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We Are Here: Resilience, Renewal & Regeneration

“You are here”

We encounter these words on maps all over the world, maybe with an arrow and a dot. They are often found on a kiosk in the middle of a mall or the edge of a park. We find them in both crowded and silent, ubiquitous places where the environment begs for orientation.

We Are Here

What if we change these words to “we are here”? What happens when we decide where we are on the map? When we draw the map? The singular becomes plural, and our identity multiplies.

Claiming space is one of the most powerful actions anyone can take. One can claim space through the art of images, movement, language, music or other creative expressions. For people who do not see themselves or hear voices like their own in the dominant culture around us, raising their voice can mean the difference between invisibility or resilience, renewal, and regeneration.

This year Northern Spark celebrates just a few of the neighborhoods in our city that are home to people, cultures, and livelihoods that have stayed resilient in the face of erasure, genocide, and fractures between nature and each other. These beloved communities continue to rise as they renew and regenerate themselves.

Northern Spark has always been about transforming the city, at least temporarily, into a different kind of place. One where creativity and community take over to inspire and disrupt the status quo in the name of voice. In the name of agency. In the name of claiming space…and power.

This year we invite you to raise your voice, to claim your space, and draw your own maps. Tell your stories of resilience, renewal, and regeneration.




Resilience: We bend but don’t break.

Renewal: We survive. We thrive.

Regeneration: We nurture our roots and acknowledge our power within.

What does “we are here” mean to you?

We Are Here: Resilience, Renewal & Regeneration was generated through responses from community members in the places where Northern Spark 2019 is taking place – Rondo (Hallie Q. Brown Community Center–indoor and outdoor areas), American Indian Cultural Corridor (along Franklin Ave between American Indian Center and the Franklin Library) and Downtown East Minneapolis (The Commons).

Every year, Northern Spark creates a theme to push artists’ creativity around cultural and societal issues. In the past, we’ve invited artists to work under the monikers of Projecting the City, Climate Chaos, Commonality and other topics, and their interpretations of the themes have produced work such as just breathe, E/x MN, and Through the Glass Eyes. The beautiful productions of these temporary installations explore the contemporary issues of our time.

This year, Northern Lights, along with the Program Council determined new ways of forming the theme for the festival by involving community input. We reached out to and engaged with community members during neighborhood activities and events with Hallie Q. Brown Community Center and Native American Community Development Institute to ask people what challenges or celebrations their communities face every day. We received answers from gentrification to a birthday party, health disparity, and food justice. These responses were reviewed and molded by the Program Council into the overarching theme, We Are Here. The subthemes Resilience, Renewal & Regeneration were formed to contextualize the theme, inspire artists, and speak to the common qualities of communities who live, work and identify with this year’s festival locations.