Staff Highlights from Northern Spark 2019

Winston Heckt

Staff Highlights from Northern Spark 2019

Tyra Payer and Taryn Payer at Northern Spark 2019. Photo by Nedahness Greene.


Northern Spark is as fun for the Northern team as it is for the artists and audience members. Here are our highlights from the weekend:


Steve Dietz, Co-Director

“There is something amazing about closing down a city street no matter what, but make it nighttime and add in, say, a projection by Jonathan Thunder, a choreographed procession by Rosy Simas, the bright lights of All My Relations Gallery, a disturbingly angelic bicycle built for 6, amazing shadow dancing, performers in a black light illuminated tent, perhaps a lacrosse game, hundreds of people enjoying the sights, eating fry bread tacos and socializing with friends and strangers, and you have the magic of artists remaking the city for Northern Spark.”

Sarah Peters, Co-Director

“One moment from this year’s festival I’m unlikely to ever forget is the feeling in the Canteen at Hallie Q. Brown Community Center as singer Ashely DuBose closed down the house on Friday night. At 2 am her golden voice held the room. Everyone gathered stood close to the stage, hands in the air, singing along in a moment of exalted connection. The song’s refrain, “Life it goes on, it goes on, it goes on” is on repeat in my head this week, reminding me that as we wrap up the festival, there is a whole world out there and it is gorgeous.”

Erin Lavelle, Producer

“My highlight of Northern Spark this year was closing down Franklin Avenue. This isn’t an easy task, especially when the street is such a busy one! It was an effort of intricate, coordinated, specifically-timed teamwork — and an empowering task for an all-woman team — to physically block it off to traffic in preparation for the event. And then when the sun set and the festival began we saw the fruit of our labor in a re-imagined streetscape for artists + audiences. I loved it!”

Tyra Payer, Festival Curatorial Apprentice & Northern Projects Coordinator

“I loved the Night Library! The performers told a story of defeating the giant through language, culture, music, and storytelling. The Night Library gave me a chance to practice my Ojibwe while learning more about Dakota stories, and I was so engaged with the project the entire time. Walking through the library in my neighborhood brought to life by stories from my community was very special and really demonstrated the Northern Spark theme of We Are Here.”

Winston Heckt, Festival Communications Apprentice

“Putting my phone away and visiting Haŋyétu Wówapi Thípi (The Night Library) in the American Indian Cultural Corridor simply as myself and not as the Festival Communications Apprentice was my favorite moment during Northern Spark. Being fully present in that space and listening to the stories struck a chord within myself. I’m excited to see how the Franklin Library is transformed in the future in light of Haŋyétu Wówapi Thípi.”

Pamela Vázquez, Festival Production Apprentice

“My top highlight was being able to be part of the street closure in Franklin Ave., it felt empowering for an all femme production team to be in charge of that. I think claiming back space like that is necessary in our local, national and global context. Aside from artist projects and NS set up, I loved seeing people running around, kids playing on the streets, and experiencing their neighborhood in that way.”

Amy Danielson, Press Relations Coordinator

Northern Spark always surprises me in how artists respond in unique ways to the theme, how participants help create remarkable art throughout the nights, and how unexpected conversations begin and people connect through shared experiences. This year I felt an even bigger connection to community, especially in the AICC and Rondo, as artists and participants deeply related to and explored the theme We Are Here.

Zoe Cinel, Festival Volunteer Coordinator

“As  volunteer coordinator my highlights have been all people related: Ana Laura Juarez and Tatiana Freeman, who were in the team with me have been just amazing companions in this journey! Thanks to all the staff who made this event possible and kept a fun and supportive work environment and all the volunteers old and new who shared their memories and their affection for the festival! I hope to see them coming back next year and the year after and the year after to support Northern Spark!”

Tatiana Freeman, Neighborhood Volunteer Lead – Rondo

“I think one of the most rewarding things for me about participating in this year’s Northern Spark, was the bond I made with the volunteer and production teams both nights of the festival. Each volunteer brought their own strengths, spoke with festival goers with enthusiasm, and stepped in when needed to help the team. We laughed, shared stories, and got to meet so many wonderful people from the Rondo neighborhood.”

Ana Laura Juarez, Neighborhood Volunteer Lead — American Indian Cultural Corridor

“My highlight was all the curious kiddos that visited me at the info booth, many of them Somali youth from the neighborhood. I loved that they were exploring the festival as if it were daytime, seemingly unsupervised! That tells me that their guardians felt safe enough during Northern Spark to let them do so. And the highly sought-after toy of the night? Festival sparkers!”