night for necessary nourishment along with neighborhood-related food trucks and tents.

Let’s get back on the train and ride to Lexington Ave. Exit the train platform and walk down the block to join the festivities in the historic Rondo neighborhood. Artist projects and vendors take over the parking lot and interior spaces of the High School for Recording Arts. Sit in on an all night “poetry gumbo” open mic and artist showcase; let your hope rise with dance, song and praise; witness bodies dancing in a claustrophobic environment of fog to draw attention to environmental injustice in communities of color. Stay tuned to the Art & Events page (and filter by the Rondo neighborhood) to see more projects by Roots of Rondo artists as they are added!

Little Mekong
At Western Ave, the site that Northern Spark is privileged to share with the beloved Little Mekong Night Market on June 10th. Running 5 pm – midnight, delights in the form of food, performance and visual art celebrating Southeast Asian culture take over the street.

You’ll find a celebratory memorial to the human species hosted by dandelions; a river of stories from Southeast Asian artists exploring complex relationships to water; a poet who’ll construct words just for you; words, words and more climate-change words printed on a rolling letterpress; a performance installation in a storefront window about water as a life force; an interactive exhibition of Hmong tattoos, and an opportunity to write a love letter to the earth, to be broadcast on Frogtown Radio – WFNU.

Water flows as a theme at Little Mekong, so before you go, stop by the Northern Spark Info Tent to pay-what-you-can for a recycled water bottle and then head over to the Anthropocene Water Station to get a taste of waters from around Minnesota. (Also presented in Little Africa and Lowertown.)

Don’t forget to leave time for Lowertown! The Green Line’s St. Paul terminus neighborhood hosts festival activities in seven venues. From Union Depot station head west up to the M, where an exhibition of upcycled sculptures is perfect for a night at a museum; walk back along 4th and stop into Twin Cities PBS where MNOriginal presents speculative biomes of the past, present and future. Back on the lawn of the Depot, immerse yourself in a performance installation of migration stories and water protection; and watch a live feed from the bees that call Union Depot’s roof home. Continue east on foot, stopping to power down at the Phone Valet — a curbside service exchange, and then onto Studio Z to experience an electronic and acoustic planetary prayer; and while you’re there and if so moved, sing with the Sacred Harp at the Baroque Room.

Swing downstairs into Golden’s Lowertown to watch the complete slideshow of climate change photographs from around the globe. Just outside in the alley behind Golden’s add your climate commitment to the grove of life. Under the St. Paul Farmer’s Market find a pop-up garment factory and get an equitably hand-sewn festival t-shirt; pitch in to keep our land afloat, and catch a wandering performance of the climate-displaced. See enough yet? But wait, there is still a Transparent Spirit Elevation Chamber (to relieve your eco-anxiety); a game to explore, interact and conquer the climate chaos attacking our planet; and a selfie station to say goodbye to your favorite migrating Minnesota biome.

And an interactive installation where a predatory corporation enters our cultural ecosystem created by artists in the Lowertown community. And pssst, did you find the back-alley green-market from the future?

Whew. Perhaps by now it’s dawn, and the light feels bright as noon by 5:26 am. Wander slowly as the flower vendors set out trays of coleus and petunias under the awnings and end your day with a hearty breakfast at Black Dog — open an hour early at 6 am.

Plan your night by reading about all festival projects on our Art and Events page!

Northern Spark Artists
Northern is proud to announce the participation of the following artists in Northern Spark 2017: Monira Al Qadiri, Ananya Dance Theatre, Aniccha Arts, Background Stories, Christine Baeumler, Nick Barsness, Julie Benda, Todd Boss, Willis Bowman, Rachel Breen, Susan Brown, Valentine Cadieux, Shá Cage, Andrea Carlson, John Coburn, Jon Mac Cole, Craig David, Preston Drum, Randy Duerr, Deborah Elias, Field Practice, Kate Flick, Sara Fowler, GoodSpace Murals, Ruthann Godollei, Bill Gorcica, Grand Challengers, David Hamlow, Annie Henly, Alison Hiltner, Hmong Tattoo Crew, Hope Risers and Company, Karen Haselmann, Ross Hutchens, Nooshin Hakim Javadi, Rachel Jendrzejewski, John Keston, Wu Chen Khoo, Kenny Lee, Kimberly Long Loken, Meena Mangalvedhekar, Ifrah Mansour, Mary Jane Mansfield, Kathy McTavish, Beth Mercer-Taylor, Million Artist Movement, MINN_LAB, Rebecca Montgomery, Ben Moren, Mystery Spot Books, Roger Nieboer, Sheronda Orridge, Sami Pfeffer, Lisa Aston Philander, David Pisa, Rebekah Rentzel, Nickey Robare, Angela Robbins, Areca Roe, Mohamed Samatar, Sara Yezih Art Group, Aki Shibata, Tyler Stefanich, Tony the Scribe, Twin Cities Transition Artist Team, United Media Brigade, UW-Stout Transmedia Studio, Water Bar & Public Studio, Wavelets Collective, Tara Weatherly, Clarence White, Khamphian Vang, May Lee-Yang, Yes, Let’s!, Cameron Young, Marina Zurkow. Learn about their projects at

Northern Spark Neighborhood Partners
Key organizing partners for the festival are: African Economic Development Solutions, Asian Economic Development Association, Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, and the West Bank Businesses Association.

Northern Spark Presenting Partners
As with every iteration of Northern Spark, we are grateful to our numerous presenting partners: Altered Aesthetics, Arts Culture and the Creative Economy of the City of Minneapolis, Danza Espanola, Forecast Public Art, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minnesota Museum of American Art, Minnesota Sacred Harp Singing Convention, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, Mizna, Motion Poems, Patrick’s Cabaret, Printland Press, Public Art Saint Paul, Somali Museum of Minnesota, Saint Paul Saints , St. Cloud State University Art Dept., Saint Paul Public Library, Textile Center and Weaver’s Guild of Minnesota, The Southern Theater, TPT, Twin Cities Union Depot, UW-Stout School of Art and Design, Weisman Art Museum, Zeitgeist

Climate Rising Collaboration Partners
The Climate Rising Collaboration, made possible with the support of the McKnight Foundation, pairs artists with organizations working directly on issues concerning energy, environmental justice and climate change. Partners:
Climate Generation, Conservation MN, Minnesota Center for Energy and Environment, MN350, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Take Action

Northern Spark Community Partners
Brian Coyle Center, Capitol River Council, Cedar Cultural Center, Cedar Riverside Neighborhood Program, Frogtown Neighborhood Association, Hamline-Midway Coalition, Golden’s Lowertown, Lexington-Hamline Community Council, High School for Recording Arts, Hmong American Partnership, Midway Chamber of Commerce, Union Park District Council

Festival Background
Since 2011 thousands of Minnesotans and visitors have enjoyed Northern Spark, an annual all-night arts festival illuminating public spaces and streets of Minneapolis and Saint Paul with video projections, temporary installations and experimental performances. Memorable projects from past Northern Spark festivals include Chris Larson’s Celebration/Love/Loss, Jim Campbell’s Scattered Light, Luke Savisky’s Ex-MN, Pramila Vasudevan’s In Habit, and countless other projects from artists such as: Works Progress, Piotr Szyhalski, HOTTEA, Cloud Cult and Futures North’s Phase Change, which won SxSW’s design award in 2016.

Northern Spark is produced by Northern, a Twin Cities arts organization whose work ranges from large-scale public art platforms like Northern Spark to Art(ists) On the Verge, a year­long mentorship program for 5 emerging artists working with innovative uses of technology. We support artists in the creation and presentation of art in the public sphere, such as at Saint Paul’s Union Depot (Amateur Intelligence Radio), “choir karaoke” at the Minnesota State Fair (Giant Sing Along) and most recently Words For Winter, programming poetry into the construction landscape along Nicollet Mall. Through projects such as Ruination: City of Dust, a location-­based environmental mystery game played on bicycles along Minnehaha Creek, and the monthly climate conversation series, Anthropocene Awareness Association, our work helps audiences explore expanded possibilities for civic engagement through art.

Click here to view Northern Spark 2017 Funders & Sponsors.

Amy Danielson, 612.245.2020,
Steve Dietz, 952.994.4118,
Twitter: @NL_mn
Instagram: @Northern
#northernspark #ClimateCCR