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.