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« June 16, 2018, Saturday - 24th Annual Stone Arch Bridge Festival (thru June 17) | Main | June 16, 2018, Saturday - Rock the Garden »

June 16, 2018, Saturday - Northern Spark

2018 Northern Spark

Northern presents Northern Spark, the free annual arts festival illuminating public spaces in the Twin Cities. Known for continually experimenting with size, location, and theme, this year’s Northern Spark will shift from a one night dusk to dawn event to two nights of art and connection with community—Friday, June 15 and Saturday, June 16—starting at dusk (9:02 pm) and ending at 2 am. Artists will explore the theme Commonality, with projects located in walkable and bikeable areas of Downtown Minneapolis, including The Commons, the Minneapolis Central Library, and Nicollet Mall.

Northern Spark 2018 theme: Commonality

The theme of this year’s festival takes its cue from its venues: The Commons, the Minneapolis Central Library, and Nicollet Mall. What is a 21st century commons? A 21st century library that serves everyone? A pedestrian avenue that is open to anyone?

At a time when the darkest parts of our collective identity surface daily in public forms — overt racism, everyday sexism, challenges to our rights to free speech, policies that fly in the face of climate science — Northern is committed to providing platforms that resist discriminatory ideas, open dialogue and create relationships. What do we have in common? In the context of Northern Spark, what do we share when we gather together in physical space?

The theme of commonality also grounds this year’s Creative City Challenge, a competition for artists, architects and designers in Minnesota to create an interactive work sited at The Commons through the end of July. Opening on the night of Northern Spark and supported by the Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy program of the City of Minneapolis, the competition winner will be announced in March.  

Artists are currently submitting proposals for this year’s festival and will also be announced in March.

“The theme of commonality emerged organically from this moment in time. As everything from politics to family relationships can feel divisive, there is a call to look at what connects us, but to do so critically. We’re interested in the ways that artists will celebrate and complicate the idea of commonality,” says Steve Dietz, co-director of Northern Spark.

The shift to two nights is both experimental and practical. In the words of Sarah Peters, co-director of Northern Spark, “A two night event gives us a built in rain date, but it also gives attendees more opportunity to experience the festival. So many people tell us they can’t see everything in one night. Now there are two!”

Programming and art will be the same each night.


The venues for Northern Spark 2018 are in downtown Minneapolis:

Dates and Times

In 2018, Northern Spark will take place over two nights, the third weekend in June until 2 am:

  • Friday, June 15, from 9:02 pm to 2 am

  • Saturday, June 16, 7 - 9 pm: Festival Launch Party

  • Saturday, June 16, from 9:02 pm to 2 am

Northern Spark Venue Partners

Northern Spark has always been a collaborative effort. Northern is grateful for the generous involvement of several organizations in the support and programming of Northern Spark 2018. Hennepin County Library at Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DiD) along Nicollet, Green Minneapolis at The Commons, and The Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy program of the City of Minneapolis. We are also excited to continue a programmatic partnership with African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) to support an artist at project at Northern Spark that will be re-presented at AEDS’ Little Africa Fest in August 2018. Northern Spark 2018 festival offerings will also include a project co-commissioned with Native American Community Development Initiative. Additional Programming Partners will be announced in March.

Northern Spark Background

Since 2011 thousands of Minnesotans and visitors have enjoyed Northern Spark, an annual arts festival illuminating public spaces in Minneapolis and St. Paul. In early June, tens of thousands of people gather to explore giant video projections, play in temporary installations in the streets, and enjoy experimental performances in green spaces. Late into the night the city surprises you: friendly crowds, glowing groups of cyclists, an unexpected path through the urban landscape, the magic of sunrise after a night of amazing art and experiences.

Northern Spark is known as a dusk-to-dawn event. In 2018 we are experimenting with a two-night model for attendees to experience the artful magic of Northern Spark for two nights in a row until 2 am.

Memorable projects from past Northern Spark festivals include Chris Larson’s Celebration/Love/Loss, Jim Campbell’s Scattered Light, Luke Savisky’s Ex-MN, Pramila Vasudevan’s Census, and countless other projects from artists such as: Ananya Dance Theater, Marina Zurkow, HOTTEA, and Million Artist Movement.

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 year­long mentorship program for 5 emerging artists working with digital culture. We support 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 most recently Illuminate South Loop, a mini outdoor festival of nine interactive projects in Bloomington, MN’s South Loop in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. Through projects such as Ruination: City of Dust, a location-­based environmental mystery game, and large scale festivals themed around social issues, our work helps audiences explore expanded possibilities for civic engagement through art.