Northern Spark moves to St. Paul in 2013

Starting at 8:58pm on June 8, the arts will have their night – all night – in the Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul.

Northern Spark, the all-night art festival – or “nuit blanche” – was created to celebrate the lively arts community in the Twin Cities, and transform the metro area into a sort of canvas for one night each year.

Artist Jim Campbell’s piece “Scattered Light” was a one of the hits of Northern Spark 2011 at Upper Landing Park in St. Paul.

(Poto courtesy of NorthernSpark/Dusty Hoskovec)

But, despite it’s popularity, Susannah Shouweiler of Knight Arts writes the festival has had a rocky first few years:

Strapped for cash and faced with the hurdles of light rail construction along the Central Corridor and the subsequent loss of some key St. Paul partner organizations, last year Northern Spark’s organizers found they needed to tighten both the budget and scale of the event, at least temporarily. So, in 2012, they opted to situate the proceedings only in Minneapolis.

As it happens, for 2013 there are similar roadblocks to hosting the festival in Minneapolis. Notably, the Walker Art Center, an anchoring venue in previous years’ festivals, pulled out because of summer-long, on-site construction; there were also hitches with hosting artists’ projects and events on the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus, another key partner. Add to that the inevitable constraints of budget and a genuine desire to spread the wealth and move the festival to a new locale to keep things fresh – perhaps it’s not surprising that Northern Spark is concentrating its festivities a bit and migrating across the river to Lowertown for 2013.

The festival will involve over 100 artists, primarily from the Twin Cities. Mary Abbe writes for Vita.MN that organizer Steve Dietz was drawn by the opening of the renovated Union Depot:

“Working with Union Depot is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we’re going to focus a lot of energy on it and Lowertown this summer,” Dietz said. “It’s a place really no one has seen much of since 1971and, while it’s now reopened, it hasn’t reached maximum use. We’re going to take over all 32 acres and have indoor and outdoor projects and stages.”

In addition, Bedlam Theater has expanded its operations to Lowertown, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art has made a new home for itself there. Frederick Melo writes for the Pioneer Press that St. Paul City officials couldn’t be happier:

The [festival’s] debut in 2011 brought some 20,000 to 25,000 people to both cities. Last year, about 40,000 night festival enthusiasts attended when it was held throughout downtown Minneapolis. “The city is excited Northern Spark is returning and we look forward to working with Steve on this great event,” said Joe Campbell, a spokesman with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s office.

Northern Spark takes place on June 8 – visit their website for more information about the events that are taking shape.

Any thoughts on the change in location? Share them in the comments section.