NL End of Summer 2020 Newsletter

Sarah Peters
From Left: Katie Nyberg of Mississippi Park Connection, Dan Dressler of National Park Service, artist Moira Villiard and mentor artist Jonathan Thunder.  Photo description: Four people stand distanced from one another wearing masks and smiling at the camera. A brick building is behind them, along with the curves of the Hennepin Ave bridge over the Mississippi River.

A (spatially distant) visit to the Lock 

Earlier in August we masked up and walked out on the Lock wall at Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam with artists Moira Villiard and Jonathan Thunder.  Site visits with artists are one of the best parts of working on public art projects. After months of working indoors, it was inspiring to walk about the formidable space of the Lock and imagine its various surfaces lit up with projections or awash with sound.

We feel very lucky to be able to witness the early moments of an artist’s process, as ideas are unfolding. We talked about how the water used to move through the lock chamber and tried to imagine a frozen version as the visual landscape for this work. This project is currently scheduled for early December, 2020.

PS: did you know that the St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam is open to the public through September? Wednesdays – Sundays, 10 am – 4 pm. You can go visit the falls too!

This project is a partnership with All My Relations Arts, a program of Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI),  Mississippi Park Connection and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and is supported by the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board.


Artist Council members Hawona Sullivan Janzen (left) and Courtney Cochrain (right) at a video shoot at Indigenous Roots gallery.  Photo description: one person wearing bright colored clothing sits on a stool and another person stands behind a video camera. They are in a gallery with windows to the street and sunshine pouring in.

Northern Spark community framework coming soon

When the Program Council began meeting last fall to dig deep into thinking about the future of Northern Spark and new ways of working in community, we planned to have a big BBQ this summer to share about the process. Needless to say, that plan shifted many times with COVID delays and the necessity of leaving time for people to be engaged with or take space from the uprising in response to the police murder of George Floyd.

Slowly over the summer months our conversations and values began to take shape in a document we’re calling Relationships & Reciprocity: A Guide to Making Northern Spark. We’re in the design and editing phase of the document and a video on its main points. Be on the look out for its release later this month.

This project is supported by a grant from Saint Paul Cultural Star.

NL’s outgoing Projects Coordinator Tyra Payer (middle).  Photo description: three people stand smiling amidst a crowd holding a red banner that reads “Dream of Wild Health.”

Goodbye Tyra!

This month we are sad to say goodbye to Tyra Payer, who has worked in various roles at NL for the past year and a half.  Tyra started as the Curatorial Content Apprentice for Northern Spark 2019. Her deep connections to organizations and community in the American Indian Cultural Corridor became crucial to the success of Northern Spark along Franklin Ave that year.

After the festival ended, she stayed on in a hybrid role tending to administrative and communications tasks, and helping to steer the 3rd Program Council through the process of creating a framework for community engagement at Northern Spark to be published next month.

“I personally have learned so much from Tyra; how to lead by listening, to tend relationships as carefully as to-do lists, and to always leave time in any process for unexpected ideas or connections to come forward.” says NL Executive Director, Sarah Peters.

Throughout her tenure working part time with NL, Tyra has also worked at Dream of Wild Health, a non-profit that works on Native food sovereignty.  We wish her all the best as her role at DWH shifts to full time. We’ll miss you, Tyra!