Northern Spark moves to Lowertown

Scattered Light from the end

Northern Spark, the Twin Cities’ nuit blanche all-night art festival will be in Lowertown, St. Paul exclusively this year. The festival will be taking over the Union Depot, which is open after being mostly unused for 40 years:

The event’s third outing, running from dusk until dawn June 8-9, will be centered on downtown St. Paul’s Union Depot, a 32-acre site now being renovated as a transport hub.

The city of St. Paul did not chip in any special funding to lure the event, said Steve Dietz, president and artistic director of Northern.Lights.MN, the nonprofit that runs the event. His organization has been developing a $500,000 public-art commission for Union Depot and the site inspired him to move the Spark for one season.

“Working with Union Depot is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we’re going to focus a lot of energy on it and Lowertown this summer,” Dietz said. “It’s a place really no one has seen much of since 1971 and, while it’s now reopened, it hasn’t reached maximum use. We’re going to take over all 32 acres and have indoor and outdoor projects and stages.”

Exploring Union Depot sounds cool, but I think this event will miss the exciting aspect of exploring large parts of the cities at night. Some of my most found memories are from the 2011 Northern Spark, where I biked across both cities all night, participated in art installations, hung out at the art shanties, ate tacos at 2 AM and stowed away on a paddleboat. There is a rush in exploring the quiet city at night by bike that will be missed in this single-location version.