Creative City Challenge 2018 Call for Proposals

Creative City Challenge Seeks Creative Proposals for 2018 at The Commons for Second Year

Sixth annual competition for Minnesota artists, architects and designers open until November 17, 2017

The annual City of Minneapolis Creative City Challenge competition will be sited at The Commons, the new 4.2 acre public green space and an anchor in the Downtown East area transformation for the second year. The Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy Program of the City of Minneapolis in collaboration with The Commons and Northern and the Northern Spark festival, announce the sixth annual Creative City Challenge based on the theme of commonality.

Entries are being accepted now through November 17, 2017

The Creative City Challenge is conceived as a showcase for local creative talent: Minnesota-resident architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners, engineers, scientists, artists, students and individuals of all backgrounds to create and install a temporary, destination artwork, which acts as a sociable and participatory platform for 4 months. Three finalists will receive $2,500 to create full proposals. The winning Creative City Challenge proposal will receive a $50,000 commission to execute the project.

THEME: Commonality

In 2018, the Creative City Challenge takes its cue from the site of installation: The Commons. What is a 21st century commons? What do we share when we gather together in outdoor, physical space? Is it possible to share common ideals and goals while acknowledging significant differences in heritage, lifestyle, income and interest?  What do we have in common in a city with significant racial disparities in employment, education and other markers of well-being? Is “common humanity” a hollow phrase or something worth fighting for? Is commonality uncommon? Can there ever be common ground on land that was colonized? What does Downtown Minneapolis have in common with other parts of the city? The suburbs? Saint Paul? Greater Minnesota? What are dreams for the future that we can have in common?

We invite you, the creative sector, to explore through installation and programming how creative placemaking can help invigorate The Commons as a site of commonality. We are particularly interested in proposals that use the space of The Commons to encourage engagement, both individually and as a community.


The Creative City Challenge is open to any artist living in Minnesota. For teams, the lead artist and at least 50% of the team must live in Minnesota.


Entries are accepted until 11:59 p.m. CST, Friday, November 17, 2017 (see entrant information below). A committee of stakeholders will select three finalists by November 21. Each finalist will receive a fee of $2,500 to prepare a final proposal. A separate jury will select the winner based on in-person presentations by the finalists on or around February 6. The commission fee for the selected project is $50,000.

Click here to submit your proposal.

The winning Creative City Challenge project will be unveiled and featured at the opening of Northern Spark, an annual dusk-to-dawn festival with tens of thousands of participants, taking place in Minneapolis on June 16, 2018, and will remain in The Commons through October 15.


An optional informational session will be conducted on Tuesday, October 17, at 6:00pm at 147 Holden St N, Minneapolis, MN 55405. Enter through the back door. If you would like to get one-on-one feedback about your proposal, please email to schedule a 15-minute session between 4pm and 6pm or after the info session on October 17, or 5pm-7pm on November 8.

If you were unable to attend the info session, you may access a PDF version of the presentation here: CCC_2018_Info_Session_Slides


The Creative City Challenge challenges applicants to create an installation that explores the idea of commonality for Minneapolis, its residents and visitors.

The Commons is actively used by the general public as a place for respite and activity, as well as a location for large special events, such as Northern Spark on June 16, when the Creative City Challenge will be launched, and the X Games July 19-22. The Commons also hosts a range of other events including community gatherings, company picnics, weddings, and events related to U.S. Bank Stadium.

  • Commonality. How does your project relate to ideas of commonality?
  • 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.
  • 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? Participation can be passive such as following dancers moving through space or participatory data visualization.
  • Nighttime. How will your project operate at night? How will people see your work?
  • Safety. This piece will remain in place for 7 weeks, during the opening festival and other large events. Please consider the safety of yourself, your audience and the artwork.
  • Crowded. Thousands of people attend Northern Spark in 8+ hours, and X Games and U.S. Bank Stadium events draw huge crowds as well. 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. Is this project ADA compliant? As a work of public art, there will be a broad audience experiencing your project who have a range of arts knowledge from novice to seasoned practitioner. At Northern Spark the audience moves from project to project frequently. How will your project be understood by the casual observer?
  • Feasibility. Your project must be feasible to run over the course of 4 months, and installation and de-installation on The Commons must be efficient. Describe how your project is feasible to set up and take down within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Sound. City ordinances prohibit 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. Staff will help with these questions after projects are selected.
  • Durability. The piece must be durable, able to withstand wind, rain, sun, and active animal and human engagement.  The Project must be easily maintained and able to endure the whole 2 month term. You must include a thorough maintenance plan and adequate maintenance budget, for stakeholder approval.

We will assist and facilitate permitting, electricity, permissions, and other aspects of the project, but artists are responsible for the creation, production, execution and maintenance of their project, including all necessary permitting, and restoration of the site afterward.


The Commons is Minneapolis’ newest 4.2 acre public green space. Proposals for the Creative City Challenge should be sited in the western block, outlined in blue above.

  • Site 1 – Part of granite “mitten”, Area 1 on attached map. Available site size approx. 40’ x 40’. We strongly encourage that at least the majority of the installation should be sited in this area.
  • Site 2 – Ellipse lawn, close to the corner of 4th Street and Portland Avenue. Area 2 on attached map. Lawn size 92’ x 60’, 4,192 sf. Available site size approx. 75’ x 45’. Note: All site conditions, including the lawn must returned to the original state, and the grass is a special variety, which is expensive to replace.

Other requirements of the site:

  • No footings allowed
  • No penetrations of granite gravel and/or porous paved surfaces; any penetration of the lawn must be minimal and completely repaired
  • Able to withstand any weather
  • Fully engineered for climbing, wind loads, etc.
  • Able to be cleaned with hose
  • No obstruction to any pedestrian passage
  • Awareness of nearby residents and their sightlines, park use and noise restrictions
  • No directional or overly bright illumination
  • Sound – must be at ambient levels, silent from 10 pm to 7 am, and able to be “turned off” for special events
  • Able to withstand daily water spray from irrigation system.
  • Available power – Dedicated 20 amp circuit power outlet located +/- 30’ away. Line to be cable ramped for installation term.


The commission for the Creative City Challenge is $50,000. A design fee of $2,500 will be provided to the finalists. Budgets should include everything necessary to present the project from construction to permits to installation/deinstallation to artist fees.

Past Creative City Challenge Winners

Information about 2017’s winning project ORBACLES can be found here and 2016’s winning project Wolf and Moose here. The Creative City Challenge was developed as a project of the Minneapolis Convention Center in 2013, its inaugural year, the Creative City Challenge selected the Minneapolis Interactive Macro Mood Installation (MIMMI) as the winner, Balancing Ground in 2014 and mini_polis in 2015.


Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. Central time on Friday, November 17, 2017. Click here to submit your proposal.

If materials are needed in an alternative format, call at (612) 673-2488 or email Deaf and hard of hearing persons may use a relay service to call Minneapolis 311 agents at (612) 673-3000. TTY users may call (612) 673-2157 or (612) 673-2626.

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)
  • Project concept (no more than 2 pages), including how the project relates to the theme of commonality and where it may be sited and consideration for the surrounding 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. 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?
  • Samples of past work (Images, video or audio files).  We ask for up to 10 images and 2 videos 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.

Balancing Ground by Amanda Lovelee, Christopher Field, Kyle Waites, and Sarah West
Please note: This sample proposal responds to different project requirements (theme, location, etc.) and is provided to give you a general sense of a winning proposal. You should create your proposal based on the guidelines outlined above.


Friday, November 17, 9pm CT – Proposals due
Wednesday, November 29 – Finalists notified
Monday, January 22 – Finalists’ proposals due
Tuesday, February 6 – Finalists’ presentations to jury
Thursday, February 8 – Winner announced
Saturday, June 16 – Project launches at Northern Spark

Email with additional questions.


The Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy program is an initiative of the City Coordinator’s office to leverage the creative sector towards strengthening social and economic growth in the City of Minneapolis. The goals of the program are to provide arts and culture services to City Departments, promote local arts and culture, develop frameworks for 21st century arts economies and collaborate on arts based community development initiatives such as ‘creative placemaking’.


The Commons is a new 4.2 acre public green space in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.  Spanning two city blocks, the beautifully landscaped and actively programmed park offers experiences to welcome and engage the community at large. The Commons is located at 425 Portland Avenue S in Minneapolis, across from U.S. Bank Stadium and steps from the Light Rail Train station.


Northern Spark is a one-night, all-night participatory arts festival taking place on Saturday, June 16th, 2018 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.

Northern is a non-profit arts organization dedicated to artists working innovatively in the public sphere, exploring expanded possibilities for civic engagement. Northern produces Northern Spark.

Find out more:

Online: and

On Facebook:

On Twitter:

On Instagram:

On Flickr: and

On Vimeo: and


For media inquiries, please email

Northern Newsletter June 14th

Highlights from the night

The Commons, Northern Spark 2017, photo: Bethany Birnie

Wow – what an amazing night!
From downtown to Lowertown and back, we engaged our way through the cities to experience creative conversation about the climate in neighborhoods both new and familiar.

Here are a few highlights from our staff:

After a rousing send off by J.D. Steele and the MacPhail Community Youth Choir, The Commonswas active with robot librarians, alien technologies, water protectors, idling monsters and more. Don’t forget to come back to see the birds inhabit the ORBACLES — onsite through the end of July.

Minneapolis’ new green space truly felt like a space for everyone on Saturday night.”– Steve Dietz, Co-Director.

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, and marigolds and electronic sounds were given as gifts, 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 3 days to join forces with the Ancestry Story Circles was an amazing feat. Seeing everyone out in the street for the call to prayer was beautiful.” —Teeko Yang, Outreach and Partnership Coordinator

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 7 years of working on this festival I finally got to see the owls! I love this tradition of the raptors appearing at Northern Spark.”  – Sarah Peters, Co-Director

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.” — Leslie Barlow, Social Media Goddess and Admin Assistant

tony the scribe and Ananya Dance Theater, just breathe, Northern Spark 2017, photo: Caleb Timmerman

Rondo 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.” — Ady Olson, Northern Projects Manager

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.” – Elle Thoni, Assistant Curator

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 (they’ll be back if we #act), 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.” — Sara Shives, Producer

Areca Roe, Goodbye Biome, Northern Spark 2017, photo courtesy of the artist

View more photo highlights of the night on our flickr.


Northern Spark by the Numbers

Attendees: More than 45,000
Artists: 415
Projects: 63 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: The Night Library
Trees adopted: 190 
Google Cardboards distributed: 800

How was your night?

We’d love to hear your story!  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 you!

And finally, immeasurable thanks to the Northern Spark staff. We had an incredible team who took on this challenge of organizing 7 festivals in 7 locations on one night with grace, humor and expert skill. We learned so much from all of you. Kudos to historic success!

–Sarah Peters and Steve Dietz, Northern Spark Co-Directors

…and you!

Many people who attend Northern Spark don’t know that it’s actually a program of Northern, a Twin-Cities-based non-profit organization with just 3 year-round staff! Competitive grants — both private and public — pay for 90% of the festival. But the last 10% of support for Northern Spark comes from people just like you, giving their time and money to keep it homegrown and free for all to attend.

Please take a moment now to pitch in whatever you can: As of now we’re still working on that last 10%, and will be doing so until June 30. Your support will go directly toward helping us bring the festival back in 2018.


Northern Newsletter June 9th

We’ll see you tomorrow!

The weather on Saturday is forecasted to be very hot and clear.  Get ready for your night-time journey!

  • Charge up your phone to play Collective Action! and experience Chaos on the Green Line
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Don’t be fooled by hot weather during the day — bring layers for cooler middle-of-the-night temps.
  • Pack a filled water bottle to re-fill at Tap Mpls and Anthropocene Water Stations. Stay hydrated!
  • Download a free METRO Transit pass.
  • Decide which of the 7 sites you’ll begin your adventure, and once you’re there, make your way to the Info Tent, pick up a festival Map and off you go!

Northern Spark Launch Party 2016, photo by Dusty Hoskovec

Didn’t get tickets to the Northern Spark Launch Party? No problem! Buy them at the door! Party is from 7-9 pm at Thresher Square, 708 S 3rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55415

Curious about what you’ll find at the party?
A newsletter-only sneak peek of the delicious Launch Party food includes: Salmon Rillettes from Red Stag, chilled sweet pea soup with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and Brioche from Alma, green tomato and melon gazpacho from Eastside, chocolate buttercream cake from Cafe Latte, and three types of cider from Sociable Cider Werks!


With the climate chaos of a record-breaking 97 degree day forecasted on Saturday before the sun goes down, we ask everyone to take care of yourselves during the day to be ready for a night of fun and safe exploration.

In light of everything else heating up in our world, we want to take a moment to say that Northern Spark has always been for everyone. We welcome people of all ethnicities, genders, abilities and beliefs. We do not tolerate violence or harassment in any form.

See you on the METRO Green Line for a peaceful and curiosity-filled night!


Congratulations Piotr Szyhalski

Northern Spark 2017 project 3600 cuts, courtesy of the artists Piotr Szyhalski and Pramila Vasudevan

The Minneapolis College of Art and Design, on behalf of the McKnight Foundation, has announced the eight recipients of the 2017 McKnight Fellowships for Visual Artists. Congratulations to Piotr Szyhalski, long time Northern Spark artist and co-director of Art(ists) on the Verge, for being a McKnight Fellowship recipient this year! As a part of the award, Szyhalski will receive a $25,000 stipend, public recognition, professional encouragement from national visiting critics, and an opportunity to participate in a speaker series.

You can view his project 3600 cuts at Northern Spark on Saturday! Collaborating with Pramila Vasudevan in this interdisciplinary performance, 3600 cuts explores the endless quest for “higher resolution” — the technological obsession of achieving finer grain and more detail—and how this sometimes illuminating, sometimes destructive phenomenon connects to the parallel quest for understanding human ecology. View a preview video of 3600 cuts here.

3600 cuts will also be presented tonight, June 9th, 2017. A range of ticketing options can be found at

Northern Spark media coverage now on our website!

The Growler June cover by Leslie Barlow

Excitement for Northern Spark is ramping up! Read all of our features and interviews in the press from The Growler, the Star Tribune, the Pioneer Press and more on our website’s Media Coverage page, and look for upcoming interviews on MPR, WCCO, and Fox News in the next few days!

And follow regular updates and news through our social media channels: FacebookInstagramTwitter


Northern Newsletter June 6th

Get Ready!

Northern Spark Bike Tour 2015, photo by Shawn Orton

Summer weather has arrived and Northern Spark is this Saturday! Get ready for all-night on the town with this festival prep checklist:

Food Highlights of this Year’s Festival

Northern Spark is a multi-sensory experience – and taste is no exception. Come to Northern Spark ready to savor the flavors of this year’s festival, as distinct as the neighborhoods they’re in.

iftar meal.jpgMNIPL’s Interfaith Iftar and Warm Conversations at Northern Spark 2016

Break the Ramadan Fast at Northern Spark

Ramadan Mubarak!
Northern Spark falls during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. For the second year, we’re partnering with Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light to host a community break the fast Iftar in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

After a poetic Adhan (call to prayer) from the roof above the Cedar Community Plaza, local Muslim-owned restaurant Ghandi Mahal will offer a full meal to ticket holders. Delicious dates will be distributed to all. Click here to reserve your free tickets. Everyone is welcome and invited to fast if you are able and so moved. Click here for more resources on fasting.

Little Mekong Night Market

The Little Mekong Night Market returns for its 4th year – this time at Northern Spark! Arrive in Little Mekong before midnight to enjoy the unique sights, sounds and tastes of this vibrant community celebration. If you haven’t gotten your fill by the end of Northern Spark, come back on the eve of June 11th for a second helping of the Night Market.

Refresh with a Fulton at The Commons

For 2017, Minneapolis’ own Fulton Brewing will host Northern Spark’s first-ever beer garden! Refresh your night with a Fulton as you take in the art and adventure at The Commons. Open until midnight only!

19145760050_3648f5cd26_o.jpgLaunch Party, Northern Spark 2015, Photo by Kory Lidstrom

Sample the City’s Best at the Launch Party

Satisfy your palette at Northern Spark’s 7th annual Launch Party from 7 – 9 pm at Thresher Square. Before the festival kicks off, start your night with artful food created by 8 amazing local restaurants, and the Northern Spark 2017 specialty cocktail “Spark 75” crafted by Crooked Water Spirits. ZULUZULUU, voted Best Local Newcomer 2016 by City Pages, and awarded the best-of-2016 Minnesota album by the Star Tribune. After all of this, you walk outside to a sparkling sky and find that Northern Spark has begun. What could be a more exciting way to support the festival you love?

Alma, Cafe Latté, Eastside, French Meadow Bakery & Cafe, Handsome Hog, Mercy, Red Stag Supperclub, and Silhouette Bakery & Bistro are preparing some incredible bites to start the night right. Mouth-watering, colorful, creative, and unusual: these bites will showcase the talent of the chefs and their teams. Come see what they have imagined especially for the Launch Party.

Get your tickets today!


Northern Newsletter June 1st

A Response from Northern

Climate change is science, but what do do about about it can be political. Individual changes alone, while important, will not affect what needs to be done. It is therefore disturbing news that the U.S. government has decided to abdicate any responsible role in this global crisis by withdrawing from the Paris Accord with the ironic logic of “protecting American citizens.”

Northern is committed to enhancing awareness, supporting a robust conversation, and above all encouraging immediate and ongoing actions about the effects of climate change and what we can do individually and together to mitigate and adapt to those changes. In the end, success will be as much about people rising as temperatures. We encourage you to join us and the 66 climate-themed artist projects we will be presenting with our partners at Northern Spark on June 10, and we encourage you to engage with all the systems you interact with: watershed districts, school boards, city councils, state representatives, utilities, corporate America, government bureaucrats, and the President to impart to them the depth of your concerns and the urgency to address climate change responsibly and honestly. Climate Chaos | People Rising. #act

The 2017 Northern Spark Team

Travel the festival by train, bus, bike, or foot.

Northern Spark Bike Tour 2015, photo by Shawn Orton

With 7 sites to see, we recommend planning your transportation to and around Northern Spark this year. All festival sites are walkable from METRO Green Line stations. Some contain compact programmed areas, and others are more spread out. Get ready to ride and walk!

Here are some things to do in advance to make festival navigation easy:

1. Plan your route!
Take a look at the festival areas using our zoomable maps. Make a customized list of the projects you want to visit with our My Night feature.  Or stop at any festival Info Tent and pick up a paper map!  As long as you find your way to the METRO Green Line, you’ll find the festival.

2. Download a free pass for use on all Metro Transit light rail and bus lines. 
Riding the train is easy!  Either print out the downloadable pass or be prepared to show the digital version on your smartphone to a Metro Transit operator if asked.

Free passes are viable from 8 pm – 6:30 am. Service on the METRO Green Line runs regularly until 1 am, then every half hour until 4 am.

Ticket machines are located on each train platform if you forget to download a pass or your phone runs out of juice. The Northern Spark Festival Map also functions as a free pass for the METRO Green Line ONLY.

PLEASE NOTE that only the METRO Green Line service runs 24 hours. METRO Blue Line and bus routes end at varying times. Need help planning your trip? Use Metro Transit’s Trip Planner or call 612-373-333, TTY 651-291-0904

3. Park and ride (or walk or cycle).
Drive close to the METRO Green Line, park and ride, walk or cycle your way through the festival.

Tune up your bike and get between festival sites on two wheels Don’t forget a bike lock, light and helmet. Find Nice Ride stations near some festival locations at

If you plan to drive a vehicle to the festival, be aware of these street closures: in Lowertown: Broadway St. between 4th St E and 5th St E.  In Little Africa: Sherburne Ave between Snelling Ave and N Asbury St. In Minneapolis at the Commons: Portland Ave between 4th St and 5th St.

Street closures take place beginning at 9 am on Saturday June 10th through 9 am on Sunday, June 11.

4. Charge up your phone!
Some Northern Spark projects require the use of a smartphone. Make sure yours is charged and ready to play!

5. Bring a water bottle, or if you forget…
Northern Spark food vendors will not be selling bottled water.  Fill up your reusable container or get a one-of-a-kind recycled (washed and sanitized) water bottle at festival Info Tents. Find Tap Mpls stations in Minneapolis and Anthropocene Water Stations in St. Paul.

6. Weather reminder: Northern Spark happens rain or (star) shine.
Visit and follow us on social media for night-of changes due to weather.


Get on the inside with Northern Spark at our awesome pre-fest Launch Party!

7pm-9pm Saturday, June 10 — $100/$50 — live music, great food and drinks, cool community vibe

Kick off your night at the beautiful Thresher Square building with the people who make Northern Spark happen! Eat, drink, dance and get the inside scoop on projects you won’t want to miss, all while you hang out with other people who love Northern Spark as much as you do. And the best part? Having all this fun actually makes Northern Spark happen again next year!

Along with a show from jazz-funk-soul explorers ZULUZULUU you’ll enjoy food and drinks from:

Mercy // Cafe Alma // Eastside // Red Stag Supperclub // French Meadow // Handsome Hog // Silhouette Bakery & Bistro // Cafe Latté // Fulton Brewing // Crooked Water Spirits // Barefoot Bubbly // Sociable Cider Werks // Peace Coffee

The Launch Party isn’t just a celebration of Northern Spark. It’s a celebration of the things that make our cities vibrant. During our only fundraising event of the year, we raise the support that keeps Northern glowing and the Northern Spark festival free each year. We simply can’t do it without you, so come party with us!

Get your tickets before they’re gone!:

Special thanks to our event sponsors Sherman Associates, Barbette, Bittercube, and RadissonRED for their support.

Launch Party 2016, photo by Dusty Hoskovec

Follow Us on Social Media!

Repost from artist Monira Al QadiriMizna, and the Soap Factory. Behind-the-scenes photo from Northern Spark project Alien Technology II

Postings about Northern Spark are increasing between now and the festival, and we don’t want you to miss out on any of the fun! Search the hashtag #NorthernSpark on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to find behind-the-scenes and in-progress photos from Northern Spark artists and their projects, or follow our pages for the latest festival updates and news.

Northern Spark Instagram | Northern Spark Facebook | Northern Spark Twitter

Join us on Saturday for the Opening of AOV8

Installation in-progress, Sarita Zaleha, AOV8 fellow

Join Northern and the Art(ists) On the Verge 8 fellows, Kelsey BoschJess HirschDylan RedfordFue Yang, and Sarita Zalehaon Saturday night for a celebration of the opening of their exhibition at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery.

Art(ists) On the Verge 8 Opening Reception
Saturday, June 37-11pm
Katherine E. Nash Gallery
Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota
405 21st Avenue South

The exhibition is open now through June 15. Gallery hours: 11 am to 7 pmTuesdaythrough Saturday. A public artist talk will be held on Saturday, July 8, 2-4pm at the Nash Gallery.

Art(ists) On the Verge is generously supported by the Jerome Foundation

Northern Spark is made possible by many people…

Northern Spark 2016, photo by Jayme Halbritter

…but especially YOU! When you volunteer, when you buy tickets to the fabulous Northern Spark Launch Party, and when you show your love for art that helps us imagine a different way of being in public space, together, with a donation in any amount.

Your $10 or $20 (or $200 if you’ve got it!) is vital to keep this amazing event going year after year. If you value Northern Spark, now is the time to pitch in.

Northern Newsletter May 25th

Art(ists) On the Verge 8 Exhibition Opening June 3

Sarita Zaleha, AOV8 fellow, Finding Time (in Iceland) 

Art(ists) On the Verge 8 fellows Kelsey BoschJess HirschDylan RedfordFue Yang, and Sarita Zaleha will present their work at an exhibition at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery from June 1 until July 15.

Technology has become the sea we swim in. It is no longer distinguishable, it seems, from nature or culture. It is just real. And unreal. Each of the artists in the 8th edition of Art(ists) On the Verge, Northern’s year-long mentorship program recognizes the ubiquity of technology and even embraces it as something necessary to reckon with, perhaps to enjoy, and certainly to manipulate. At the same time, they acknowledge and struggle with the truth that it’s not all roses in the world of silica and code. There is a dark side that threatens to undermine our humanity. Or overwhelm it. Or both.

Kelsey Bosch is fascinated by the threshold where experience transmogrifies from one thing to another. Push at it and ideas transform too. Will the world follow? Jess Hirsch is also interested in transformation. Merging flora and phones as a pathway to self-healing. 911 for the soul. Dylan Redford is anxious. An understandable response to the treachery and terror around us. Like a hydra-headed monster, this anxiety is fed by the media. Like a colonizing parasite, it takes over our gut, our instincts despite our best natures. Is foresight and planning a balm or a cancer? In a world of Facebook likes, Fue Yang is seeking connection that does not shy away from the telematic but is not circumscribed by it. What does it feel like – and mean – to breathe together? For Sarita Zaleha, climate change, the result of centuries of technological transformation, is like a low grade fever; constantly there, not necessarily requiring bedrest but breeding anxiety that seems to come from nowhere and everywhere. Making it visible, marking it, identifying it, is the first step to a cure.

Art(ists) On the Verge 8 Exhibition
June 1 through July 15, 2017
Katherine E. Nash Gallery
Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota
405 21st Avenue South
Gallery hours: 11 am to 7 pmTuesday through Saturday

Join us for an opening reception with the artists on Saturday, June 37-11pm.

public artist talk where the artists will discuss their work and their AOV experience will be held on Saturday, July 82-4pm at the Nash Gallery.

Art(ists) On the Verge is generously supported by the Jerome Foundation

Journey Down the Green Line, Part 2

Photo captured by Mike Plamann, winner of our #catchatrainNS photo contest

In our most recent newsletter we presented a virtual journey through a little over half of Northern Spark’s METRO Green Line offerings. (Missed it? Read all about it here.)

Let’s get back on the train and ride to Lexington Pkwy. Exit the train platform and walk down the block to join the festivities in the historic Rondo neighborhood. Artist projects and vendors take over the parking lot and interior spaces of the High School for Recording Arts. Sit in on an all night “poetry gumbo” open mic and artist showcase; let your hope rise with dance, song and praise; witness bodies dancing in a claustrophobic environment of fog to draw attention to environmental injustice in communities of color. Stay tuned to the Art & Events page (and filter by the Rondo neighborhood) to see more projects by Roots of Rondo artists as they are added!

Little Mekong
Next stop: Little Mekong at Western Ave, the site that Northern Spark is privileged to share with the beloved Little Mekong Night Market on June 10th.  Running 5 pm – midnight, delights in the form of food, performance and visual art celebrating Southeast Asian culture take over the street. (LMNM happens again on Sunday, June 11th5 – 10 pm.)

When the festival officially begins at 8:59 pm, Northern Spark projects will spring to life and carry through until dawn. You’ll find a celebratory memorial to the human species hosted by dandelionsa river of stories from Southeast Asian artists exploring complex relationships to water; a poet who’ll construct words just for you; words, words and more climate-change words printed on a rolling letterpress; a performance installation in a storefront window about water as a life force; an interactive exhibition of Hmong tattoos, and an opportunity to write a love letter to the earth, to be broadcast on Frogtown Radio – WFNU locally and online. Listen to Northern Spark from anywhere in the world!

Water flows as a theme at Little Mekong, so before you go, stop by the Northern Spark Info Tent to pay-what-you-can for a recycled water bottle and then head over to the Anthropocene Water Station to get a taste of waters from around Minnesota. (Also presented in Little Africa and Lowertown.)

Don’t forget to leave time for Lowertown! The METRO Green Line’s St. Paul terminus neighborhood hosts festival activities in 7 venues. From Union Depot station head west up to the Minnesota Museum of American Art, where an exhibition of upcycled sculpturesis perfect for a night at a museum; walk back along 4th and stop into Twin Cities PBS where MNOriginal presents speculative biomes of the past, present and future. Back on the lawn of the Union Depot, immerse yourself in a performance installation of migration stories and water protection;  and watch a live feed from the bees that call Union Depot’s roof home. Continue east on foot, stopping to power down at the Phone Valet — a curbside service exchange, and then on to Studio Z to experience an electronic and acoustic planetary prayer; and while you’re there and if so moved, sing with the Sacred Harp in the Baroque Room. Swing downstairs into Golden’s Lowertown to watch a slideshow of climate change photographs from around the globe. Just outside in the alley behind Golden’s add your climate commitment to the grove of life. Under the St. Paul Farmers Market find a pop-up garment factory and get an equitably hand-sewn festival t-shirt; pitch in to keep our land afloat, and catch a wandering performance of the climate-displaced. See enough yet? But wait, there is still a Transparent Spirit Elevation Chamber (to relieve your eco-anxiety); a game to explore and conquer the climate chaos attacking our planet; and a selfie station to say goodbye to your favorite migrating Minnesota biome.

And an interactive installation where a predatory corporation enters our cultural ecosystem created by artists in the Lowertown community.

And pssst, did you find the back-alley green market from the future?

Whew. Perhaps by now it’s dawn, and the light feels bright as noon by 5:26 am. Wander slowly as the flower vendors set out trays of coleus and petunias under the awnings and end your night with a hearty breakfast at Black Dog — open an hour early at 6 am.


Doesn’t this sound like an incredible night?

It’s all made possible by our awesome artistspartner organizationsdedicated community memberscreative local businessesgenerous funders, and YOU!

Every year we stretch the budget to bursting and this year is no exception. We need your help to make sure Northern Spark breaks even so we can plan on next year, too.

Don’t wait — Give today: $20, $50, or whatever amount you can. That magic feeling of Northern Spark? That’s made by all of us, together, pitching in and showing up.


Art + Action with the Climate Rising Collaborations

Image courtesy of Craig David with Roger Neiboer and lesser mortals, Arboreous

At Northern, we believe that in order to develop realistic and hopeful maps for a climate-changed future, artists, scientists, policymakers and activists will need to collaborate. One way this is happening is the Climate Rising Collaboration, an initiative funded by the McKnight Foundation that pairs festival artists with organizations working directly on climate issues through policy, advocacy and community organizing. Five organizations are lending climate data, volunteer ranks, networks and wide-ranging powers of expertise and knowledge to artists whose project take on subjects ranging from trees to water protectors to the many forms of migration.

For TakeAction Minnesota, working with Wavelets Creative on iNMiGRATiON is an opportunity to integrate art into their organizing in an intentional way and to give their volunteer base an artful way to get active. For Climate Generation, whose knowledge about the effects of climate change on trees is informing Roger Nieboer and Craig David’s Arboreous, being part of Northern Spark affords the opportunity to get their core message out to broader audience.

On festival night look for some of the CRC organizations at the Northern Spark Info Tents where they’ll be sharing table space.  Stop by for a festival map and learn about ways to get more deeply involved in climate action.

McKnight is also generously supporting Northern Spark’s festival-wide game, Collective Action!


Get ready to play Collective Action!, Northern Spark 2017’s festival-wide game

Create your own Collective Action! avatar, designed by Sara Fowler, to track your progress throughout the night.

Assistant Curator Elle Thoni sat down with Sara Fowler, Ben Moren and Tyler Stefanich, the artist team behind Collective Action!, Northern Spark 2017’s festival-wide game.

ELLE: So, to begin, your team is coming to the game designing table from a variety of artistic backgrounds. What are they?

BEN: Well, I come from visual arts and multimedia art, combining filmmaking, performance, software development… so kind of all the pieces you would need. I do lots of work that centers on interaction, but not necessarily with the classic parameters that make a game a game.

SARA: I’m trained and work professionally as a graphic designer and an illustrator. I’m a freelancer and do most of my work within the arts in some capacity. I also like to give some of my practice to activism, supporting environmental efforts with my professional background.

TYLER: And I come from visual arts as well, doing installation as well as performance. I’ve worked for awhile in design and more technical web design for nonprofits. Now I manage an experimental game lab in Los Angeles.

ELLE: When you came together to design a game, what was important to you? What kind of experience did you want people to have?

SARA: So awhile ago, Ben and I stumbled upon these amazing books. They were written by Stewart Brand – one of the major forces behind the Whole Earth Catalog. The books were an encyclopedia of games from the New Games Foundation. They are group games, essentially, but a lot of them are non-competitive and have a strange performativity to them. Thematically, they’re very geared towards anti-war, because that was a major cultural sentiment at the time of publication, but overall the focus of these games is problem solving together. These game encyclopedias were a major influence for us in thinking about a Northern Spark festival-wide game.

ELLE: So with that, describe the game, Collective Action!

SARA: (Laughing) We need an elevator pitch!

BEN: I’ve got it. So the game, Collective Action!, invites you to visit one of the six game stations around the festival. When you arrive, you log in to the Collective Action! website on your smartphone, which puts you into a digital queue with other potential players at a game location. When you get to the front of the queue, you and other audience members will be called up into the play area to perform some kind of action together, which will give you, your team and your festival neighborhood points.

There’s lots of different actions for each location, some of them might relate to water rights, some of them may relate to environmental justice or other Climate Chaos I People Rising topics. For example, you and others from the audience might be invited up to be a rainstorm or imagine what a future water filtration system might look like. Be a glacier that’s calving off into the sea and become icebergs and drifting away from each other. So the actions are meant to be thematic but open, so that you and other people can come together and figure out how you might embody them together.

Read more of the artist interview here on our website and visit for a game sneak preview.

Not just a Launch Party – our only fundraising event of the year!

Yes, Let’s!, Climate Carnival, Northern Spark 2016. Photo: Dusty Hoskovec.

It is easy to see how this year’s Northern Spark projects are going to enchant and inspire you. They’re the reason we have a Launch Party fundraiser: to make all of this art possible. So join us at 7pm on June 10th for Northern Spark’s only fundraising event of the entire year, and support Northern Spark while you get the night started with a great party!

You’ll dance with ZULUZULUU, eat some of the most artistic bites of the summer, and sip on our specialty cocktail, the Spark 75! If you are inspired now, have been in the past, or wish to be in 2017, your Launch Party tickets are waiting. Find them at

In the News

Northern Spark was recently featured on the Strong Towns podcast! Take a listen here. In the interview, Rachel Quednau chats with Sarah Peters, the Co-Director of the Northern Spark festival, to find out how the event got started, how it has engaged the Twin Cities community, and how the ideas behind Northern Spark can be replicated in other cities to encourage their communities to think creatively about place and use of space.


Northern Newsletter May 11th

Down the Green Line: A Northern Spark preview, Part 1

It’s the time of year when the sky stays bright a little later each night, reminding us of the summer season ahead. For Northern Spark staff and artists, it’s a time of projection tests, rehearsals, outreach and chocolate restoratives.

As you begin to consider your journey on the night of June 10th, here’s a linear preview of what’s to be found down the line at Northern Spark.

The Commons
Let’s begin at The Commons, the western-most edge of the festival and downtown Minneapolis’s new green space. At 8:30 pm, Mayor Hodges talks with MINN_LAB artists about ORBACLES, this year’s multi-sensory Creative City Challenge winner. Listen and wander among the lights, sounds and smells of speculative infrastructure for the futures of bird populations in a climate-changed Minnesota.

After the Opening Ceremony, stick around to play in a carnival of climate games; visit the 3rd iteration of the Night Library to outwit overlord robots; watch an interactive superhero action flick from a carbon neutral traffic jam; interact with underground tree networks; marvel at a pearlescent sculpturepaint a mural about water protectors; and take a string survey to draw your opinions on climate change in correlation with others.

We’ve just begun, but maybe you already find yourself with a desire for connection and play. Find the station for Collective Action! — Northern Spark’s festival-wide game of acting together to solve climate change. Make yourself a unique avatar on your phone; wait until you’re called up to the stage and go! Find a Collective Action! station in each festival zone (except East Bank).

And lastly, don’t forget to swing by the Fulton Beer Tent for a sip before heading on your way.

West Bank
Next stop: West Bank.  Climb the stairs from the Cedar Ave exit and choose right or left. Right takes you to the Southern Theater, where you can hone your debate skills with a sidewalk climate denier; or sit for a spell as 3600 seconds of multimedia movement are performed eight times over the course of the night, prompting the consideration of the vast effects of climate change in relationship to the minutiae of everyday life.

Choose left and travel down Cedar Ave to find pockets of interactive installations throughout the neighborhood. In the plaza in front of May Day Books, find a game arenato play a series of activities linking drought, traditional food ways and feminism. Then cross the street, remove your shoes, walk the carpet and visit a dome of light, sound, and video that challenges progressive discourses on climate change.

Wander down to the Cedar Community Plaza, where–if you arrive by 8:59 pm— you’ll hear the call to prayer, the traditional end the day of fasting during Ramadan. Take a seat at an interfaith Iftar and storytelling circle to share about your environmental ancestry. Stop off at the Northern Spark Info Tent to grab a recycled water bottle to fill at a Tap Mpls station and continue across the street to find a market of gifted experiences and a ritual / installation that calls us to reflect on the urgency of environmental genocide through the voices of immigrants and people of color.

Continue to walk and wander all the way to Currie Park to witness the intergenerational building and unbuilding of an aqal, the traditional Somali nomadic home. Weave your way back to the small park behind the Cedar Community Plaza and find a garden, tended by neighbors, growing greenery to blur the borders. Stay for awhile and drink tea with a gathering of Somali elders sharing stories of an ancient nomadic life.

East Bank
Over the mighty Mississippi, near East Bank station, sits the Weisman Art Museum, host to six projects aglow on the grass. Travel a tunnel timeline of rising temperaturesconstructed by U of M students in the Making Sense of Climate Change class; add your own image to a magic lantern carousel; re-visit the Backyard Phenology trailer that first appeared at Northern Spark 2016 to hear everyone’s stories; weave waste into an epic trash tapestry; and pause under the entrance to WAM to crowdsource some electronic sonatas that chronicle the states of our planet’s evolution from geological to technological. 

Or, if nocturnal birds of prey are more your thing, time your visit to occur in the 11 pm hour to join the meet and greet with owls from the U’s Raptor Center.

Little Africa
Get back on the train and take a load off for a while, traveling down the line into Saint Paul. Exit at Snelling Station and walk 1 block north into Little Africa where Sherburne Ave becomes an outdoor cinema, festive eatery and interactive installation hub. Check out wireless headphones and settle in to watch films about economy, ecology, and environmental justice at the inaugural Little Africa Film Fest. Express your commitment to extricating yourself from petrochemical culture; watch sculptures and paintings animate global warming; join others in a circle where water brings connection, healing and creativity; and take a personal journey towards a tree sapling chosen specifically for you.

Perhaps all this leaves you a little hungry? Fuel up! We’re only half-way through the night. Little Africa’s staple eateries Fasika Ethiopian and Ghebre’s Restaurant will be open all night for necessary nourishment along with neighborhood-related food trucks and tents.

Stay tuned for Journey Down the Green Line Part 2 in the next newsletter. Or, don’t wait for us. Plan your night by reading about all festival projects on our Art and Events page!

Donate to Northern Spark!

Words for Winter, photo by Max Haynes

Pre-festival Events and Wolf and Moose by Christopher Lutter-Gardella, Northern Spark 2016, photo by Jayme Halbritter

Northern Spark is getting closer, and so is the end of our fiscal year.  Help close the last gap in our 2017 budget with a donation in any amount — $10, $25, $50 or however generous you can afford to be.

All year long Northern delights and surprises you with art in public places throughtout the Twin Cities — from wintry poems on Nicollet Mall to this summer’s Northern Spark along the METRO Green Line. Your support is essential to making these projects happen.

Make your contribution here by the end of May, then celebrate with us on June 10th at the biggest and most exciting Northern Spark yet!


Art(ists) on the Verge 8 Exhibition Opens June 1st

Kelsey Bosch, Hyperbolic Soundscape

Art(ists) On the Verge 8 fellows, Kelsey Bosch, Jess HirschDylan RedfordFue Yang, and Sarita Zaleha will present their work at an exhibition at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery from June 1 until July 15.

Art(ists) On the Verge 8 Exhibition
June 1 through July 15, 2017
Katherine E. Nash Gallery
Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota
405 21st Avenue South

Gallery hours: 11 am to 7 pmTuesday through Saturday

Join us for an opening reception with the artists on Saturday, June 37-11pm.

public artist talk where the artists will discuss their work and their AOV experience will be held on Saturday, July 82-4pm at the Nash Gallery.

Art(ists) On the Verge is generously supported by the Jerome Foundation

Announcing the Northern Spark Launch Party specialty cocktail

Exclusive to the Northern Spark Launch Party on June 10th, the Spark 75 is a dazzler of a cocktail: Crooked Water Sun Dog Gin, Lemon, Cherry Frost Tea Syrup, Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters, and Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvée.

Try this festive twist on the classic French 75 with your Launch Party friends, at either of the ticket levels: Adapt or Sustain. Cheers to Crooked Water Spirits, Barefoot Bubbly, and Bittercube for their support!

Our toast is to you, Launch Party ticket holder, because your support is truly what makes this night come alive!

Beyond Just Breathing: NS Artist tony the scribe in His Own Words

Image courtesy of the artist

Northern’s Assistant Curator, Elle Thoni, sat down with tony the scribe to discuss his upcoming Northern Spark project, environmental injustice and the need for caffeine.

Elle: So, Tony, you’re known around the Twin Cities primarily as a rapper?

Tony: Yes, I think rapping is a really important art form and it’s one that I connect to really well. And increasingly I’ve realized that it’s such an inclusive art form as well. Hip hop is made for hybridization in a lot of ways, so you can do a lot of really interesting cross-genre, interdisciplinary stuff with it. That’s one of the reasons that I wanted to start pushing those boundaries a little bit and see what other mediums I can work in.

Elle: What enticed you to move in a public art direction?

Tony: I’ve always been fascinated by the way that physical space changes when art is made in it. Thinking about the times that I’ve performed music live and the way that a roomful of people moving feels. It feels different than sitting on the bus alone with your headphones in. And then I started thinking about performance art and rap and where they intersect. They both seek to transform physical space, right? So I wanted to figure out exactly what that looks like.

Elle: So what does that look like with your Northern Spark project?

Tony: just breathe is an installation that I’m collaborating on with Ananya Dance Theater. It is basically a project about environmental injustice in cities. Environmentalism traditionally has talked about a lot of problems like air pollution and water contamination – those sorts of things – but the lens that’s missing a lot of the time is talking about racism and the way that systemic racism functions within that, right? My experience is mostly doing political organizing work on the North side. That area has the highest asthma hospitalization rates in the entire state. It has the highest lead contamination rates. The lack of thinking about sustainability and environmental justice in where we locate all of our infrastructure has resulted in literal death over there. And the same is true, by the way, over in Saint Paul. Highway 94, which Northern Spark runs parallel to this year, is infrastructure that was constructed so that people could move from the suburbs to downtown Saint Paul without ever having to pass through black neighborhoods. That’s why Rondo, which was the most prosperous black community in MN, was destroyed to build 94 through it. The effects of that and the pollution that comes from 94 still affects the community today. So, what we’re really trying to do with just breathe is take that ongoing violence and that ongoing trauma and put it in a physical context, for people to have to interface with people of color just trying to breathe. I don’t want to give too much away – but the installation is going to involve dancers trying to fix that unjust history in a physical space.

Read more of the conversation here.

Connect with us on Social Media!

As the festival draws nearer and nearer, our social media channels have been increasingly flooded with great behind-the-scenes content to keep you in the know about all things Northern Spark!

Are you following us on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram? If not, click those links and “like” or “follow” us to get instant access to amazing content like…

Post on Twitter on May 7th, 2017 @NL_mn

French Meadow @FrenchMeadow the nation’s 1st certified organic bakery will be at the#NorthernSpark Launch Party!

Post on Facebook on May 7th, 2017 @NorthernSparkMN

Check out this awesome behind-the-scenes video with Kim Loken and her students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout gearing up for their Northern Spark 2017 project Mycorrhizae!

Post on Instagram on April 26th, 2017 

We’ve partnered with Metro Transit to commission a spectacular full-color train wrap created by artist Andrea Carlson, which can be currently seen on a METRO Green Line train all the way until June 10th! Have you caught a glimpse of it yet??

AND Metro Transit is taking care of your transportation for the Northern Spark festival! 🙌You can ride the METRO Green Line, including the Northern Spark-wrapped train, for FREE on the night of Northern Spark when you download a free pass from the Metro Transit website!

Passes are also included in the Northern Spark festival map the night of.
#NorthernSpark @metrotransitmn

We’re Hiring!

We are looking for several individuals to join our Northern Spark 2017 Production team as Production Assistants! Production Assistants work with the Production Coordinator and Producer to support all aspects of outdoor festival production. Read more on our website here, and apply by sending a resume and cover letter to

Do you have a knack for nighttime photography? We are looking for professional photographers and videographers to join our documentation team to capture images of Northern Spark all night long. Must be able to work in very low-light environments. Read more on our website about the photography or videography calls, and apply by sending an email to with an email explaining your interest and a link to your portfolio.

Volunteer With Northern Spark

Northern Spark 2015, Photo by Kory Lindstrom

With just under one month left until our most ambitious Northern Spark ever, we still very much need your help to make it happen!

Sign-up is first-come-first-served, and earlier shifts go quickly. If you are a night-owl, consider attending the festival and volunteering for one of our short late shifts. At only two hours long, they are quick but mighty additions to your Northern Spark experience!

Interested in something extra awesome? Consider our Social Media Volunteer roles – applications are due next week, so act fast!


Open Position: Northern Spark Videographer

Northern is a collaborative, interactive media-oriented, arts organization from the Twin Cities for the world. We create platforms with and for artists, audiences, and partners to experiment with and experience innovative art in the public sphere.
Northern Spark is an all­ night arts festival that lights up Minneapolis on the second Saturday of June. Now in it’s 6th year, Northern Spark will take place on Saturday, June 10, 2017. For more information, visit


Job Description: Videographer

Deadline to apply: Friday, May 19th

Send an email stating your interest and a link to your portfolio to by xx.

Festival time: 8:59pm on June 10 – 5:26am on June 11

Fee: Range dependent on experience and length of time shooting on the night of the festival


Required Meetings:

  • Wednesday, May 24, 6 – 8pm: Project Preview Night
  • TBD: Pre-festival documentation meeting


Required Skills and Equipment:

  • Experience shooting in low light conditions.
  • Experience documenting public events.
  • Experience documenting interactive artworks preferred.
  • Must have own camera with any necessary lighting.
  • Must provide own transportation. Free passes for Metro Transit’s Green Line will be provided.

Open Position: Northern Spark Photographer

Northern is a collaborative, interactive media-oriented, arts organization from the Twin Cities for the world. We create platforms with and for artists, audiences, and partners to experiment with and experience innovative art in the public sphere.


Northern Spark is an all­ night arts festival that lights up Minneapolis on the second Saturday of June. Now in it’s 6th year, Northern Spark will take place on Saturday, June 10, 2017. For more information, visit


Job Description: Photographer

Deadline to apply: Friday, May 19th

Send an email stating your interest and a link to your portfolio to by xx.

Festival time: 8:59pm on June 10 – 5:26am on June 11

FeeRange dependent on experience and length of time shooting on the night of the festival


Required Meetings:

  • Wednesday, May 24, 6 – 8pm: Project Preview Night
  • TBD: Pre-festival documentation meeting


Required Skills and Equipment:

  • Experience shooting in low light conditions.
  • Experience documenting public events.
  • Experience documenting interactive artworks preferred.
  • Must have own camera with any necessary lighting.
  • Must provide own transportation. Free passes for Metro Transit’s Green Line will be provided.

Special Volunteer Position Open!

Northern Spark – Social Media Volunteers

Reports to: Administrative Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator



One Volunteer Training Session

Event Day: June 10th; 8:30-11:30pm

Optional Commitments: Social events and happy hours, while not required, are super fun! We have several opportunities both before and after the festival to unwind, share stories, and get to know the awesome folks that make up this amazing community!


Who We Are:
Northern Spark is a free, annual, dusk-to-dawn, multidisciplinary arts festival that takes place on the second Saturday of June and draws tens of thousands of Minnesotans each year. Our 2017 festival is the culminating year of the Climate Chaos | People Rising series, which explores the interconnected, evolving, long-term consequences from climate change, while giving local and national artists a platform to help turn awareness into concrete action anchored in a realistic and hopeful map for the future.

Northern Spark 2017 is all about exploring the creativity and culture of public spaces in neighborhoods along the Green Line. Northern Spark will still be happening downtown (both of them!) but you’ll find equal excitement of this year’s festival in these neighborhoods!


Who You Are:

Enthusiastic – full of energy and excitement, you like being in the center of it all!

Committed – to the awesome intersections of art, public spaces, and technology.

Participatory – you’ll try anything once and encourage others to do the same!

Reliable – on time, ready to help!

Communicative – you enjoy keeping everyone in the loop, and are never without your phone!
Social – you have all the social media accounts and are engaged with all of them!


What You Do:

Working with the Administrative Coordinator, walk through your assigned zone looking for social media moments to capture.
Use specific hashtags to post these to your Social Media accounts so they can be utilized and shared by the rest of the Social Media team.
Capture Point of View video of how it looks to experience Northern Spark.

Ready to Apply:

Send your Social Media handles, along with a short paragraph sharing your favorite public art event and why you’d be a great Social Media Volunteer, to by Friday, May 19th.

Open Positions: Northern Spark Production Staff

We are looking for several individuals for the Northern Spark 2017 Production team! 

Northern Spark is a free all-night art festival exploring the effects of climate change through participatory projects happening in neighborhoods along Metro Transit’s Green Line.

From sunset on June 10 to sunrise on June 11, Northern Spark will illuminate and draw audiences to neighborhoods and public spaces all along the METRO Green Line, connecting Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  Experience the largest Northern Spark yet, with nearly 70 art projects organized around neighborhood nodes: Cedar Riverside/West Bank, Weisman Art Museum/East Bank,Little Africa/Snelling Ave, Rondo/Lexington Ave, and Little Mekong/ Western Ave. In downtown Minneapolis the festival moves from its usual river location to The Commons, the new green space at Portland and 5th, and culminates in Saint Paul at Union Depot, the Green Line terminus in Lowertown.


Available roles listed below. Submit cover letter and resume to with “Production Assistant” in the subject line. Deadline to apply: May 20th, 2017.


Production Department– Job Descriptions


Production Assistants 

We are looking for Production Assistants to support all aspects outdoor art festival production. The team will count on you for various crucial tasks, from organizing supplies to distributing signage to setting up tents.  Production Assistant (referred to as “pa’s”) assists the production team and zone leads with setup, strike and festival operations. A PA also assists in the production office/back of house area with general tasks as needed.

  • Assist Production Coordinator and Producers with general set-up and strike duties in all festival zones
  • Assist Production Coordinator with loading and unloading production vehicles and organizing supplies, both at storage areas and onsite.
  • Make sure that appropriate safety measures are taken into account at every step of the process
  • Advocate safety practices to the rest of the staff
  • Act as a runner distributing messages or items within crew and production team
  • Perform administrative work (answering phones, paperwork etc.)
  • Undertake errands as assigned

High energy and commitment are essential. Need individual who can multi-task, solve problems and do things proactively. The goal is to ensure production gets on smoothly and problem-free.


Computer savvy
Excellent organizational and multi-tasking ability
Resourcefulness and problem-solving
A team player with great communication skills
Physical strength and stamina
A valid driver’s license

Ability to drive a rental van (age 25 or older)
Relevant training (e.g. production courses or experience) will be an advantage

Lift 40lbs

Read a site plan

Follow Instructions

Show up on time

Have a personal cell phone that can maintain a charge for 8-10 hours



June 10 – Day-of set-up (up to 12 hours) – $20/hour stipend

June 11 – Festival Strike (up to12 hours) – $20/hour stipend


Northern Newsletter – April 13th

Same festival, new title

The spirit of Northern Spark 2017 lies in the idea of collective action; of everyday tasks, intentions, big and small movements we can do together to make the change we need to see for a healthier environment. When we launched this theme in 2016, we conceptualized a movement from chaos to rising, in part to mirror the rising of temperatures and sea levels but also the necessity of action – of people rising. Inspired by the response of all of our presenting partners and festival artists, and to more accurately tell this story, we’re shifting the festival’s title this year to Climate Chaos | People Rising. Join us on June 10th — or before — to get involved and rise together!

People Rising website launch
It’s not too early to start planning your night! As the weather warms, log onto to be inspired by all the projects being presented at this year’s festival. Music, dance, poetry, installation and more await you on June 10 — take a peek!

Get involved in Northern Spark 2017 — starting now!
You don’t have to be an artist, activist or a scientist to have an active role in the conversation on climate change happening at Northern Spark 2017. You can get involved by simply participating in the festival in one of these ways:

– Support Northern Spark! The biggest festival yet has the biggest budget yet — with a $10,000 gap to close before the end of May. Your contribution will directly fund projects being created right now for Northern Spark — supporting collaborations with cultural communities along Metro Transit’s Green Line, purchasing supplies and paying artist stipends for nearly 70 artist projects, and fueling the people-power necessary to illuminate the METRO Green Line with Northern Spark’s energy and inspiration on June 10Contribute today!

– Volunteer at Northern Spark! Sign up before April 20th to get Early Volunteer perks you don’t want to miss! Shifts are a short two to three hours, which means that you don’t have to miss out on the festival to help make it happen. You can even sign upfor matching shifts with friends! Sign up to volunteer here.

– Attend Northern Spark! Let the projects you experience and people you meet during the night open you up to new inspiration and fuel your own creative climate actions. Festival maps come out in late May— like Northern on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to find out when + where you can pick up yours.

AAA: Climate Trivia Night

How much have sea levels risen in the past 100 years?

What is the most potent greenhouse gas?

Which neighborhoods in the Twin Cities are most affected by air pollution?

Come to Climate Trivia Night, the last Anthropocene Awareness Association meeting before Northern Spark and show off your climate change knowledge. Assemble a team or play on your own! Join AAA for the mere cost of $10 and sip a free Fulton Brew while you battle it out for prizes and glory.

Tuesday May 9th, 7:00pm
Fulton Taproom
414 6th Ave N, Minneapolis 55401
Facebook event

Buy your ticket for the Northern Spark Launch Party!

Northern Spark Launch Party 2015. Photo: Nathan Santos

Join us this year at the Northern Spark 2017 Launch Party and help us kick off the night! Saturday, June 10th7:00-9:00pm.The Launch Party has two primary ticket options this year. That means you can choose how you support Northern Spark:

The Adapt Ticket – $50
When you buy this ticket, you’ll enjoy the Launch Party from 7-9 p.m with drinks included from Fulton Brewery, Barefoot Bubbly, and an exclusive Northern Spark cocktail using Crooked Water Spirits, served by the bartenders of Barbette. Keep your eyes peeled for the special cocktail announcement, coming soon.

The Sustain Ticket – $100
When you buy this ticket, you’ll also enjoy the Launch Party from 7-9 p.m., all the drinks mentioned above, plus artistic bites from local restaurants Mercy, Cafe Alma, Eastside, Red Stag Supperclub, French Meadow, Handsome Hog, and two more yet to be revealed. This is the ticket you need if you are a foodie!

No matter which ticket you select, you’ll get an energizing concert by ZULUZULUU to start your night off right. The Launch Party is happening in the historic Thresher Square building downtown Minneapolis. We can’t wait to see you there!

Why wait? Head to Eventbrite to purchase your tickets, and check out the additional student ticket option, options for kids, and t-shirts.

Artist Workshops and Opportunities

Rachel Breen and Koby Jeschkeit-Hagen, Seed-Saving Bingo, Northern Spark 2016. Photo: Jayme Halbritter.

Get involved with Northern Spark festival artists as they prepare their festival projects!

Thursday, April 20th, 2017
Find out how to get involved with iNMiGRATiON by Wavelets Creative in partnership with Take Action MN. Read more about iNMiGRATiON here.

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017
Make paper out of recycled festival guidebooks from previous years with Aki Shibata. Read more about Aki Shibata’s Dear Earth project here.

Deadline: Thursday, April 27th, 2017
Share gifts of light and gifts from the earth on the West Bank during Northern Spark 2017. Vendors/artists can request up to a $500 stipend for supplies and participation. Read more about the gifts of light, gifts from the earth project here.

Work With Us!

Northern has some temporary, contract positions open to help make festival night a success.

Northern Spark Press Relations Coordinator: Help us tell the story of Climate Chaos | People Rising by coordinating press.  Find the job description here.
Deadline to apply: Wed, April 26, 2017.

Volunteer Lead: A Night-of stipend position that helps welcome and manage Volunteers in festival neighborhoods. Learn more here.
Deadline to apply: Fri, April 21, 2017.


Put yourself on the map

Get your message out to tens of thousands of festival goers – advertise on the 2017 Northern Spark festival map. Email for specs.
Deadline to submit: Wed, April 19, 2017.

Projects We Like

Congratulations to Pramila Vasudevan for winning the 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship in Choreography! Pramilia is one of the 173 fellows selected out of almost 3,000 applicants. Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. We are so excited for Pramila, who has been a long time Northern Spark artist and was also an Art(ists) on the Verge fellow in our inaugural year of the program!

One more day for the #catchatrainNS Photo Contest!

The contest deadline has been extended to Friday, April 14th – which means you have one day left to submit your capture of the train!

The Northern Spark Metro Transit light-rail train is currently speeding along the Green Line between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Capture your best photo of Andrea Carlson’s stunning train wrap design, and post it to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with the hashtag #catchatrainNS to win two tickets to the Northern Spark Launch Party!

Want to see how your submission might measure up? Check out the current photographs with the hashtag #catchatrainNS here and make sure to submit your photo before midnight on April 14th!

The #catchatrainNS Photo Contest will be juried by the new curator of Photography and New Media at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Yasufumi Nakamori. The winning photo will be featured on our social media, in our newsletter, and on our website!

*By submitting your photo to the Catch-A-Train Photo Contest, you give permission to Northern to share and reproduce your photo on any of its media platforms for non-commercial purposes.

Open Position: Volunteer Lead

Northern Spark – Volunteer Lead


Reports to: Volunteer Coordinator

Location: West Bank (Somali Language Required)


May 20th – Volunteer Lead Training
Late May – Doorknocking Support

June 10th – Event Day (6pm -6am)

Optional Commitments: While not required, we have several opportunities before and after the festival to unwind, share stories, and get to know those in this amazing community!

Who We Are:
Northern Spark is a free, annual, dusk-to-dawn, multidisciplinary arts festival that takes place on the second Saturday of June and draws tens of thousands of Minnesotans each year. Our 2017 festival is the culminating year of the Climate Chaos | People Rising series, which explores the interconnected, evolving, long-term consequences from climate change, while giving local and national artists a platform to help turn awareness into concrete action anchored in a realistic and hopeful map for the future.

Northern Spark 2017 is all about exploring the creativity and culture of public spaces in neighborhoods along the Green Line. Northern Spark will still be happening downtown (both of them!) but you’ll find equal excitement of this year’s festival in these neighborhoods!

Who You Are:

Enthusiastic – full of energy and excitement to keep you and your team going all night!

Problem solver  – quick on your feet, you like being in the center of it all!

Committed – to the awesome intersections of art, public spaces, and technology.

Leader – leading by example, delegating, and motivating others through positive interactions.

Flexible – able to roll with the punches while maintaining a positive attitude.

Participatory – you’ll try anything once and encourage others to do the same!

Reliable – you meet your deadlines, keep people on task, and are always on time.

Communicative – you keep everyone in the loop, and vocalize what you need to be successful.

What We Do Together:

Provide an awesome experience for our volunteers and festival participants, educate about the festival, help guide people to and encourage participation with exhibits, the festival and the community.

What You Do:

  • Check in and delegate assigned roles and tasks to your team of volunteers
  • Execute three specific attendance counts during the event
  • Communicate effectively with your team and Northern Spark staff to resolve or escalate any emerging tasks, needs, or issues.
  • Help keep volunteers on task, engaged and informed throughout the night
  • Create and maintain positive morale within your team, making sure your team takes breaks, eats, and feels supported throughout the night.
  • Encourage engagement within your Neighborhood Zone, and the festival as a whole 
  • Utilize your team’s strengths to provide engaging experiences to our attendees, neighborhood residents, sponsors and vendors.
  • Respond to and address changing needs from the Volunteer Coordinator and Production team.


Smartphone w/ data plan necessary for festival night-of communications. 

How To Apply:

Please send an email to with a paragraph about you, your interest in the Volunteer Lead position, and one of your favorite experiences with public art. Please type “West Bank” in the Subject Line of the email. Applications due by April 21st, 2017!

Open Position: Press Relations Coordinator

Northern Spark is a free all-night art festival exploring the effects of climate change through art projects happening in neighborhoods along Metro Transit’s Green Line.  

Now in it’s 7th year, Northern Spark will take place from sunset on Saturday, June 10, until sunrise on Sunday, June 11, 2017. For more information, visit


Job Description: Press Relations Coordinator

Northern seeks a publicist to promote the Northern Spark festival to local and national media and manage press requests for images and interviews with festival staff and artists.

Deadline to apply:

Send resume and cover letter to by April 26, 2017.

Stipend: $2,500

Duration: May through June 30, 2017

Reports to: NS Co-Director


Tasks include:

  • Draft, send and follow up on monthly festival press releases or equivalent communications (2: May, June)
  • Pitch and coordinate press interviews with festival staff and artists (May/June)
  • Coordinate all press contacts and respond to media requests
  • Coordinate press coverage with Partners’ PR departments as necessary
  • Invite press contacts to and attend Festival Media Preview on May 24, 6-8 pm
  • Attend bi-monthly Communications Team meeting  
  • Conduct press check-in and attend to press needs day-of and night-of festival
  • Maintain media run sheet, tagged w/ relevant sponsor mentions and compile as final report



Excellent written and timely communications skills. Experience working with local arts and non-arts press. Cultural competency in pitching and speaking about issues related to art and environmental justice and communities of color.


Required equipment:

Must have own computer and internet access.

Northern Newsletter – March 16th

AAA: Refugees, Migration, and Climate Change

KVDP, Natural disasters caused by climate change [modified], image licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Thursday, March 23, 7 pm
Fulton Brewery, 414 N 6th Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Free Fulton brew with $10 AAA membership!

Global climate change causes dramatic effects on the migration of living things — plant, animal, and insect alike. The effect on many human communities can be hugely destructive. Extreme weather events such as floods and years-long droughts become intertwined with political instability, resulting in the forced mass movement people away from their homelands.

At this edition of the Anthropocene Awareness Association we hear from Northern Spark artists whose projects address the connections between climate and refugees through performative installations. They are joined in conversation by a local foreign policy affairs consultant who will provide contextual data on climate-based mass migrations globally.

AAA: Creative Protest Workshop

Image from

Saturday, April 11 – 5 pm, social hour w/ Fulton beer to follow
Soap Factory, 514 2nd Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
Sponsored by Fulton

What do we want?

Better protest art!

When we we want it?


As artists and activists, it’s time to up our game as we take to the streets to build the climate-just world we want and everyone needs. With Northern Spark 2017 partner and climate activists, spend an afternoon learning techniques to maximize your visual presence in public space. From gigantic poster printing to LED signage lights to the usage of a simple button maker, this workshop is designed to give an introduction to several different methods of making a visual impact. All supplies provided, but you’re welcome to bring your own.

AAA: Robin Wall Kimmerer

Top image: Manfred Morgner, Moos, image licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Bottom image: Robin Wall Kimmerer, courtesy of the author.

This April, join us for our 7th installment of the Anthropocene Awareness Association series, featuring Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Friday, April 7, 7 pm
Ralph Rapson Hall Auditorium, 89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
Free, but reservations required on EventBrite.
Presented in partnership with Milkweed Editions and Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota.

Mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Robin Wall Kimmerer brings an acute care to her reflections on our relationships with the natural world. Writing in prose that breezes easily across scientific thinking, cultural history and indigenous ways-of-knowing, she forwards the belief that all kinds of life hold intelligence. Through stories about plants ranging from moss to strawberries to pecan trees, she demonstrates how humans can learn to listen better to what the natural world communicates. This kind of phenological attention, she urges, is necessary to repair inequitable relationships between human life and the rest of the earth.

Wall Kimmerer is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants, published by Milkweed Editions and Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, which was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding natural writing. She lives in Fabius, New York where she is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.

AAA: Anthropocene Awareness Association is a sometimes club, sometimes support group, always happy hour to discuss issues related to the core ideas of the Northern Spark festival’s year-long theme: Climate Chaos | Climate Rising.

Northern Spark 2017 is all about Neighborhoods!

Past Northern Spark audiences have wandered the late-night galleries of beloved institutions like the Walker Art Center, Mia, and MCAD—but Northern Spark 2017 is all about exploring the creativity and culture of public spaces in neighborhoods along the Metro Transit Green Line. Northern Spark will still be happening downtown (both of them!) but you’ll find equal excitement of this year’s festival in these neighborhoods:

Cedar Riverside Neighborhood (West Bank)
The #WestBank light-rail stop serves the Cedar Riverside or West Bank Neighborhood. The West Bank is a diverse community on the edge of downtown Minneapolis that’s home to many Muslim residents and students from the neighborhood’s various schools, colleges and universities. Bordered by the Mississippi River, I-94, and I-35W and with access to both the METRO Green and Blue Line light-rail, the district features bars, theaters, restaurants, parks, residential buildings, community centers and a variety of nonprofits. The West Bank Business Association (WBBA) is Northern Spark’s neighborhood partner, with participation from other organizations.

Little Africa District (Snelling Ave) 
Snelling Avenue is the stop for the Little Africa Business and Cultural District of Minnesota (#LittleAfricaMN), a corridor that extends north from University and Snelling to Minnehaha Avenue. Little Africa includes a variety of African-owned businesses such as groceries, restaurants, cafes and more. The district celebrates African cultures through public arts events, murals, and the annual summertime Little Africa festival (on August 19th in 2017). There are additional Little Africa businesses in the surrounding parts of Saint Paul, and two more nodes as well (Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park/Brooklyn Center). Northern Spark’s neighborhood partner is African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS), with participation from other organizations. Art projects in this festival zone will touch on themes including the experience of African immigrants and people of African heritage through dance, film and interactive projects.

Rondo Neighborhood (Lexington Pkwy)  
The historic #Rondo Neighborhood, served in part by the Lexington Avenue light-rail stop, is part of the Summit/University area of Saint Paul. Home to a large and thriving African-American community of homeowners, business leaders, and culture-makers that centered around Rondo Avenue in the 1930s, the neighborhood was largely destroyed by construction of I-94 in the 1960s. Today the spirit of Rondo is carried forward through ​the Rondo Arts, Cultural, & Business Heritage District (RACBHD), ​Roots of Rondo Black Artists Rising and Black Excellence programs, Rondo Days and ​Selby ​Jazz Festival celebrations, the Rondo Commemorative Plaza​ ​opening in July 2017​, ​and the creation of the first Saint Paul ​African American Historical Cultural Context Study.

Northern Spark art projects in Rondo will engage the rich history of Black creativity in the neighborhood and make connections to climate justice through a variety of art forms. Northern Spark’s neighborhood partner is the Aurora St. Anthony ​Neighborhood ​Community Development Corporation, with participation from the High School for Recording Arts.

Little Mekong District (Western Ave) 
 is the Asian business and cultural district in Saint Paul served by the Western Avenue light-rail stop. 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 neighborhood partner is Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA), known for the Little Mekong Night Market, an annual event that will take place on the same night as Northern Spark this year.

The Little Mekong Night Market is the first and only Southeast Asian Night Market in the Twin Cities featuring local food, art and performances that run until midnight. Check out the festival in this video: Little Mekong Night Market 2015.

This year, the Little Mekong Night Market has a thematic focus on water, and Northern Spark projects will carry this theme. 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 Southeast Asian communities of struggle and war.

Weisman Art Museum (East Bank)  
Activities on the East Bank include programming by various U of M institutions, including #WeismanArtMuseum, the Raptor Center and a Grand Challenges curriculum class. Neighboring organizations the Textile Center and the Weavers Guild of Minnesota will also present projects in this festival zone.

The Commons (US Bank Stadium) 
In downtown Minneapolis, Northern Spark moves from The Mill District and the Minneapolis Convention Center to #TheCommons, a new downtown gathering location on the green space at Portland and 5th, near the Armory. MINN_LAB’s winning Creative City Challenge project, Orbacles, will be installed at The Commons and debut at Northern Spark 2017.

Lowertown (Union Depot) 
Northern Spark returns to Union Depot and public spaces throughout #Lowertown, Saint Paul’s downtown neighborhood and historic home of the arts. Formerly Minnesota’s largest shipping and manufacturing district, Lowertown is a vibrant neighborhood that lies on the downtown edge of Saint Paul, within footsteps of the Mississippi River. Its numerous landmark sites include the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market, CHS Field and Union Depot. Aesthetically, it’s notable for its warehouse architecture, which evokes the neighborhood’s long & storied urban history. Lowertown is situated on Indigenous Dakota land. The night of the festival, we will animate public spaces within a 1 block radius of the Union Depot light-rail station, including the front lawn of the Depot itself. Partner venues in Lowertown include TPT, The M, Studio Z, and more.

What are the members of our Program Council excited for?

Our Program Council, made up of artists from our core neighborhoods (Little Mekong, Little Africa, Cedar Riverside, and Rondo), is extremely excited for the upcoming festival. Adan Dirie mentions, “I am looking forward to seeing how the idea of ‘Home’ and climate chaos intersect considering Ifrah [Mansour] and a few other artists’ pieces.” Aki Shibata, who will also be an artist in Little Mekong says that she is “looking forward to seeing the power of art to make us rethink about our Mother Earth.” Northern Spark and the Program Council worked together to select the pieces of art for each of the core neighborhoods. As mentioned by Filsan Ibrahim, “I can’t wait to see the community of art we have helped to create.”

Win Two Tickets to the Northern Spark Launch Party with #catchatrainNS

Water is Life train wrap design by artist Andrea Carlson, photo courtesy of Metro Transit

The Northern Spark Metro Transit light-rail train is currently speeding along the METRO Green Line between Minneapolis and Saint Paul! Post your best photo of Andrea Carlson’s stunning train wrap design to social media by March 31st with the hashtag #catchatrainNS to win two tickets to the Northern Spark Launch Party! The Catch-A-Train Photo Contest will be juried by the new curator of Photography and New Media at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Yasufumi Nakamori. The winning photo will be featured on our social media, in our newsletter, and on our website!

This year’s Launch Party is not one to be missed. Featuring special musical guests ZULUZULUU, catered food by eight local restaurants, and complimentary beer from Fulton Brewing and cocktails by Crooked Water Spirits, your ears and your tastebuds will be signing in celebration as we kick off the night of Northern Spark 2017.

And–during the Northern Spark festival, take the METRO Green Line for free to get you to and from the Northern Spark neighborhoods all night long.

*By submitting your photo to the Catch-A-Train Photo Contest, you give permission to Northern to share and reproduce your photo on any of its media platforms for non-commercial purposes.



Solar Artists Workshop

Sunday, March 26th 12 – 4 pm
Soap Factory, 514 2nd Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
Free, but registration required on Eventbrite.

Just a few spots left for the Solar Artists Workshop happening at the Soap Factory on March 26th!

Can your art project be solar powered?

Solar power can give you greater mobility within urban and rural landscapes, providing you with the facility to explore new aesthetic spaces for Placemaking, temporary or mobile installations, and community outreach. A solar powered art project not only reduces your carbon footprint, it encourages dialog about art, energy consumption, and Climate Change within the community.

In this hands-on workshop you will:

– Learn how to read a multimeter

– Experience the variables of solar power by going on a solar scavenger hunt

– Power small electronics with photovoltaics

– Learn how to calculate loads using Ohm’s law

The Solar Artists Workshop is FREE. Supported by a grant from the Institute on the Environment, the workshop will focus on photovoltaics (solar panels), with brief examples of other forms such as solar thermal, solar cooking, and passive solar. All disciplines, age 18+, all experience levels, welcomed and encouraged. Lunch will be provided. Register here.

Communicating About Climate Change

Photo by Sarah Peters

Festival Projects Manager Ady Olson and Co-Director Sarah Peters just returned from three days in the north woods where they attended the Institute for Non-formal Climate Change Education. Convened by Northern Spark partner Climate Generation, this gathering brought together people who work in wide-ranging fields from zoos to nature centers, to build their skills in talking with the public about climate change. They learned how to describe the carbon cycle in 60 seconds or less and learned communications models for connecting the fundamentals of global warming to non-science issues. And like any good retreat, each long day of workshops included a bit of time to walk in the woods. Thanks to Climate Gen for a thorough and inspiring get-away!