The Flame that Follows: Northern Spark

Jun 19, 2015

Last Saturday, hundreds of artists spent many resources and long nights to bring their hobby, curiosities, and learning to the public.  The awesome part about Northern Spark is not what its name would imply – the “spark” – but the flame that follows.  Take the day-to-day, inanimate base, add the flint of thousands of artists, workers, volunteers, donors, and attendees, and observe the beautiful flame that emerges to dance, engage, and inspire.  As the sun rose, the fuel was spent and the flame disappeared into the morning haze.  The artistic process is a constant balancing act between seemingly endless energy from inspiration and plunging into burnout.

In my opinion, Spark closely coincides with Northrop’s mission: [to be] an epicenter of discovery and transformation that connects the University of Minnesota and communities beyond by celebrating innovation in the arts, performance, and academics. Bear with me as I briefly pick that statement apart.

Epicenter: Northrop alone hosted 13 different projects (spanning 6 floors!) with the Weisman Art Museum and Bell Museum of Natural History hosting an array of projects as well. Northern Spark was a joint effort between these three arts cornerstones and indiviuals from many different U of M departments, pointing to the rich artistic collaboration occuring on campus.

Discovery and Transformation: The pieces explored the whole gamut of culture, science, play, social consciousness, bodies in motion, and mindfulness through interaction and engagement. 

Connecting the University to the Community: Of the roughly 4,000 attendees who walked through our doors throughout the night, the bookends were largely University students who could start or end their crawl close to home. In the hours between, hundreds stopped by the information desk, having never stepped into Northrop (or since the renovation), to give feedback about how beautiful, alive, and expansive it felt.  Additionally, of the 13 Spark pieces, at least 10 of those were created or co-created by staff and faculty of the University.   

Celebration of innovation in the arts, performance, and academics: My favorite part about my Spark experience was how much community was built behind the scenes. You would be surprised at the time and expense that goes into supporting a few dozen artists with their own unique needs, as well as the security, and logistics of doing an overnight event on campus. The Northrop staff battened down the hatches for one intense night, almost everyone taking an after-hours shift to market, support, and, ultimately, to bond.  In the wee hours of the morning, after a long night of walking too much, talking too much, snacking too much, and smiling too much, I found trust and comradery that I wouldn’t have found in just any old event. This opportunity for friendship is one of many reasons that I am proud to call Northrop my home.

Bringing people together both inside Northrop and as part of the larger community is worth more than several thousand dollars and one long, sleepless night. Just because something is hard or risky or, heck, maybe even foolhardy, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

Northern Spark at Northrop 2015

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