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.