Monday, June 10, 2013

10. Stay up late at Northern Spark

I accomplished #10 on my Things To Do list: Northern Spark!

I used to be more of a night owl. I"m not a morning person--that's for sure. But an all-nighter? I can't remember the last time I did that. And even staying up to the wee hours usually involved alcohol or insomnia. Could I really enjoy a festival that starts at dusk and ends at dawn? Darn tootin'!

Northern Spark is a magical festival that incorporates art, music, film, and cultural exploration in the heart of St. Paul. It's the only festival I know of that dominates the night. Exhibits by local and national artists involved everything you could think of: a catapult that flung balloons of light screen printers, hula-hooping, an interactive mural, short films, singers, and bands.

I wondered around for a few hours by myself at the beginning. I was supposed to meet a large Couchsurfing group, but it just wasn't in the cards. I couldn't help smiling even if I looked like a loner. Luckily, I met a few friends to enjoy the celebration and we hung in there until after 2am.

My Highlights:

Walking the Labyrinth 
In the middle of experimental music and art displays, a simple labyrinth was made on the ground outside the Union Depot. I donned the free earplugs and took a slow stroll through the meditative maze. I loved having a little mental break from the visual and audio extravaganza.

Underpass of the Eyes of Freedom
Below the main entrance to the Union Depot I discovered an underpass full of the Arab Spring (with more white people). Participants were able to spray paint the long white wall with iconic images of the struggles in the Middle East or just right "Mike was here" with a marker. Books nearby illustrated different street art in Egypt's Tehrir Squre and other revolutionary images. It was very moving.

Screen Printer and Poster Press
One of the first exhibits I stumbled upon was Permanent Labor. A table was set up for participants to sit down and read about the new labor; the audience is needed by artists to absorb the work created. A screen printer was there to produce a keepsake for the audience to carry home.

Another station printed posters with an absurdly clunky but intriguing press. Posters were all about messages to carry with you when travelling (see photo at top).

Celebration/Love/Loss (aka The Burning House)
The artist built a model of Breuer's 1,800 architectural icon just to burn in down. I love the description for the exhibit, "like a prairie fire that allows new seeds to germinate, [the artist] is to honor the original home with a meticulous re-creation and then ignite it, allowing fire to consume its pure, clean lines" as a ceremonious end to "high modernism". And you can't deny the joy of hearing hundreds of bystanders oohing and ahhing at the mountain of fire without the feeling of guilt of destruction.

There were so many amazing things to see and do! I didn't even get to one whole area by the river. I can't wait till next year!


  1. That sounds amazing! You are so brave to go alone, where was John?

  2. It wasn't John's thing although I'm making him go next year. :)