Up all night again

Northern Spark, Minneapolis’ “nuit blanche,” is back for its fifth year

After last year's downpours, Northern Spark organizers are hoping for dry weather for the all-night arts festival. Credit: Submitted image

To prepare for the role of self-help guru Dr. Ross Ruprecht, D.L.S., Andy Sturdevant immersed himself in the primordial technological environment of the early 1990s, during the infancy of the World Wide Web, when cassettes and CDs still mingled on Sam Goody’s shelves.

You can join Sturdevant on a journey to the dawn of the Clinton Era at this year’s Northern Spark, the fifth-annual edition of Minneapolis’ all-night arts festival. Set in an auditorium inside the Minneapolis Convention Center, “Footpaths ’92: A Spiritual Health and Psychic Wealth Expo” is an elaborate performance meant to evoke the type of cheesy personal finance and self-actualization seminar the building might have hosted around the time it opened in 1991.

To enhance the illusion, “Footpaths ’92” will run on authentic period technology. Instead of PowerPoint — which existed in an early version then but had not yet achieved its current level of exasperating ubiquity — Dr. Ruprecht will make his pitch using an overhead projector, slides and “lots of signs on easels,” Sturdevant said.

“The hook of ‘Footpaths ’92’ is you can take it with you,” he said.

A writer and artist with a keen interest in local history, Sturdevant described the project as a way to revisit the “lost culture” of the pre-Internet, nationally touring seminar. So, stop by, take a personality inventory, join one of the breakout sessions, rifle through the free informational brochures and see just how loopy things get as the “Footpaths ’92” wanders into the wee hours.

A bit of sleep deprivation only enhances the otherworldly ambiance of Northern Spark, our local version of the European “nuit blanche” (French for “all-nighter” or, literally, “white night”). From sundown on the 13th to sunup on the 14th, festivalgoers are invited to wander between nine hubs of artistic activity located in and around downtown.

A series of downpours didn’t smother last year’s Northern Spark, but it dimmed the flame just a bit. Organizers pulled off the vast majority of projects, but Artistic Director Steve Dietz said a few just had to be scrubbed, including at least one big light-based artwork that exemplified the 2014 festival’s theme of “Projecting the City.”

“The large outdoor projects, we just couldn’t keep them dry,” Dietz said.

That’s why multimedia artist Luke Savisky is planning a return trip from Austin, Tex., for another go at “E/x MN,” one of the exhibits washed-out by last year’s rain. Festivalgoers who visit Savisky in Mill Ruins Park will have their images incorporated into a projection blasted onto the towering silos of the Gold Medal Flour complex.

Typically booked solid on weekends through the summer wedding season, the nearby Mill City Museum is fully incorporated into Northern Spark for the first time this year. Among a dozen planned projects and performances for that space, the one can’t-miss experience may be an invitation to visit the eighth-floor offices of MSR, an architecture firm with reportedly spectacular river and ruins views from its balcony.

Downtown’s historic Peavy Plaza is another new stop on this year’s Northern Spark itinerary. The boundary-pushing designers of UCLA Game Lab are setting up shop on the plaza and demonstrating more than a dozen of their innovative video games, including some that invite up to 50 players to join in while using their smartphones as controllers.

“These are new takes on old ways of interacting with video games,” Dietz said.

Just up the steps from Peavy Plaza is Orchestra Hall, where the Minnesota Orchestra String Quartet plans a 10:15 p.m. performance of “From Amber Frozen,” composer Mason Bates’ mash-up of jazz, electronic music and Indonesian gamelan. And if you like gamelan, Sumunar Gamelan and Dance Ensembles plan an all-night performance inside Northrop Auditorium, host to roughly half of the Northern Spark activities planned for the University of Minnesota’s East Bank.

Musicians may have a bigger role than ever in this year’s Northern Spark festivities, from opera at the Mill City Museum to a Latin-music dance party at the Walker Art Center. At 9 p.m., just after the opening ceremony on Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza, Cloud Cult performs live for a special taping of Twin Cities Public Television’s local-music show, “The Lowertown Line.”

There’s so much packed into this year’s dawn-till-dusk festival that Northern Spark printed up just slim guides for this year’s festival. As usual, much more detailed information is available on their website, so plan your evening in advance or make sure to pack your smartphone.


Northern Spark

When: 9 p.m. June 13–5:26 a.m. June 14

Where: Various locations in and around downtown

Info: northernspark.org