The first thing you’ll see are the lights. Against the violet blue backdrop of the night, are lights of fire red and light bulbs like fireflies bouncing along the landscape. There is a homegrown warmth that bursts in your chest; it’s like a gift you’ve gotten around the same time every year. The sun sets and the city bursts forth with its temporary secrets. A boat adorned in glowing white light docks both on land and at sea; you journey with it through parts of Europe and North Africa as songs cocoon your migration to parts far from home.

Reframing how to communicate the conversation, reimagining how you engage with truth, that is Northern Spark.

Northern Spark is all night, starting June 10th at sunset, until the sun creeps back up again for another dawn. It’s free, it’s annual, and this year it’s confronting climate change at the forefront for a second summer. It turns Minneapolis and Saint Paul into an immersive dreamscape, with sights and sounds that catch you on the wind and blow you away to new worlds and people. This time around, Northern Spark will feature installations in seven neighborhoods along the METRO Green Line. It will be your chariot starting at the Commons, trekking through the waters of the West and East, to Little Africa, Rondo and Little Mekong, and ending in Lowertown. Your path will be illuminated by the visions of artists who see the world as it should be seen; beautiful, nurturing, and in grave danger.

No place in the world is free from climate change, no place to hide from the blooming heat of raising atmospheric temperature, or the assault of unanticipated arctic fronts. We humans, ushered in the anthropocene – an age in which our species moved rivers from where they had always been, altered the current of the winds, tainted the soil, and harnessed fire for deeds that are often destructive and displacing. It is in the face of this tremendous weight that the artists of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, from countless cultures and backgrounds, spring forth into action and utilize Northern Spark as a platform.

It is this light that breathes life into a dying world, in the hopes of saving it. It is countless stories, the people who tell those stories, and the vast diversity of lands, cultures and traditions they come from. They find their own ways to impart the same message; the trees and the rivers and the skies need us, need our protection and our love. Those timeless forces give themselves to us and, at this year’s Northern Spark, we are being reminded to give back.

It is a night where the residents of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region come together in uncommon ways.  We travel together through mysterious interactive visual stories, slowly and with eyes wide open so as not to miss a thing. We eat food from other lands next to strangers who soon become comrades in this new world that lives beside the old one once the sky darkens. We are challenged, shaken from our comfortable placement and expected to think differently in order to solve our world’s problems. It shows us that we are not just Minnesota, but participants in a global diaspora that is endlessly connected.

We, as one, examine our space and our place in it. What is our role? How do we do better? How can we be a part of the solution? How are we a part of the problem? This is why Northern Spark matters, this innovative take on the questions and answers to the world’s struggles and the opportunity to rise to meet the responsibility we have towards them.

This is only the beginning of our journey into Northern Spark and its impact on our region and its residents. In our next installment, we will take you into the center of this year’s festival and get you close to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of an artistic exchange like no other.

Learn more about this year’s festival » 

Take a glimpse into the world of Northern Spark by checking out photos from last year on Flickr:

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Go on the journey with us & follow us at #makeitmsp #northernspark



Amina Harper
is a freelance artist and writer based in Minneapolis. See her work on Instagram.