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Northern Spark to return; a conversation with Claudia Rankine

ALSO: A video walk-through tour of the Gwen Westerman exhibition “From These Hands”; a livestream of The Broadway Cast Reunion series: “Dear Evan Hansen”; and more.

Northern Spark at the Commons in 2019.
Northern Spark at the Commons in 2019.
Photo by Jayme Halbritter

Northern Spark will return this summer. Not for one dusk-to-dawn festival, or even two late-night events, but for two weeks of what’s being called “healing, transformative programming.” Some will be online, some through the mail, and some in person in St. Paul’s Eastside and Rondo/Frogtown neighborhoods.

Since we will no doubt still be in a pandemic, the artist projects will connect people safely while inspiring experimental, surprising experiences. So this won’t be the middle-of-the-night crowd crush we’ve enjoyed in the past – at least, not this year. But we’ll take Northern Spark in whatever way it wants to present itself.

Details are still being worked out and filled in, but here’s what we know.

Northern Spark 2021 will take place June 12-27. The theme, created by the 2021 Artist Council (seven independent artists of color) with Northern, will be Alchemy, recognizing artists as modern-day alchemists.

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This year’s projects will include mail art (for example, “Seed Paper of Hope” by Milkweed Collective), online experiences (such as a “Virtual Solstice Sound Garden” by Dameun Strange), and virtual and public art storytelling, “Braiding Our Generations Together,” in collaboration with Indigenous Roots and other organizations.

Northern Spark asks us to “bring your grief, your joy, yourself and be part of the elixir of magical transformation.”

The last big Northern Spark was 2019. The festival took place over two nights on the Commons in downtown Minneapolis, along the American Indian Cultural Corridor in Minneapolis and at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood. It included the debut of the Creative City Challenge winner and a reception for the national conference of Americans for the Arts.

In October 2019, Northern Spark announced it would take 2020 off to transition its leadership, reflect on the previous nine years, and plan for long-term sustainability and equity. At least it didn’t have to cancel when COVID arrived.

SVOG application portal to open April 8

Part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, formerly known by the cooler and catchier name Save Our Stages, will provide more than $16 billion in economic relief to live venues, theaters, performing arts organizations, movie theaters and other eligible entities. Applications will open April 8.

Learn more about SVOG here.

If you’re among the eligible entities, sign up now to register your interest in applying for a grant. The SBA will send you an email when the electronic application process is available. Register now for the national information webinar that will take place Tuesday, March 30, 2021 starting at 1:30 p.m. CST. Register now, if you haven’t already, in the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM), which is required to receive an SVOG.

The American Rescue Plan Act amended the SVOG program so entities that apply for a PPP loan after Dec. 27, 2020, can also apply for an SVOG. The PPP loan applications have been updated to reflect this. The timing of acceptance of funds from the two programs is important, so be sure to review the certification on the new applications.

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Thanks to the Minnesota State Arts Board for the heads-up. May this program provide some essential relief to many Minnesota venues and organizations.

The picks

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

Gwen Westerman, Return to Crow Creek, 2015, 100% commercial cotton, 40 x 41 ½ inches
Courtesy of Hillstrom Museum of Art
Gwen Westerman, Return to Crow Creek, 2015, 100% commercial cotton, 40 x 41 ½ inches
V and L Streaming now: Gustavus Adolphus College: Hillstrom Museum of Art: Video walk-through tour of Gwen Westerman exhibition “From These Hands.” Horses gallop over ice and snow, bison roam among wind turbines, and St. Anthony Falls thunders, unbound, 10,000 years in the past. While the campus and the Hillstrom are closed to the general public, you can still experience Dakota scholar, artist and poet Gwen Westerman’s story-filled fiber art. The video walk-through takes its time and includes many close-ups; the exhibition catalog, available online as a PDF, fills in details. A gallery talk by Westerman will be available later this week; check the website for a link. Westerman comes from a long line of women who made functional quilts; one on display was made by her grandmother. An alive and expressive “Tree of Life” wall piece uses the tracings of four generations of hands: her grandmother’s and mother’s, her own and her daughter’s. An enclosure created from four large, filmy rayon panels, hand-painted with shadowy figures, represents the spirits of the 38 Dakota men who were hanged on Dec. 26, 1862. The exhibition is further illuminated by several of Westerman’s poems on the walls. To see this show in person, email and request an appointment. Closes April 18.

V Tonight (Tuesday, March 23), 8 p.m. on TPT: American Masters: “Flannery.” “Funny in a very dire way” is how Tobias Wolff describes Flannery O’Connor, one of our greatest writers and also one of the scariest. The first feature-length documentary with full access to the Flannery O’Connor trust explores her life and legacy with never-before-seen archival footage, original animations, newly discovered personal letters, excerpts from her stories read by Mary Steenburgen, and new, original interviews with Wolff, Mary Karr, Hilton Als, Alice Walker, Tommy Lee Jones, Alice McDermott and others. Tonight and early tomorrow morning (2 a.m.) on TPT-2. P.S. Who else remembers the wildly ambitious and imaginative production of O’Connor’s “Wise Blood” at the Soap Factory in 2015? Directed by Michael Sommers, with installations by Chris Larson and music by the Adam Meckler Orchestra. Will we ever see its like again?

V Livestreaming tomorrow (Wednesday, March 24), 4 p.m.: UMN English Writers Series: Helen Oyeyemi Talk and Discussion. Born in Nigeria, raised in Britain, now living in Prague, the award-winning author (“Boy, Snow, Bird,” “Gingerbread,” “What Is Not Yours”) will give a talk and answer questions from the audience. Her latest, “Peaces,” is due out on April 6. FMI. Free with registration.

Claudia Rankine
Courtesy of Blue Flower Arts
Claudia Rankine, above, and St. Thomas English professor Todd Lawrence talk about the pain, violence and endurance of white supremacy in ordinary, everyday life.
V Livestreaming tomorrow (Wednesday, March 24), 7 p.m.: University of St. Thomas: Diverse Voices Author Series: In Conversation with Claudia Rankine. Expect an evening of clarity and candor as MacArthur Fellow, bestselling author and playwright Rankine (“Citizen,” “TheWhite Card”) and St. Thomas English professor Todd Lawrence talk about the pain, violence and endurance of white supremacy in ordinary, everyday life – and how we can cease being silent about it. The Zoom link for this event will be added to the web page on Wednesday morning. Free.

V Livestreaming tomorrow (Wednesday, March 24), 7 p.m.: Hennepin Theatre Trust: The Broadway Cast Reunion series: “Dear Evan Hansen.” Until touring Broadway shows return to the Orpheum (“Hamilton” is still on the calendar for July 27-Aug. 29), we can hang out virtually with cast members, hear stories and gossip, even ask questions in the chat. “Dear Evan Hansen” touched down in Minneapolis in May 2019. Spend an hour with Jordan Fisher (Evan Hansen on Broadway), Stephen Christopher Anthony (Evan Hansen on tour), Jessica Phillips (Heidi Hansen on Broadway) and more. Watch live on Wednesday or view the video on demand through early Monday morning, March 29. FMI and tickets ($15).