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NEWS: The Return of Northern Spark

Then Northern Spark art festival – an all-night, in-person, summer event in the Twin Cities – returns on Saturday, June 11. This year’s festival explores the theme “What the World Needs Now”.

This incarnation of Northern Spark will take place along University Avenue and downtown in St. Paul, MN on Saturday, June 11, 2022 from 9 pm–2 am. Its closing event, entitled ingiw mekwendamowaad ziibi: the ones who remember the river, will follow from 2–5:30 am on Raspberry Island in downtown St. Paul (along the Mississippi River).

Northern Spark returns to the Rondo, Frogtown and Little Mekong neighborhoods near University Avenue and downtown in St. Paul, as well as the Mississippi River to shine a spotlight on the beauty and richness of these communities. Art projects will take many forms, including performance, hands-on and participatory art-making, puppetry, and sound and sculpture installation, all responding to the theme. For example, this year’s program invites festival goers to slow down, sink in, and engage one-on-one in a more intimate way than previous Northern Spark festivals.

The festival also includes art projects at Victoria Theater Arts Center, Springboard for the Arts, Rondo Community Library, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art, building upon ongoing partnerships with these organizations.

2022 Artists & Projects

Alia Jeraj
Mangoes are Memories
9 pm-2 am: Springboard for the Arts

Using mangoes to connect the past and future, Mangos Are Memories asks: What memories do you come from? What memories do you want to pass on? Audiences are invited to share their memories with the mango tree — write them down, or speak them into a recorded soundscape.

By using traditional and contemporary saris, the artist welcomes her own ancestors into the space, and creates an environment for audiences to welcome theirs. The accumulation of memories will offer reflection on where we come from and what we want to leave behind, both as individuals and as communities. Learn more.

Eva Adderley
With Dan DeMarco and Thomas Boguszewski
Drive-in Movie Extravaganza
9 pm-2 am: Victoria Theater Arts Center

The nostalgic magic of enjoying a drive-in movie on a warm night has never been more needed than it is now. The Drive-In Movie Extravaganza is an artistic spin on a classic summer treat, featuring cardboard art cars parked in front of a shadow puppet screen. Festival-goers may choose to participate by sitting in one of our whimsical cars and watching the shows, or by becoming the show themselves! Learn more.

Felicia Cooper, Kallie Melvin & Alex Young
The Official Bureau of Lost Things
9 pm-2 am: Springboard for the Arts

Join The Bureau’s one-night-only Open House for a chance to peruse years of archived loss and submit your own. Lost Things will be projected through live, improvised shadow puppets as they enter our database, and The Bureau’s guests will have the opportunity to bid them farewell in whatever ways they see fit. Gather to bid farewells, good riddances, and hearty see-you-nevers. Learn more.

Pang Foua Xiong, Mai Vang, Suzanne Thao & Sandy Lo
Community | Joy & Friendship
9 pm-2 am: Springboard for the Arts

An interactive exhibition and journey strengthening relationships to ourselves and each other in community, this project is rooted in centuries-old Hmong embroidery practice of Paj Ntaub (“pan-dow”): vivid needlework incorporating symbolic images/codes, preserving stories – evoking family, nature (thus “flower cloth”), love, perseverance, or folklore. Learn more.

Frogtown Neighborhood Association, Tia Williams
Claiming Our Land
9 pm-2 am: Parking lot across from Springboard for the Arts

Frogtown Neighborhood Association is using community-driven, arts-based lot activation strategies as the core component of its Development Without Displacement campaign, fighting the forces of gentrification in Frogtown and Rondo. As part of Northern Spark, Frogtown Neighborhood Association will work with local artists to develop and perform a down-home, grassroots Theatre of the Oppressed-like performance around the politics of displacement. Learn more.

St. Paul Public Library
Library After Dark
9 pm-2 am: Rondo Community Library

Rondo Community Library will host a variety of activities and projects as part of 2022 Northern Spark. Learn more.

Grupo Soap del Corazón
Posters and Patches Pop-Up
9 pm-2 am: Minnesota Museum of American Art
Guided tours are 9:30pm & 10:30pm, with pre-registration required.

In “Mestizaje: Intermix-Remix,” eight Latinx artists (identifying as Chicano, Chilean, Colombian, Mixteco, Mexican, and Mexican-American) explore what it means to claim a mixed-race identity consisting of both Indigenous and European descent. Join us at the M’s entrance in downtown St. Paul. Screenprint a patch designed by Grupo Soap del Corazón artists, pick up a free poster, and join a bilingual guided tour of the exhibition “Mestizaje: Intermix-Remix” with local independent curator and educator William (Billy) G. Franklin. Learn more.

Riley Kleve and Ever Woodward
With Rowan Hellwich
Community Cloth
9 pm-2 am: Springboard for the Arts

Weaving, memory, and community collide in this interactive installation. Explore an assortment of materials, find common ground, then take a seat and weave with us. Community Cloth is an interactive artwork that asks participants to share stories about cloth while helping to create a woven tapestry. Over the course of the festival, visitors will have the chance to explore an array of materials and contribute to a growing piece of fabric, finding connection in the process. Just as weaving transforms many threads into cloth, conversation and sharing interlaces individuals into a community. Community Cloth is a space for empathy, where strangers can connect over ribbons from last year’s gifts, hems of cropped tee shirts, scraps of precious silks, mismatched shoelaces, long-forgotten stashes of yarn, and so much more. Learn more.

Nick Knutson
From Dusk till Dark: Waves in the Night
9 pm-2 am: Springboard for the Arts

Dusk has fallen and it’s time for all good bats and ghouls to wake up and carpe noctem.

Glowing lights emanate from the rooftop and a dull pulsing beat is felt in the distance. As audience goers roam the building, a red velvet rope is present near the elevator. An ominous figure guides you in and escorts you to your precarious location. As the mysterious elevator doors open to the rooftop, the audience is then immersed in an audio/visual experience that emulates an exclusive vampire club showcased in various movies. The dance floor where guests gather will light up and encourage your movement across the space; the projected images will inspire macabre thoughts as the ambient music from bass-driven dark dance and intense gothic rock create a cathartic experience to shake off the stresses of a thousand days. Learn more.

Tyler Olsen-Highness
Post Office for the Ancestors
9 pm-2 am: Victoria Theater Arts Center

A silent interactive experience that allows participants to connect with those they’ve lost and each other. You are welcome to this space of imagination, honor, remembrance, and reflection. Learn more.

Native Youth Collective and Art Therapy group at Mino Oski Ain Dah Yung Center
Panel Painting Activity
9 pm-2 am: Victoria Theater Arts Center

Revolution, love, kindness, climate conversations, words of encouragement and healing – add your ideas in paint or marker to this collective expression of “What the World Needs Now.” The finished work will be on display at community partner sites. With mentor artists Courtney Cochran, Sharla Burth and Breanna Bisek.

Bianca Rhodes and Katharine DeCelle with Youth artists
Rooted in Rondo
9 pm-2 am: Rondo Community Library

Rooted in Rondo is a youth produced docu-series and podcast that explores the histories, legacies, and future of Saint Paul’s historic Rondo neighborhood. This project features interviews of prominent Rondo residents, oral histories of past residents, and stories from current community members. Rooted in Rondo examines the businesses, art and music scenes, and community demonstrations in this historic Black neighborhood, pre- and post-construction of Interstate 94. Rooted in Rondo addresses what makes a community and how it heals after displacement and trauma. Youth artists include: ​​DeAnthoney Acon, Angelo Bush, Jacy Landi, Indigo Grey Liu, Jasmine McBride, Jevrye Morris. This is a project of Saint Paul Almanac, in partnership with Saint Paul Neighborhood Network and WFNU Frogtown Community Radio. Learn more.

Sequoia Hauck
With Margaret Ogas, Moira Villiard, Gayatri Lakshmi, Sylvia Houle, Awanigiizhik Bruce, Lyz Jaakola, and Rachel Lieberman
ingiw mekwendamowaad ziibi: the ones who remember the river
CLOSING EVENT – 2 am-5:30 am: Raspberry Island

Northern Spark culminates in a final late night art experience celebrating the Mississippi River. The notion that water is integral to life is prevalent in almost every indigenous culture and community. Dakhóta peoples have a saying: Mni Wiconi (water is life) and Anishinaabe peoples have the same phrase in their language: Bimaadiziwin Nibi. For Indigenous peoples water is an ancestor, water is a teacher, water is a guide, and water is life. This project is a large-scale installation of two cloth rivers that span what is now Raspberry Island in Imnížaska Othúŋwe/Ashkibagi-ziibiing (St. Paul). The cloth rivers are replicas of Ȟaȟáwakpa/Gichi-ziibi (Mississippi River) and Mnísota Wakpá/Ashkibagi-ziibi (Minnesota River).

The community is invited to journey along the cloth rivers and interact with the teachings of water. The rivers’ pathway includes a multi-sensory environment of song, visual storytelling, and movement. The experience involves Native artists painting water stories on the cloth rivers, Native singers sharing songs of gratitude to the water, and an ensemble of movers embodying what it means to remember our connection to water. We consider this project a gesture towards remembrance. We invite audiences to participate through witness, exploration, and contemplation. Together we ask ourselves: What is our connection to water? How can we remember the significance of water in our lives? Learn more.

This project is supported, in part, by the Capitol Region Watershed District. The festival theme, “What the World Needs Now,” was created by the 2022 Artist Council with Northern

Northern Spark Background

Beginning in 2011, Northern Spark is a late-night, participatory arts festival that lights up the Twin Cities in early summer. From dusk to dawn, the city surprises you: friendly strangers share a moment, glowing cyclists whirl by, unique installations pop-up in neighborhoods, and wanderers participate in experimental performances in green spaces. The glow of sunrise after a night of amazing art experiences leaves you rejuvenated.

Northern Spark’s locations, times, themes, and forms are always transforming. In 2018, the festival introduced a two-night model, so people could experience the artful magic of a festival for two nights until 2 am. In 2021, the festival took on new forms: art in the mail, online, and in person in St. Paul, MN during two weeks. This year, festival organizers are excited to return to an all-night time frame with a modified schedule.

Northern Spark is produced by Northern, a Twin Cities non-profit arts organization whose work ranges from large-scale public art platforms like Northern Spark to Art(ists) On the Verge, a year long mentorship program for 4 emerging artists working in public space. Northern supports artists in the creation and presentation of art in the public sphere, such as at St. Paul’s Union Depot (Amateur Intelligence Radio), “choir karaoke” at the Minnesota State Fair (Giant Sing Along) and Illuminate South Loop, a mini outdoor festival of nine interactive projects in Bloomington, MN’s South Loop in the days leading up to the 2018 Super Bowl. Through projects such as Aquanesia, a location-­based environmental mystery game, and large scale festivals themed around social issues, Northern helps audiences explore expanded possibilities for civic engagement through art.

Amy Donahue