Northern Spark 2019 Rondo Projects Spotlight

Winston Heckt

Northern Spark 2019 Rondo Projects Spotlight

Visual Jazz Odyssey by Miko Simmons.


Each year we put out an Open Call to invite artists to propose interactive installations for Northern Spark inspired by the festival theme. The following four projects selected by the Program Council, Neighborhood Partners and festival staff to be presented at Hallie Q. Brown Community Center on June 14 & 15, invite you to celebrate the neighborhood’s history of resilience, spread peace in the community through story and song, and imagine our collective future. “In Rondo, the celebration of artists, family and community have always been intertwined to bring us through hardships, change and trauma.” — Jesse Buckner



Baba Jesse Buckner.

Resounding Strength – Resilient Song

Folks who come to this installation will get a hands-on experience with knowledgeable instructor guidance from Baba Jesse & Resounding Rhythms, allowing visitors to create their own beat pattern while others provide accent rhythms to create one sound/song in community space. Others are invited to an interactive-dance improvisation, led by African-dance teachers, set to the community song.

“It’s about reconnecting our collective humanity with universal language — music and dance — and exploring ways to renew ourselves in these changing and somewhat turbulent times through our own creative expressions,” says Baba Jesse.

Born and raised in Rondo, he considers resilience, renewal, and regeneration as key terms to remind himself and other individuals of the Rondo Spirit.

“In Rondo, the celebration of artists, family and community have always been intertwined to bring us through hardships, change and trauma. Drum and dance are therapies for the mind, body and soul and creating your own rhythm on a drum or dancing your own moves is the same thing as telling yourself, ‘Yes I Can.’ Our particular sound is ancestral Africa, thereby taking the community back to its African/African-American roots while still celebrating today’s diversity in our community.”



Anura Si-Asar.

Illuminate and Regenerate Rondo: Spreading Peace in our Streets

Based off the initial designs of Melvin Giles, community leader and educator, Anura Si-Asar and the youth of the Imhotep Science Academy will flood Rondo with foot tall solar peace poles — powered by regenerative solar energy to illuminate the night with messages of peace — made out of repurposed wood, cardboard, and garden lights. At this installation during Northern Spark, folks are invited to come talk about community issues, hear from metro area poets and assemble personal solar peace poles to take with them to their homes and communities.

“The project addresses how to keep the community together and invites folks to reconsider what community means for Rondo,” says Anura Si-Asar. “The Rondo community is resilient but it’s changing. People are being displaced because they can’t afford to stay in their homes, so the hope with Illuminate and Regenerate Rondo is for people to revisit Rondo’s sense of community and how economic exploitation continues today while spreading peace.”



Miko Simmons.

Re-Knew-All: A Visual Jazz Odyssey

Visit Clubroom C inside Hallie Q. Brown Community Center for a mashup of familia history photos, montages, and stories. These intermixed visuals will be generated in real-time by the sounds produced in a co-creative improvisational immersive environment led by Miko Simmons. Re-Knew-All: A Visual Jazz Odyssey will remix the culture of the past with fragments of the present all while envisioning a positive foundation for our collective future. Miko, a fourth generation Rondo community resident, recently moved back to the neighborhood.

“I was struck by both the positive and negative impacts of gentrification,” says Miko. “It reminded me of how important it is for us all to reconnect to the members of our communities and our ancestral legacy and move us all towards healing.”

While visiting the site of his installation Miko spotted several pictures of the women of Rondo hung on the walls and demanded they remain during the festival.

“When I saw those pictures I was immediately brought back to the memory of the beautiful and powerful women of the Rondo community that helped to raise me, many of which were also raised with my mother and grandmother. I was brought up in a time when the community helped raise each other’s children and realized how much that world has changed. In these times where Truths are under attack and the value of artists’ roles are disparaged, it is important for me to reflect upon the legacy of my ancestors to create a connection to the past as we ask questions of the future we desire. This is what the nature of these times demands of us.”




A Soundscape of Stories

Intrigued by narratives from a young age, Kashimana has been drawn to the intersection of stories and song since her grandparents, aunties and uncles first shared them with her while she grew up Nigeria. A Soundscape of Stories will record the telling of several African American tales, add sound and music and display an artistic photograph of each storyteller with the completed work. Kashimana will also recite a narrative every hour.

“I am excited to stretch my performance muscle this way,” says Kashimana. “I’ve played with the idea in my mind for the last 3 years but it’s more urgent to me now with the birth of my daughter. I wanted to collect stories to tell her and also to connect with artists that I have admired and wanted to collaborate with for a long time.”

Adding to the urgency of the project are the policies coming out of the White House.

“In a time when this administration wishes to erase our diversity, our voice and our contributions, storytelling is our direct defense against that and reminds me that we are here, look at what we have been through, look at the stories we carry on, the stories we pass on, the resolve we have to regenerate no matter what.”

Stay tuned for our May feature about the line-up at the performance at Hallie Q. Brown Community Center during Northern Spark where you can witness these installations and more. Northern Spark is a late-night art festival illuminating public spaces in the Twin Cities Friday Friday, June 14 and Saturday, June 15 — starting at dusk (9 pm) and ending at 2 am.