For the past seven years, thousands of people have enjoyed Northern Spark. The all-night arts festival lights up the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul with innovative installations, performances, and visual arts projects. The seven participating neighborhoods along Metro Transit’s Green Line each bring their own approach to the challenge of addressing perceptions about climate change by encouraging interactivity with sculptures, projections, and diverse traditions from other cultures. Northern Spark is a massive undertaking; this year experienced the largest turnout with more than 45,000 attendees, 415 artists, 130 volunteers, and 63 projects in total.
You start the evening by hopping on the Green Line, at any stop at any time before sunrise. You can go in either direction as long as you have the map provided at any information tent at every location. If you are thirsty during your adventure, worry not, Northern Spark knows that water is a human right and will not be sold at a flat rate. Pay what you can and stay hydrated with the festival’s free recycled water bottles on your journey.
The Commons was a spectacle, with strange and otherworldly structures reaching up from the soil to pull light from the surrounding skyline. And a handmade drive-in theater meant to replicate the feel of actual driving via sound and projection. The all night block party at Cedar-Riverside kicked off with food being shared in abundance and you can smell the delicious aroma from the bridge. People were invited to prayer among sparkling lights shaped like tree blossoms and attendees gave water to a thirsty, miniaturized version of planet earth. There was a giant game of Jenga and board games illustrating the vital role of women in agricultural systems. The time there was tied together in a story circle and gifts of light from the earth.
Little Africa opened the night with a film festival and an array of incredible dining options, while attendees walked through an environment of healing and creativity through water and spirit. If you are following the path of the Green Line toward Saint Paul, the Rondo neighborhood is the next stop on your map. Here, artists collaborate to showcase the many stories of Rondo’s legacy and history. Dance and sound became the tools to tell the stories of how communities of colors are devastated by air pollution, and spoken word feeds the soul in the Poetry Gumbo. There were river stories abound at Little Mekong and the night market was warm and cozy with the orange light of food being cooked. The area vibrated with words, poems, stories, language, symbols, and performance rooted in Asian identity and culture and how its people are deeply connected to the environment.
At the edges of downtown Saint Paul, Lowertown was packed with people to meet and places to go. With ecological futures and green market movers, Saint Paul’s Union Depot became home to a family of bees, transparent spirits, and a fair wage sewing factory. Flamenco dancing expressed the pain and struggle of climate displacement.
Sunrise comes as your journey ends and the incoming rain nourishes the grass and trees, but don’t wash away your memories of Northern Spark. The Minneapolis-Saint Paul region has shown what it can do when our communities come together. Through this unique festival, the region has shown how it can celebrate the arts and our diverse communities while also tackling important issues. We invite you to join us for the journey ahead.
Interested in more events happening around MSP? You can find them Here
Want to get involved, sponsor or learn more? contact Tiffany Orth at Tiffany.Orth@greatermsp.org
Amina Harper is a freelance artist and writer based in Minneapolis. See her work on Instagram.