Northern Lights.mn: Leading the Arts and Technology Dialogue

Nov. 21, 2013

The intersection of art and technology continues to be an important part of the conversation about our future. This conversation not explores how organizations use technology to run their institutions and disseminate art, but also how technology is being used in art creation, and how to maintain the hardware that supports important works over time. The conversation is undoubtedly tied to our current obsession with digital social connectivity, and growing (albeit slow) access to technology worldwide. Art and Technology Studies programs are popping up at an increasing rate, which will come in handy for those who someday aspire to become Chief Digital Officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Steve Dietz, president and artistic director of Northern Lights.mn, a current ArtsLab participant, was quoted recently on NPR’s All Tech Considered about the emergence of new media curation and collection in the digital art world. If you have seen the work of Northern Lights.mn, there is no question that Dietz and the artist staff that supports the organization are leading instigators of forward-thinking, interactive, technology-saturated, connection-building arts experiences. They were recently awarded a Community Innovation Grant from the Bush Foundation to create Neighbors by Way of Water, a large-scale, multi-player experiential watershed education game, which they developed in partnership with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.

While programs like Art(ists) On the Verge (a year-long mentorship for emerging artists) and projects like Amateur Intelligence Radio (an innovative permanent public art installation at Saint Paul’s Union Depot) are core to the fulfillment of Northern Lights.mn's mission, the program that has really taken off for the organization is the Northern Spark Festival. This “nuit blanche” is held in the Twin Cities at a rotating location each year. It brings together dozens of performance and outdoor installation spaces, hundreds of artists, and a vast assortment of interactive, innovative projects that build into a city-wide celebration of arts, culture, and community. This past year’s event attracted over 45,000 attendees to the Union Depot and Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul.  Preparations are underway for the 2014 Northern Spark Festival which will take place on June 14 in Minneapolis.