The 2019-2020 Program Council is a group of independent artists working with Northern Lights.mn to create a Strategic Framework for Community Engagement for future Northern Spark festivals.
Together we are reviewing past models used to organize different elements of Northern Spark, while grappling deeply with questions about racial equity, place, community engagement and partnership. This year’s work includes an additional focus on relationship building in Saint Paul.
The 2019-2020 Strategy Program Council is made possible by a Saint Paul Cultural STAR Capacity Building grant.
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. Read more about the history of the NLPC here.
Program Council Members
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
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 Najed Stages fellow whose play, “Hydro’s Phobia” will premiere at Pillsbury House Theatre in January, 2020.
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.
SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE is an MC, Producer, Spoken Word Poet, and Social Justice Educator. His work explores identity, culture, social justice, mythology, science fiction, spirituality, and the paranormal. Find SEE MORE in a cypher or a seance, pushing conversations about equity in a boardroom, singing for strangers in a living room, or sharing culture, tradition, and craft in a classroom. Learn more about SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE here: www.seemoreperspective.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 of 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
Donald Thomas Jr. is a graphic designer with a focus on community/nature-centered consulting, logo/identity design, illustration, woven yarn/fabric installations, and mural painting. Thomas is a full-time freelance artist, working for the Coalition for Battered Women on the Real Love is Campaign, Lionsgate Academy, and as an Art Director for a Northern Lights Aquanesia project. Thomas is part of Million Artist Movement, a black/collective liberation arts organization that creates art installations for social justice organizations and their communities. Learn more about Thomas here: www.donaldthomasdesign.com