The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

May 26, 2011

Northern Spark 2011

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Christine Podas-Larson, Public Art Saint Paul

We’re getting ready to stay up all night June 4 for the Northern Spark Festival.  Produced by Northern Lights and its impresario Steve Dietz, this all night festival will present works by 200 artists in Saint Paul and Minneapolis downtowns and along the riverfront!

Public Art Saint Paul is among the Twin City arts organizations that have commissioned new work for the Festival – we will present The Sewer Pipe Organ by environmental sound artist Philip Blackburn.  As people walk along the pathways of parkland at Saint Paul’s Mississippi River Upper Landing, the music will come to them through the sewer grates after traveling through belowground pipes.  There is, indeed, a world down there beneath the surface of the grass and pavement!  Systems used for drainage of storm water are also great resonant cavities for music!  Blackburn thinks people may imagine there’s a sunken cathedral under their feet!  If this works at Northern Spark, we plan to take it “on (under?!) the road” in other parts of the city in the summer ahead.

Other artists participating in Northern Spark are Wing Young Huie, whose University Avenue Project presented by Public Art Saint Paul in 2010 was supported with a generous grant from the Knight Foundation.  He will project University Avenue Project images as part of A Ping Pong Retrospective at the Nomad World Pub on the West Bank in Minneapolis.  Wing will bat glow in the dark ping pong balls as part of an all night tournament.   Potluck food offerings encouraged!

Marcus Young, Public Art Saint Paul’s City artist in residence, will be at the Walker Art Center with his Grace Minnesota troop with The Lullaby Experiment.  35 sleepers will “experience giving up their daytime selves and being sung to lovingly throughout their nightlong stay”.

Public Art Saint Paul staff has supported Dietz and his team in overall production of Northern Spark on the Saint Paul side of the river.   Dietz was our valued partner in The University Avenue Project, developing the central Project(ion) site on University Avenue where Wing’s images were shown on 40 foot screens 5 nights per week for 6 months in 2010.

Northern Spark is made possible in part by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.


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