Sparking climate engagement through art and community

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Courtesy of Ensia

Can art and spectacle raise awareness of climate change? Organizers of a yearly gathering in Minneapolis hope so.

The recent 6th annual Northern Spark, a free dusk-to-dawn multidisciplinary arts festival, challenged artists to lend their voices and visions to the conversation through the exploration of five concepts — Move, Nourish, Interconnect, Perceive and Act — as they relate to the 2016/2017 theme: Climate Chaos | Climate Rising.

The overnight event provided a unique perspective on Earth’s changing environment via 43 interactive art installations including a fluorescent black light coral reef, a reclining wall mimicking the feel of glacial calving and opportunities to share personal intentions related to the environment by white flag, quilt square or paper boat. The festival also featured talks and workshops presented by scientists, researchers, engineers and activists.

“Facts are necessary to establish a certain context. Concerted action is necessary to make systemic changes,” explained Northern Spark founder and art director Steve Dietz during the festival’s opening ceremony. “But it is culture and art that help us feel, not just understand, how what we do today will have true consequences 100 years from now; how what we do here will have true consequences on the other side of the world, downstream, out of sight. In other words, what art can do so well — help make the invisible not only visible but palpable.”

If you missed this year’s event, fear not. Northern Spark’s climate theme will return to Minneapolis (and expand into Saint Paul) on June 10, 2017. And the climate will likely still be changing next year, too.

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