Northern Spark: Art for the purposeful and accidental audiences

My best purchase of the week? An umbrella for Northern Spark, the citywide art festival in Minneapolis. Saturday night was soggy and windy and got a little cold. Some art got moved, some obscured, some cancelled but a lot of it happened. And the lightning and tumultuous skies were an art show in themselves.

Northern Spark began for us at the launch party at Orchestra Hall where Mayor Hodges observed that art transforms your life whether you are purposeful about it or not. She was speaking about her first experience with Northern Spark where she participated as an innocent bystander, enjoying a performance but not aware of the organized event. I would spin off of her remark to add that sometimes art happens even when the artist isn't purposeful.

The launch party was a ticketed event with fancy appetizers, party favors and Dosh. I'm a fan of Dosh with the layering of live recorded tracks played under consecutively created live recorded tracks. Fun to watch and hear. But one of the best parts of the night happened in the lobby of Orchestra Hall where the live orchestra music scored an amazing stormy sky outside. A reminder that getting God to sign on as a headline performer is always a good move!

Northern Spark

From the launch, we moved to the opening ceremony. There was a brief respite from torrential rain as we walked to the Minneapolis Convention Center. We saw some ballet, some light shows and projections. The opening ceremony had been moved indoors because of the weather so we shared space with a large suburban high school graduation. Watching teen fashion, another Northern Spark bonus! Grrrl Party ("three R's no vowels!") christened the event in style. For my 15 year old companion, this was the event highlight! They were able to draw in audience members of all age. They have a bravado that is surpassed only by their voices, which is empowering to all of the women listening, but especially a 15 year old girl. I could watch and listen to Lizzo for a long time.

Northern Spark

One of the difficult things about Northern Spark is knowing that you won't see it all. We chose our events based on geography; our plan was to trek from the Convention Center to the River Road between the Hennepin and Stone Arch Bridges. We saw a trebuchet, interactive art that creates based on your sense and biorhythms, structures catching light, emitting light or glowing and the Greycoats playing from a galaxy far, far away.

As we got closer to the Hennepin Bridge, I started worrying that we should be looking for an ark. The rain was really coming down and it was getting cold. We didn't find an ark but we did fall upon the "chill space," where we were invited to free food, tea, chair massages, personalized aroma sprays. It gave us a boost to continue on to River Road and activities under the bridges.

HOTTEA's installation under the Third Street Bridge was on my short list and it did not disappoint. Otherwise known as Eric Rieger, HOTTEA strung up an yarn ladder or jail or otherworldly bridge where a woman stooped poised to jump into the river, or maybe pull a child out of the river or maybe just serve to haunt those who think about jumping in. Granted this does not coincide with the official description of the installation, but it's my rainy interpretation. I found it eerie and moving.

Northern Spark

About midnight my young companion had had enough, but the silver lining was that necessitated transportation and made it easy to continue on to unplanned visits after bringing her back to St. Paul. I jumped at the chance to get to The Walker to see The Clock by Christian Marclay, which was worth the jump. The premise is an ongoing film that compiles clips of movies through the ages and genres (from Bette Davis to Adam Sandler) that feature times. The film is a 24-hour clock, each minute or so the movie clip incorporates a clock with the corresponding local time. So maybe at lunchtime they show High Noon; at 2:30 am, they show Salvador Dali. Absolutely genius idea, really well executed and showing through August 25.

Northern Spark

Our night ended at MCAD because Andy DuCett was another artist I wanted to see. He had a bubble-wrap-balloon room set up for pinchy, stompy interaction. We were there late so many of the bubbles had burst, but I was able to get a few satisfying pops under my wet cowboy boots as I walked through the room. FUTUREKAVE by vidtiger was a fun interactive, space age game. But my favorite bonus installation was the Swing Hall, Swing All by Keetra Dean Dixon - a simple hall of swings. The symmetry of the swings without swingers was appealing; becoming a swinger, even more appealing. I could have stayed there for hours!

Northern Spark

The rain was an unwelcome guest, but there’s always a camaraderie among art lovers tough enough to brave the elements for a culture fix.


Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

Northern Spark Festival

06/14/2014 - 9:01pm - 06/15/2014 - 5:26am

Northern Spark is an all-night arts festival that lights up Minneapolis on June 14, 2014, 9:01 pm until 5:26 am.

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    Ann Treacy's picture
    Ann Treacy

    Ann Treacy lives in the Twin Cities. For work, she writes about broadband in Minnesota. After hours she write about travels and adventures around town.