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River Animates Art, Art Animates River

June 5, 2013Patrick NunnallyRiver MeaningComments Off on River Animates Art, Art Animates River

Northern Spark, the overnight art festival that has rapidly become one of the Twin Cities summer highlights, returns this weekend, June 8-9, 2013.  Focused this year in St. Paul, the festival has brought over 100 artist projects to thousands of people in each of the last two years.  The events are free.

This year, ten of those projects focus on the Mississippi River.  Our long-time friends and collaborators Works Progress are featuring ippississiM, an “inverted look” at parts of the river that we either don’t see, or that we take for granted (this is my interpretation of the project; actual experience may vary).  The Ananya Dance Theatre, which is directed by a dance professor at the University of Minnesota, is performing “Dance of a Thousand Water Dreams.”  And at least two more of the river projects feature former students of mine at the University.

This is all very cool, and I really don’t want to sound churlish about the whole thing.  But I just want to raise two issues for the river community and the Twin Cities community as a whole:

First, we need more, and more diverse artists.  If I know 40% of the “river project artists,” then there is clearly room for more.  Don’t get me wrong: Northern Spark is not and has never been anything other than inclusive.  But we just need to keep that spirit up.  After all, the region is a hotbed for artists who work in and with the community, as this recent Minnesota Public Radio story on “Art Heroes” makes clear.

Secondly, one night of animating the riverfront through art is not enough.  What would it take to do more, not necessarily more programming just like Northern Spark (part of the magic is the annual nature of the short-term event), but programming in and around the river that is scheduled and planned, that is impromptu and surprising, that  brings the riverfront even more to life than it already is.

As it happens, good people are working on both of these projects–stay tuned for more details!

And go to Northern Spark!

 

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River Life in Video
Come Along for a Water Walk with Kare11 and River Life, and see Gifts at Work: The Mississippi River by the University of Minnesota Foundation
Open Rivers: Rethinking the Mississippi
A joint project of River Life, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the University of Minnesota Libraries, Open Rivers is an interdisciplinary online journal that recognizes the Mississippi River as a space for timely and critical conversations about people, community, water, and place.