The Gopher’s Guide to Northern Spark

University of Minnesota students, grads and faculty will be art stars at the Northern Spark festival, now in its second year.

by Sarah Harper


WHAT: Northern Spark Festival

WHERE: All over the Twin Cities

WHEN: Sunset (8:58 p.m.) on June 9 to sunrise (5:26 a.m.) on June 10

COST: Free


“White nights” are celebrated all over the world, with entire communities getting together after sundown to reject typical nighttime behavior. Instead of hitting the hay, participants transform their cities into real-life dreamlands by way of the visual arts, dance, film, food and music.

It was about time Minnesota jumped on the “nuit blanche” bandwagon. Last year’s inaugural Northern Spark festival lit up Minneapolis and St. Paul from sundown to sunup. More than 200 artists collaborated with cultural organizations and sponsors to fill up 34 venues in the Twin Cities.

This year, the festival’s reach is wide, spanning everywhere from the Stone Arch Bridge to the Walker Art Center  and back to the University itself.

You can go to the Northern Spark’s website and add project upon project to the equivalent of an art shopping cart. Be sure to stack yours with these Gophers:



Robin Schwartzman, Master of Fine Artsgraduate and current art department instructor

Stone Arch Bridge

Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, said these words first. Now, Schwartzman is mounting them in a dramatically giant and glowing fashion onto the Stone Arch Bridge. The phrase has become Northern Spark’s theme this year. You can catch this installation before the festival even starts, and you may have already: Schwartzman’s glowing words have been up since the beginning of June.


Mobile Experiential Cinema

Daniel Dean and Ben Moren, Master of Fine Arts students

West River Parkway under Third Avenue Bridge

Dean and Moren ask you to jump on your two-wheeler for a cross-city adventure involving movies, live theater and a big ol’ mystery. They’ll take you from installation to performance to spectacle, all the while feeding you site-specific clues to a narrative mystery.

Dean has another project at Northern Spark too — “TönöSauna” is a steamy, snow-surrounded shanty Dean made with a few others, including Emily Stover, a current student, and Molly Reichert, an adjunct architecture instructor.



Clive Murphy and Tetsuya Yamada, art department faculty, with University students

Weisman Art Museum

A calliope is a steam-powered organ. Murphy and Yamada harness the thermal energy produced by a pizza oven to power the instrument. The music/food combo is at the root of most summer festivals, so this should fit right in outside the Weisman Art Museum. (Note: In addition to this contraption, food trucks will also provide sustenance for Sparkers.)


In Habit: Living Patterns

Aniccha Arts, founded by alumna Pramila Vasudevan

Central Avenue Bridge underpass, 104 River Place, Minneapolis

Vasudevan is the artistic director, choreographer and dance collaborator of this outdoor performance. Sixteen vignettes, all exploring the quotidian repetitions of everyday life, will make up nine hours of performance. Dancers will also perform for an hour at 9 p.m. for two days leading up to the festival. Video and immersive electronic music will provide the backdrop for this unique performance art piece.