BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
For this year’s Northern Spark event, the American Indian Cultural Corridor on Franklin Avenue will be one of three “nodes” of explosive and transformative art activities. If you’re unfamiliar with Northern Spark, now in its ninth year, this started out as a moving art festival that took place on a single June weekend night, from dusk to dawn. Participants were given a map showing all the events in a circuit, and it was designed so that with biking or possibly a combo of driving and walking, you could see all the installations in a single night. Last year, in order to make it accessible to more people, the show was redesigned to last just part of two nights, and for the events to be gathered into a few nodes throughout the cities. (It’s always been a both sides of the river kind of deal.) That was successful, so it’s been continued for 2019. The event is completely free, and is funded by a combination of grants and private donations. You can donate to this year’s event by clicking on the Donate button at https://2019.northernspark.org/. (You can also volunteer, same site.) The 2019 Northern Spark consists of three nodes-Rondo neighborhood in Saint Paul, including the historic Hallie Q. Brown Community Center; the Commons in Downtown East Minneapolis; and the American Indian Cultural Corridor along Franklin Avenue from 13th Avenue to Bloomington Avenue. The dates are June 14 and 15, and the times from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. The theme for 2019 is Resilience, Renewal, and Regeneration.
Neighborhood folks (Southside Pride readers) probably want to devote more time to the Franklin Avenue piece, which does include some of the most amazing acts and offerings, but if you have time, you may also want to check out the other two nodes for a while. With a total of 10 hours comprising the two nights of the show, it is only limited by your stamina and wakefulness. The Rondo node will include a mural project on the wall of the Rondo Community Library with Gita Ghei, Melvin Giles and Aki Shibata; a spoken word plus open mic stage with MC Tish Jones; Baba Jesse and Resounding Rhythms, a drum group; the Hallie Q. Brown Archive Project in the HQB Center; a screening by Sherine Onukwuwe of three films at Penumbra Theater (also in the HQB Center); a shuttle between the library and the HQB Center with an optional 30-minute narrated history tour of Rondo, and other work by artists, including Kashimana, Miko Simmons, and the Solar Peace Collective. The node at the Commons will include Radical Playground, an installation by two great South Minneapolis Latina artists, Candida Gonzalez and Mary Anne Quiroz; Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts interactive piece Neon Garden; Yilma Hailu’s “Begena At Night”: A ceremony of Ethiopian art through different mediums; “Let’s Make Some Sounds,” by two-person group Beatrix Jar; an Artist’s Market; and further works by Jeremy Wong, Joshua McGarvey, The Exuberant Activist Body, The Weavers’ Guild, Kalpulli Yaocenotxli and Kelley Leaf.
At the American Indian Cultural Corridor, “resilience, renewal, and regeneration” takes on a sober meaning amid a community already using the arts to manifest these traits for its very survival. And what an amazing display of art! The gallery show at All My Relations, “Bring Her Home: Stolen Daughters of Turtle Island,” co-curated by Moira Villard and Angela Two Stars, will be temporarily wrapped into Northern Spark. If you haven’t already seen this, be sure and include it in your night. The Biker is an installation with a larger-than-life sculpture of a cyclist whose wheels portray the Four Directions. The Biker is hooked up to a stationary bike and the audience may “animate” the sculpture by pedaling. This installation is conceived by Victor Yepez, and constructed along with Richard Parnell and Jon “Huckleberry” Stoike. Haŋyétu Wówapi Thípi is Dakota for “Night Library,” and for Northern Spark, a group of artists—Marlena Myles,Tamara Aupaumut, Elsa Hoover, Dawí, James D. Autio and Jess Grams—will transform the Franklin Library into the Night Library, filled with artworks and installations. It “will become a cultural embassy held as a place to welcome residents of our lands and accommodate the need for Indigenous education and community greeting.”
A lot of the art on the Avenue these two nights will be performance—plays, spoken word, songs and more. “WEave: HERE” is a piece combining poetry, dance, costume, lights and images. The description reads: “Lead artist and choreographer Rosy Simas directs performers in sculptural costumes, highlighted by projection, as they move through the crowd in a procession along Franklin Avenue. The hour-long performance moves to an installation curated by poet Heid E. Erdrich and visual artist Jonathan Thunder.” Thunder also presents a solo work: “Manifest’o.” We got a chance to talk with him about it at the press preview last week. Thunder is a painter, animator and sculptor. He is bringing a version of his animated installation Manifest’o, which exhibited in a gallery in Duluth, and projecting it on the wall of a three-story apartment building. (They warned the residents ahead of time and got permission.) The video consists of three vignettes based on traditional Anishinaabe tales, but with a twist-”Mishu Bizhiw Awakens,” “Gold Finch Counts the Leaves,” and “Supernaut Becomes the Water Lily.” Each one has a unique soundscape. For instance, “Gold Finch Counts the Leaves” has Thunder’s wife counting to 100 in Ojibwe as Gold Finch represents the spirit of the Ojibwe language, while Supernaut is actually Star Woman, who arrives in a spaceship. As Thunder explained it to me, these aren’t the tales themselves (which can only be told traditionally in the winter) but animations referencing the tales and interpreting them for a modern urban world. New Native Theatre with Rhiana Yazzie is presenting “Time Elapsed, Time Immemorial.” This is described as an interactive telling of stories through audio and actors that blend sound and light for a never-ending looping of surprising stories. Ketzal Coatlicue is presenting “Xopantla: The Flowering of Light,” a ceremonial piece based on syncretic Indigenous Mexican traditions. The audience is invited to bring offerings of candles, flowers or fruit for the altar. Al Gross and Strong Buffalo are presenting “Reusable Graffiti,” a soundscape of spoken word, music and humor. “Native people have been blinded and blindsided, vilified and glorified, demonized and canonized, colonized and decolonized, fried bread and refried beans, admired for our culture, pitied for our oppression, stereotyped from a daguerreotype … cannon fodder for the capitalist.“
Minnesota Sacred Harp will present “Let All The Nations Know: Hymns from Indian Melodies and The Sacred Harp.” The group will use Thomas Commuck’s 1845 hymnal, “Indian Melodies,” written in the shape note style and widely acknowledged to be the first published musical work by a Native American. The piece will focus on Native melodies and shape note tradition with singing and introductory workshops. You can learn more about sacred harp/shape note singing at www.fasola.org. Finally, “Hearts of Our People: Mural Kickoff and Visioning,” with Natchez Beaulieu, is another piece folding into an existing project, in this case the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ mural project. From the description: “This summer, local youth will work together to design and paint a mural inspired by Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists at Minneapolis Institute of Art. Share your visions of how we can honor Native Women Artists in our community. We will project these first ideas onto the All My Relations Gallery to begin the creative process.” If you want more information about Northern Spark 2019, in addition to the website noted above, you can follow on the Facebook page www.facebook.com/NorthernSparkMN.