Northern Spark Highlights
The dusk till dawn art festival’s 7th year inspired attendees in 7 neighborhoods along Metro Transit’s Green Line to change their perceptions about climate change through interactive art projects
From downtown Minneapolis to Lowertown and back, Northern Spark attendees, artists, volunteers, and staff experienced creative conversation about the climate in neighborhoods both new and familiar. “A free, fun, excuse to be outdoors in the city, and see some wild stuff. It’s like being a kid again,” said one Northern Spark attendee.
Northern Spark by the Numbers:
Attendees: More than 45,000
NorthernSpark.org page views: 201,161
Free rides using Metro Transit’s downloadable pass: 33,000
Media hits: 90+
#northernspark images on Instagram: 6,779
Time trending on Twitter: 11 hours
New Facebook page likes during the festival: 129
Second-hand water bottles given away: 700
People who said goodbye to their biome: 921
Prayer pockets hung: 1,000
Line still going strong at 5:30am: Night Library
Trees adopted: 190
String surveys strung: 570
Google Cardboards distributed: 800
Highlights by Neighborhood
“We got the opportunity to directly interact with our audiences in a participatory activity. This is new for us and was a wonderful experience,” said one Northern Spark artist.
The Commons, Northern Spark 2017, photo: Bethany Birnie
After a rousing send off by J.D. Steele and the MacPhail Community Youth Choir, The Commons was active with robot librarians, alien technologies, water protectors, idling monsters and more. Mayor Hodges introduced MINN_LAB, the Creative City Challenge winner—you can see the birds inhabit the ORBACLES at The Commons through the end of July.
“Minneapolis’ new green space truly felt like a space for everyone on Saturday night,” said Steve Dietz, Co-Director of Northern Spark.
Cedar-Riverside/West Bank, Northern Spark 2017, photo: Bobby Rogers
The West Bank broke through borders as people gathered in the streets for a night of unity, reflection and sharing. Hundreds of people broke fast together after a call to prayer. Marigolds and electronic sounds were given as gifts and 1,000 prayer pockets were offered. People played games about food and systems, sat in a glowing dome, sat in a glowing aqal, and watched the world’s borders literally grown over by green plants.
“Watching the Unity Iftar get organized in three days to join forces with the Ancestry Story Circles was an amazing feat. See everyone out in the street for the call to prayer was beautiful,” said Teeko Yang, Northern Spark Outreach and Partnership Coordinator.
Weisman Art Museum
Tin foil capes, lawn-a-looming, human hamster wheel running and interactive sound/projection kept the Weisman Art Museum bustling with activity on the East Bank stop. And of course, owls. “After seven years of working on this festival I finally got to see the owls! I love this tradition of the raptors appearing at Northern Spark,” said Sarah Peters, Co-Director of Northern Spark.
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of University Ave, Little Africa was cozy yet active. The outdoor cinema of the Little Africa Film Fest screened documentaries and short films alike, while nearby people stood mesmerized by a wondrous miniature world. Participants created a new vision for the Earth and reflections on water, declared promises toward a petrol-free future and adopted nearly 200 trees to be planted in yards throughout the cities.
“I arrived to Little Africa around 3:30am, and it was the best place to spend the last hours of my festival night. I found myself lying down inside the intimate Relative Water Liquid Spirit Healing Art Structure by Million Artist Movement, staring at the stars and contemplating my relationship to water, as well as the people around me,” said Leslie Barlow, Northern Spark Social Media Goddess and Admin Assistant.
The Rondo neighborhood rocked it with all-night participatory drumming, reflective shadow puppets, historic drawing and powerful performances from awesomely celebratory praise dance to a rotating schedule of contemporary movement and soundscape that brought the very real issue of air pollution in communities of color into emotional resonance. Students from High School for Recording Arts kept the parking lot dancing.
“Through sound, dance, and spoken word, the projects in Rondo evoked both the urgency of environmental justice and the hope that carries us toward a more just future,” said Ady Olson, Northern Lights.mn Projects Manager.
tony the scribe and Ananya Dance Theater, just breathe, Northern Spark 2017, photo: Caleb Timmerman
After the delicious and spectacular Little Mekong Night Market came to a close at midnight, Northern Spark artists kept the Western Ave plaza a-glow with words, poems, stories, and symbols. Letters to Earth written on handmade paper were broadcast on the radio, dandelions and other living things memorialized the humans, we learned about traditional Hmong symbols for our temporary tattoos, we learned the word for water in many different languages, and ongoing performance linked Asian identity and culture to earth and climate.
“Little Mekong invited us to lean into stories. To listen to the powerful stories of how we got here, and to imagine the poetic beginnings of new stories. To re-wild our individual and collective mythologies,” said Elle Thoni, Assistant Curator of Northern Spark.
Lowertown was for walking, from installations at the M and tpt to a secret green alley market to Union Depot, where the bees live, to a fair wage sewing factory, flamenco dancing climate displacement, land raft, au revoir to biomes, and much more in and around the Farmers Market.
“To me, Lowertown was about spaces for reflection, what we want around us, where we came from and where we want to go and what kind of world we want to create,” said Sara Shives, Producer of Northern Spark.
“The sound garden outside Union Depot was my favorite artwork. But the best thing about Northern Spark for me is just being among a crowd of people experiencing our city in a new way together,” said a festival attendee.
How was your night?
Tell us about you and your experience using the post-event survey. Your feedback gives us valuable insight that helps us make Northern Spark better each year.
How does Northern Spark happen?
Northern Spark 2017 was the largest festival we’ve organized yet. This was possible thanks to the hard work and generous support of a number of different groups. Northern Spark has always been a feat of collaboration; this year more than ever. We extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our sponsors and foundation funders; our Advisory and Steering Committees; the first-ever Northern Spark Program Council; our Neighborhood Partners and Presenting Partners, all of whom worked for more than a year in advance to put all the pieces of the festival in place.
Our considerable gratitude and many high-fives go to the 130 amazing volunteers who worked day and night-of the event and to our 24 crew members who sweated their way through a humid set-up, kept cool throughout the night and then packed up before the Sunday’s thunderstorm hit. We could not do this without so much support.
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 Lights.mn, 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 Lights.mn’s Funders & Sponsors:
Amy Danielson, 612.245.2020, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Dietz, 952.994.4118, email@example.com
Instagram: @Northern Lights.mn