The first Program Council came into existence in 2016 to plan for the 2017 Northern Spark festival along the Green Line bridging Minneapolis and St. Paul. They were tasks with connecting to artists and communities of color in neighborhoods where the festival took place that year.
The 2nd Council (2018-2019) had expanded agency, and together they created 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. This living document, Relationships & Reciprocity: A Guide to Making Northern Spark, is available here.
The 2021 Council accepted the challenge of designing, jurying and curating a hybrid Northern Spark festival in a year of uncertainties. A true work of Alchemy, the 2021 festival took place online, in-person and in the mail over 3 weekends and 2 weeks in June 2021.
Artist Council 2022 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.
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 loved ones. Her website: hclouart.com
Dameun Strange is a sound artist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer whose works are focused on stories of the African diaspora, often exploring afro surrealist and afro-futurist themes. He currently lives in the Frogtown Community of Saint Paul, MN with his wife, Corina, and their son, Ezra. Dameun Strange social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
May Lee-Yang (she/her) is a writer, performance artist, and teacher who often uses pop culture and humor to interrogate race, gender, and identity. Her theater-based works include The Korean Drama Addict’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity and Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman. She has been featured on CNN’s United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell and spoken at TEDx Minneapolis. Her work has been supported by grants from the Playwright Center McKnight Fellowship, the Bush Leadership Fellowship, the Jerome Foundation, the National Performance Network, the MN State Arts Board, The Loft Literary Center, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. In 2016, she received an Ordway Sally Award for Arts Access. She is a founding member of F.A.W.K. (Funny Asian Women Kollective), a group that uses comedy to combat the invisibility and dehumanization of Asian women’s stories. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota. Connect with May via social media: Twitter (@mayleeyang), Instagram (@mayleeyang) and her Facebook. You can find her work samples here: www.lazyhmongwoman.com
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.
Artist Council Manager – Valerie Oliveiro is a queer transdisciplinary artist and activist in the performance field based in the Twin Cities and born in Singapore. While she currently engages movement has her primary motor for expression, she also presents drawing, writing, photography, video, environmental design and mixed media installation as simultaneously complicit, complexly relational proposals. Her work has been presented at Walker Art Center, Red Eye Theater, Hair+Nails Gallery and Bryant Lake Bowl. Currently, she is one of 7 Co-Artistic Directors at Red Eye Theater and co-runs a small performance incubator MOVO SPACE. She is also proud to be involved in the work of the MN Artist Coalition.
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.
Image description: Artist Council left to right, top to bottom in the image: Ricardo Beaird, Heather C. Lou, Damuen Strange, May Lee-Yang, Hawona Sullivan Janzen, Valerie Oliveiro, and Courtney Cochran.
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 2022 Artist Council is made possible by a grant from the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation.