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Open Call – West Bank, Little Africa, Little Mekong

Application Deadline: Monday, January 16th at 9pm CST

Submission form
Key Criteria
Artworks in any medium
Timing and Deadlines
Geographic Focus and Themes
What is Northern Spark?
Where is Northern Spark 2017?
What is the Northern Spark Program Council?
What is Climate Chaos | Climate Rising?


Northern Spark: Climate Chaos | Climate Rising, will be held the night of June 10th, 2017 along the Metro Transit Light Rail Green Line from sunset to sunrise, 8:59 pm-5:26 am.

This open call is for night-long artworks themed around Climate Chaos | Climate Rising in any artistic medium by artists of color and indigenous artists who have a cultural connection to the following communities: Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood (West Bank Station), Little Africa District (Snelling Station), and Little Mekong District (Western Station).

To view our complete list of artist open calls, please visit our Artist Opportunities page.

The proposals submitted through this application will be juried by Northern Spark’s 2017 Program Council. Please read below for more details.  

Submission form

Click here to be directed to our online submissions form. You will be able to save drafts of your proposal before submitting.

To view our complete list of open calls, please visit our Artist Opportunities page.

If you are planning on submitting a proposal and would like to receive relevant open call updates, please e-mail

We also encourage artists to sign up for our newsletter to get the best idea about the kind of work that we program.


Workshops for artists interested in submitting proposals for this call will include information on climate change and a walk-through of the open call process with tips for more successful submissions. Workshops will be located in each district. Workshop will be very similar; artists are encouraged to attend any workshop that fits with their schedule.


Little Africa District: African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) Wed, November 2nd, 5:30pm-8:30pm.’

Little Mekong District: Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) Wed, November 9th, 5:30pm-8:30pm.

West Bank / Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood: West Bank Business Association (WBBA) Mon, November 14th, 6pm-8pm.

NEWLY ADDED! Rondo Public Library: Saturday, December 10th, 11am-1pm. (Click here to sign-up)

General Info Sessions about all of the Northern Spark Open Calls will be held at the Soap Factory, 514 2nd Ave SE, Minneapolis on:

Tuesday, December 13th 7-8:30pm (Facebook event)

Thursday, January 5th 7-8:30pm (Facebook event)


This call is for artists of color and indigenous artists working individually or collectively who have a cultural connection to one or more of the three communities described above. In the application, artists are asked to describe their “cultural connection” and why/how it is meaningful in their own words. Artists do not have to live in or near the three neighborhoods. Emerging artists are encouraged to apply.

Some examples of cultural connections:

  • I am Hmong; Little Mekong is the heart of the Hmong community.
  • I go to a mosque / church / temple in this community.
  • This neighborhood is where I see and hear my native language spoken.
  • My grandmother grew up in Rondo; this neighborhood is where I see my cultural heritage reflected
  • As an indigenous person, this is my homeland and the theme of water is very important to me and my work.

Artists who live outside of the Twin Cities are eligible to participate, but there is no additional funding available for shipping or travel.


Key Criteria

Northern Spark’s 2017 theme, Climate Chaos |Climate Rising, addresses climate change. More information about the theme is below. Every project proposal must broadly relate to the effects of climate change.

In addition to climate change, the Festival is a dynamic, busy, one-night event that takes place primarily outdoors in spaces such as parking lots, building facades, sidewalks and green spaces. Artists have several factors to consider. The Program Council will look at the following factors in their project selection.


  • Climate Theme. How does your project relate to climate change and one or more of the sub-themes: move, nourish, interconnect, perceive, act?
  • Sustainability. What materials will you use to create your project? Are they recyclable and or non-toxic? Do you use renewable energy sources? We encourage artists to consider their carbon footprint and potential waste while conceiving of, creating and implementing their project.
  • Geographic Focus and Themes. Where do you propose your project happens? Consider the cultural context of each neighborhood. Please click here for more information.
  • Artistic quality. The proposed work must be an original piece by the artist in any medium or multidisciplinary. It can be serious or funny, spectacular or intimate, or any combination thereof. Works that are commercialized or are intended to sell a product will be not be considered.
  • Participatory. How will people interact with your project? Not all projects need to have a direct audience participation component, but our goal is that a significant percentage will. Participation can also be passive such as following dancers moving through space or participatory data visualization.
  • Duration. One of the distinctive aspects of Northern Spark is its 8-hour duration. Does your project fill this time?
  • Nighttime. How will your project operate at night? How will people see your work?  
  • Safety. The festival provides security, but please consider the safety of your audience, yourself and the artwork itself.
  • Crowded. Thousands of people attend Northern Spark in 8+ hours. Depending on the location of your project, there will likely be very large crowds to appreciate it. How does your proposal account for this?
  • Accessible. As a public arts event, there will be a broad audience that has a range of arts knowledge from novice to seasoned practitioner. The audience moves from project to project frequently. How will your project be understood by the casual observer?
  • Feasibility. Northern Spark is one night. You only have 519 minutes. Installation generally takes place the same day and deinstallation the next morning. Describe how your project is feasible to set up and take down in 24 hours.
  • Sound. City ordinances prohibit in most amplified sound in outdoor spaces after 10 pm.
  • Legal. Projects must meet all necessary city laws, ordinances, and codes. Extensive research about city codes is not necessary for the application. Festival staff will help with these questions after projects are selected.

Northern will assist and facilitate permitting, electricity, permissions, etc, but artists are responsible for the creation, production and execution of their project.


For this call, we will be funding projects with a range of budgets in the following amounts: $1,000, $3,000 or $6,000. If your project can only be successful with more funding, please state your case. Very few projects, if any, will be funded with a larger budget. Budgets should include everything necessary to present the project from construction to installation and artist fees. NL will provide electricity and standard permitting, although some elements such as fire and food may have additional permitting costs.

Artwork in any medium

We invite you to propose a project in any medium that is sited/performed in public spaces (excluding trains and train platforms) that will last for one night. Northern Spark is a night for exploration and discovery. We encourage you to propose projects that put your work into the city’s nooks, crannies, and surfaces, and take advantage of an 8-hour duration.

Examples of past projects from last year and earlier can be found on our flickr pages and include:

  • An all-night community dance, Census

Application materials

The application process is entirely online. Applicants are required to submit:

  • Primary contact information
  • A brief bio and relevant experience (max 1 page for each primary artist)
  • Brief statement on cultural connection to focus area where project is proposed
  • Project concept (no more than 2 pages), including how the project relates to the effects of climate change and where it may be sited and consideration for each neighborhood.
  • Supporting materials that help us understand better your proposal and that it is feasible. This can range from a sketch on a napkin to CAD drawings, from a photo with a drawing superimposed to a video flythrough. If there is a technical component to the project, make sure to explain it. To the extent possible, give us a sense of the size and footprint of the project. Are you looking for a 10’ wall or a 100’ wall? If you have a specific site in mind, state it. Otherwise, what are the characteristics you are looking for, which are important to the project?
  • Images, video or audio files.  We ask for up to 10 images and 1 video or audio of past, preferably related work.
  • A budget for the total amount you’re requesting for your project. (max 1 page) Note. We will not be evaluating whether you have the best price for the right amount of materials; we want to see that the major budget needs are reasonable.

You may download a sample proposal here and additional sample budgets here.


These calls will be juried and selected by the Northern Spark Program Council with Northern, which reserves the right to request additional material and information after the proposal deadline, and to reject any and all proposals received.

Timing and Deadlines

Projects will be selected by Northern, who reserves the right to request additional material and information after the proposal deadline, and to reject any and all proposals received.

General Timeline:

October 13th: Open Calls Announced

November 4, 9, 14: Open Call Workshops

December 13th: First Info Session (optional)

January 5th, 2017: Second Info Session (optional)

January 16th at 9PM CST: Application Deadline

Early February: Artists notified

March: Project descriptions due to Northern

April: Production

May: Project Testing

June 10th (8:59pm-5:26am): Northern Spark 2017

June 11th (morning): Projects dismantled and removed from site

More Information

Geographic Focus and Themes

Here is more information about the neighborhoods of focus in this open call.

Artists are encouraged to consider the descriptions provided when applying for this call.

Cedar – Riverside Neighborhood (West Bank)

The neighborhood is a diverse community on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. Bordered by the Mississippi River, I94, and I35W and with access to both Green and Blue Line lightrail, the district features bars, theaters, restaurants, educational institutions, parks, residential buildings, community centers, and a variety of nonprofits. West Bank Business Association (WBBA) is Northern Spark’s core partner in this neighborhood, with participation from other organizations.

When developing a proposal sited at Cedar-Riverside (West Bank), please consider that Cedar-Riverside (West Bank) is home to a majority Muslim residential population, many of whom will be observing Ramadan at the time of Northern Spark.

Little Africa District

Little Africa is a business, arts and culture district centered on Snelling Avenue in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood. It begins at University & Snelling, stretching down Snelling until Minnehaha Ave, and includes African restaurants in nearby parts of St. Paul, and two other nodes as well (throughout Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park/Center). It includes at least 20 West and East African businesses on Snelling alone, celebrating the diversity of African cultures through public arts events, murals, and the annual summertime Little Africa festival. Northern Spark’s core partner is African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS), with participation from other organizations.

When developing a proposal to be sited at Little Africa, please consider the themes of the district: the experience of African immigrants and people of African heritage and movement and migration as they relate to climate issues.

Little Mekong District

Little Mekong is the Asian business and cultural district in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Located between Mackubin and Galtier streets along University Avenue, the district boasts a diversity of cultures, top rated restaurants and unique shopping experiences. The neighborhoods around Little Mekong include Frogtown and Summit-University. Visitors come to Little Mekong to experience the unique culture and flavors of Southeast Asia. Northern Spark’s core partner is Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA), with participation from other organizations.

The district is known for the Little Mekong Night Market, an annual event that will take place on the same night as Northern Spark this year.

Little Mekong’s Night Market has a thematic focus on water. Water is seen as a connector, connecting multiple Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Water is sacred to many of these cultures, but can also remind other SE Asian communities of struggle and war.

When developing a proposal to be sited at Little Mekong, artists are encouraged to explore the social and cultural context of water.

What Is Northern Spark?

Northern Spark is a one-night, all-night participatory arts festival taking place on Saturday, June 10th, 2017 from 8:59 pm – 5:26 am. During Northern Spark, tens of thousands of people gather throughout the city to explore giant video projections, play in temporary installations in the streets, and enjoy experimental performances in green spaces and under bridges. From dusk to dawn, the city surprises you: friendly crowds, glowing groups of cyclists, an unexpected path through the urban landscape, the magic of sunrise after a night of amazing art and experiences. More information:

Where Is Northern Spark 2017?

Northern Spark 2017 will take place in neighborhoods along the Light Rail Green Line spanning Minneapolis and St. Paul.

What is the Northern Spark Program Council?

The Program Council is a group of 9 artists connected to communities on the Green Line where Northern Spark core programming will take place. They advise Northern Spark staff on the open call process, jury artist projects, and encourage neighborhood engagement.

Northern Spark is committed to engaging greater participation from cultural communities along the Green Line by working with artists from those communities. Our goal is to align with and support the cultural and economic development efforts of our organizational partners: African Economic Development Solutions, Asian Economic Development Association and West Bank Business Association.  

What Is Climate Chaos | Climate Rising?

Climate Chaos | Climate Rising is the overarching theme for all of Northern’s programming from June 2016 to June 2017.

You can find out more about the specifics of the theme here, but at its core it is about artists’ responses to the effects of climate change on everything from our backyard gardens to patterns of migration. Climate change is about C02 in the atmosphere and ocean acidification, but it is about so much more than the science. It is also about the way resource use in the global north effects the global south, which relates directly to complex issues of power and privilege.

Sometimes the enormity of climate change seems overwhelming. Yes, facts are necessary to understand how and why this is happening, but it is culture that changes people’s behavior in the world. Simply put, changing our cultural environment is critical to saving our physical environment.

Artists are the makers and the storytellers and the questioners who can help us understand the consequences of climate change, and who, ultimately, challenge us to think about and act upon what it means to be human.

We are excited to hear your ideas, big and small, about the effects of climate change in your community and new ways to understand its consequences and possibilities for action, individually and together.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of information do you want to see included in my supporting materials?

The information we want to see in your supporting materials are things like equipment needed, dimensions of artworks or necessary spaces, site drawings with measurements, any special structures or features that would be needed, etc. Basically, anything that will help us get a sense of how your project would physically fit into the landscape of the festival, and what the major physical components are.


Does my proposal need to suggest/request a specific site?

For the Little Mekong, Little Africa, West Bank call, your proposal does not have to include a specific location, but at a minimum it should include the type of space (ex., a vertical wall, a parking lot, a dark corner, grassy surface) that would be appropriate for your project.


My project will only last one hour, and it will not be repeated. Can I still submit a proposal?

We are mainly looking for projects that will last for the duration of the night.


I don’t need funding for my project / I can provide all the funding for my project, and I would like to present it at Northern Spark. What is the process I should follow?

All proposals for projects should be submitted through the open call submissions form by the January 16th deadline so they can be sent to the jury. Each project is juried through the same process, regardless of its funding needs.  It’s fine to have a budget anywhere between $0 and the maximum for each category.


Is there a set number of projects that will be accepted?

No, there is not a set number of projects that will be accepted.


I live in a country that is not the United States, so my phone number doesn’t fit into the submission form correctly.

No problem. Email


I’m not interested in presenting a project, but I really want to be a part of this festival. How can I get involved?

You can volunteer! We love our volunteers. Email for more information.


What should I do if I don’t see my question listed in these FAQ’s?

E-mail us at with any additional questions. Or visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.