The white night returns

Northern Spark comes back to Minneapolis for another all-night art party

Images projected on the Gold Medal Flour building during Northern Spark 2012. Credit: Submitted photo

Minneapolis has its white night again.

Northern Spark, our local version of a “nuit blanche” all-night arts festival, returns to Minneapolis June 14 after a year in St. Paul. The event has bounced between the poles of our Twin Cities since its founding in 2011, but Northern Spark is now set to make Minneapolis its home for the foreseeable future, said Sarah Peters, associate director of the annual one-night festival.

“A very important lesson that we learned is that being a nomadic festival that’s in a different space every year is very exhausting,” Peters said.

About 45,000 people ventured to St. Paul for last year’s Northern Spark. With 76 art projects at nine locations in Lower Town, it was the most geographically condensed version of the festival yet.

This year, operating under the loose theme “Projecting the City,” Northern Spark once again embraces citywide sprawl. More than 125 individual art events and installations are scheduled for venues in downtown, Uptown, South Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota Campus.

So, what’s the best way to get around?

Most Northern Spark veterans would tell you to leave car at home and bike or take public transportation. Metro Transit light rail and bus service will be free June 14 and 15.

Those traveling by bicycle should be sure to hit the Midtown Greenway, where a string of glowing Northern Spark art sites stretches between Hiawatha and Hennepin avenues. Another major hotspot is the Whittier neighborhood, with a dozen events scheduled in and around the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Minneapolis College of Art and Design, including a reprise of the popular “Swing One, Swing All” from Northern Spark 2012.

Down at the riverfront, don’t miss a major installation by Minneapolis artist HOTTEA beneath the Third Avenue Bridge. The Minneapolis Convention Center, where Mayor Betsy Hodges plans to kick things off at 9:01 p.m., is another hub of after-dark activity; that’s where “Balancing Ground,” winner of the latest Creative City Challenge, gets its debut.

Organizers expect to draw 50,000 people this year, their largest crowd yet. They’ll see a city transformed by light, art and activity.

“What we love about Northern Spark is it’s a night when we turn the city into a different place,” Peters said.

For the first time, this year’s Northern Spark wraps with an official festival breakfast. It’s a fundraiser for the nonprofit-run event, which also sought crowd-funding support through a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.

Chef Paul Bergland of The Bachelor Farmer is pairing with the legendary Al’s Breakfast crew for the pancake feed at Aria event space in the Warehouse District. Tickets for the 5:26 a.m. and 7 a.m. seatings, available on the Northern Spark website, are expected to sell like, um, hot cakes.

Northern Spark runs 9:01 p.m. June 14 to 5:26 a.m. June 15 at various locations around Minneapolis.