Northern Spark was fantastic. I joined the Art Shanty crowd in Lowertown, St. Paul, just outside of the farmer’s market parking lot. From sundown to sunrise, I was part of a small contingent of artists (as well as many festival goers) who didn’t sleep a wink from start to finish. Lowertown saw art cars, karaoke from inside the geodesic dome snapshot shanty, an ancient Viking yard game, a dance shanty, an all-night art swap assisted by the Girl Talk Sparkle Princess spin-art machine (seen after the link), the Pair-a-Dice shanties loaded to the brim with games and cards, dream interpretations and accompanying ambient music from the Black Dog Cafe, and enough caffeine for a mission to Mars. At 3:45 AM the morning birds started chirping and we knew we’d make it to dawn.
Young and old were out all night. Without a drop of rain nor overbearing humidity, conditions couldn’t have been more ideal for a night on the town. We heard reports about all the other exhibitions in Minneapolis and St. Paul from those passing through, or stopping for a dance, an art swap, a game of cards, or simply a little rest. I learned euchre and taught cribbage, played a working version of Operation and listened to what may have been a seance from a dIcehouse; I can’t be sure, but there was a ouija board involved. An ancient Viking game called Kubb was set up in the middle of the street; opposing players toss large wooden dowels at small wooden pillars. Kubb was a hit all night long.
Cribbage was a hit too. The card tables were rarely empty throughout the night. Many people drifted by and exclaimed “Aw, I love cribbage!” We heard stories of how they learned, or what some of their memories were. Some stayed for a game, others for many. Among a few of the many people we met across the board was a clay slip-caster artist, a nonprofit employee of a local youth job skills program, a writer of young adult fiction, a full-time artist of many mediums (and art-car owner, to boot), a few musicians, and more. One woman’s parents met at a bridge tournament, and she wondered if she was destined for the same at a cribbage tournament. Another guy said he used to play with his grandpa when he was young, and was determined to try and play more with friends and family. Lit near by candlelight and afar by streetlamps, there was always enough light to just make out the boards, cards, and community.
Sometime between the hours of 1 and 3 AM, a few card-players contributed to my notebook. Looking back, I wish I had simply connected a pen to the notebook with a note saying, “tell us about your evening!” In a straight scrawl in the middle of the page, I found this:
Aubrey and AJ are going to play a game of SNAP. Uff da! Are we too tired for this? No! We are not! We are fortified by free lovely inspiring art @ night!
We didn’t quite hit our goal for the fundraiser, but $160 is $160 more than we started with. After tallying the online results with the results from the night, it looks like the Animal Humane Society of St. Paul will be getting a little boost from our little project. Thanks to all for your generous comments and contributions!
Though the event officially started at 8:55 PM, most of us began setup at 3 PM sharp. We nuts-and-bolted our way toward a dome, unloaded the dIcehouses, jacked the dance shanty, PVC’d the art-swap shanty. We chalked lines on the road for Kubb, lit candles in the breeze for the card-tables. We met and celebrated community. By 9 AM, when most of the city was waking, most of us were already away, and save for a few splotches of paint from the spin-art machine, a few smeared lines of chalk on the road, you might never have known we were there at all.