The 2021 Artist Council (formerly known as the Program Council) is a group of independent artists working with Northern Lights.mn to create and curate a program plan for Northern Spark 2021.
Plans for Northern Spark 2021 are informed by many overlapping realities of our time: an ongoing global pandemic, ongoing racism and disenfranchisement of many communities of color, and overall reduced arts funding related to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite these challenges, this group along with Northern Lights.mn staff, have created a dynamic theme and program plan for Northern Spark 2021.
Artist Council 2021 Members
Ricardo Beaird is a Twin Cities-based theatre practitioner and artist educator originally from Nashville, TN. His work is informed by the pursuit of healing through storytelling, the unfinished business of ghosts, and Beyoncé. In addition to performing on the stages of Pangea World Theater, Park Square Theater, Red Eye Theater, and Ten Thousand Things Theater, Ricardo recently directed a production of Euripedes’ Medea, reimagined for Zoom. As a playwright, he has also seen a number of his plays presented including Father Darling (an examination of queer sexuality and paternity) with Ambiance Theatre, SPOOK (a devised ritual highlighting the gifts and curses of black ancestry created in partnership with Suzanne Cross) with The Umbrella Collective, and Countdown (a dance party at the end of the world that explores weaponized nostalgia and collective anxiety, created with Megan Burns) through Red Eye Theatre’s New Works 4 Weeks Festival.
Courtney Cochran is a Native American (Ojibwe) artist, filmmaker and community organizer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (2019), where she majored in filmmaking with a Teaching Artist minor. As an artist she derives her inspiration from her Ojibwe heritage, contemporary Native American experience, and healing and social justice causes. Courtney’s approach to documentary filmmaking comes from a decolonized lens where she abandons individualized directorial power and the camera as an authoring mechanism. She is passionate about collective power and knowledge and making this medium accessible especially for the future storytellers.
Outside of her film practice, she incorporates multimedia elements in her work such as beadwork, porcupine quills, paint, textiles, analog film, and photographs. Courtney has taught Native American beading, intro to filmmaking, and screen printing workshops at community events and organizations within the twin cities and including workshops at the Minneapolis Museum of American Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her work has been featured on MN Original, Powwows.com, Restoring the Circle Magazine, and Talktainment Radio. Connect with Courtney via inquiries@courtneyacochran and Instagram @courtney.a.cochran
May Lee-Yang (she/her) is a playwright, poet, prose writer, and performance artist. A recipient of the 2018-2019 Playwright Center McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting, she has been hailed by Twin Cities Metro Magazine as “on her way to becoming one of the most powerful and colorful voices in local theater.” Her theater-based works, which often explore the lives of Hmong women and living in a bicultural world, have been presented at Theater Mu, the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT), Illusion Theater, Intermedia Arts, Out North Theater, the National Asian American Theater Festival, the MN Fringe Festival and others. Her works include The Korean Drama Addict’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity, Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman and Ten Reasons Why I’d Be a Bad Porn Star. She has received grants from the Bush Leadership Fellowship, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the National Performance Network, the Midwestern Voices and Visions Residency Award, the Playwrights’ Center, the Loft Literary Center, and the Ordway Sally Award for Arts Access. She is a co-founder of F.A.W.K. (Funny Asian Women Kollective), a group that uses comedy to combat micro-aggressions. Connect with May @mayleeyang.
Heather C. Lou, M.Ed. (she/her/hers) is an angry gemini earth dragon, multiracial, asian, queer, cisgender, disabled, survivor/surviving, depressed, and anxious womxn of color artist based in st. paul, minnesota. her art is a form of healing, transformation, and liberation, rooted in womxnism and gender equity through a racialized borderland lens. in her spare time, heather loves ogling at and snuggling with sprout and loon (her dogs), gardening, birdwatching, eating pie, playing her ukulele, and spending time with her loving partner. hclouart.com
Mary Anne Quiroz is the co-Founder and co-Director of Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center. She is an active community organizer and part of the Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli- a Mexica Aztec dance troupe. Learn more about Mary Anne here: www.indigenous-roots.org
Aki Shibata received her BFA in Photography from the College of Visual Arts. She produces work that examines her body and mind in public and gallery spaces. Shibata has shown at Rochester Art Center, Northern Spark 2017, and was a chosen finalist for City of Minneapolis Creative City Challenge 2018. Connect with Aki Shibata @Chibattabread
Hawona Sullivan Janzen is a St. Paul based curator and multidisciplinary artist who believes that art is the only thing that can save us from ourselves. She is the curator for the University of Minnesota’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research & Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) Gallery, co-founder of Witness Writing, a free North Minneapolis based creative writing program, and the chair of Literary Witnesses, a 20 year old poetry reading series of Plymouth Congregational Church. Her writing has been featured on National Public Radio, in publications by Sister Black Press, Coffee House Press and developed into a jazz opera at the former Soap Factory Gallery in Minneapolis. She recently completed work on “The Rondo Family Reunion: a Public Art Lawn Sign project featuring photographs and poetry illuminating the people of Saint Paul’s Rondo Community for the 2019 Northern Spark and is currently a McKnight Foundation Naked Stages fellow whose play, “Hydro’s Phobia” premiered at Pillsbury House Theatre in January, 2020.
The first Program Council came into existence in 2016 to plan for the 2017 Northern Spark festival on the Green Line. The second Program Council (2018-2019) wove together the festival theme and refined, promoted and juried the open call for artists for Northern Spark 2019. The 3rd Council, subsequently renamed the Artist Council, met in 2019 and 2020 to draft a strategic framework for Northern Spark during the festival’s hiatus year in 2020. That document, Relationships & Reciprocity: A Guide to Making Northern Spark, is available here.
Read more about each Council year here.
The 2021 Artist Council is made possible by a grant from the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation.