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!