Art Hounds: Northern Spark returns; Ta-coumba Aiken's abstract art on display

A painting with a figure
Ta-coumba T. Aiken's acrylic on canvas work, Awakening from 2019. It's part of an exhibit running now at Dreamsong Gallery.
Photo by Tom Dunn, courtesy of Dreamsong

Behavioral artist Aki Shibata is delighted that the all-night festival Northern Spark will return to her Frogtown and Rondo neighborhoods. This year’s festival takes place at four locations along and near University Avenue in St. Paul, from 9 p.m. Saturday until 2 a.m., with a closing event Sunday morning that ends shortly after sunrise on Raspberry Island.

The theme for the artists’ work is “What the World Needs Now.” Visitors may navigate their way among the locations to admire a range of art, many of which have interactive elements.

The locations include the Victoria Theater Arts Center, the Rondo Community Library, Springboard for the Arts, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Shibata says she plans to attend them all, but she is particularly looking forward to the Drive-in Movie Extravaganza with shadow puppets, created by Eva Adderlay at the Victoria Theater, and to watching the sun rise over the interactive closing event by Sequoia Hauck, which will include painters, singers, and dancers celebrating our connection to the water.


Allison Baker, an art professor at Hamline University, was excited to see the solo show by Ta-coumba T. Aiken at Dreamsong Gallery in northeast Minneapolis. Baker said the show “couldn’t have been better timed,” coming weeks after Aiken was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for 2022. The exhibit, entitled “Awakenings,” features Aiken’s large, abstract paintings and works on paper.

Your support makes a difference.

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

A painting with yellow, black, white and grey
Ta-coumba T. Aiken. Ripple Effect, 2021. Acrylic on canvas.
Photo by Tom Dunn, courtesy of Dreamsong

“He talks about channeling the spirits of his ancestors into form and color,” said Baker, adding that he does so in “beautiful and incredible ways.” In some paintings, figures seem to emerge from the energetic lines on the canvas. She also recommends paying attention to the smaller studies and collages, which are a delicate counterpoint to the larger work.

The exhibit at Dreamsong runs through June 25.

You may see more of Aiken’s work at Soo Visual Arts Center in Minneapolis. The show, opening Sunday, is “Change is God-Take Root Among the Stars: Black Abstraction in the Midwest” and features the work of 17 artists.


Minneapolis-based performer and costumer Anissa Lubbers suggests catching the “10-Minute Play Festival” from the Lakeshore Players, which runs through Sunday at the Hanifl Performing Arts Center in White Bear Lake. Lubbers said the festival is an audience favorite that traditionally wraps up the players’ season.

The show features 10 plays, written by playwrights around the world and performed and directed by local talent. As for style, the audience can expect a bit of everything, from the silly to the serious and timely, from comedy to horror.