No more winter blues, highlights of the Great Northern Festival

A person pours water over hot stones in a sauna
The first-ever Sauna Village at the Great Northern Festival gives attendees the opportunity to experience sauna culture. During their sessions, attendees can try out different types and styles of saunas.  
Courtesy of Stokeyard Outfitters

Updated: Jan. 30, 9:50 a.m. | Posted: Jan. 26, 2:58 p.m.

There is no lack of things to do at the Great Northern Festival, which sprawls across both of the Twin Cities and stands bestride both the months of January and February.

The festival, which is sponsored by MPR News, offers more than 60 events in a variety of disciplines, including food, drink, music, performance and public art.

What follows is a sampling of the Great Northern’s superabundance. To see the remainder of the festival’s programming, visit its webpage.

Jan. 26 - Feb. 5: The Greater Northern Sauna Village

The first-ever Sauna Village at the Great Northern Festival gives attendees the opportunity to experience sauna culture. During their sessions, attendees can try out different types and styles of saunas.  

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Swimsuits are required, as are shoes for the indoor portions at Malcom Yards, the event’s host. Towels and robes are also recommended. Guests, who must be over 16 and accompanied by an adult if under 18, will also be able to relax by a fireside before, after, or during sessions.  

The Sauna Village is open 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. during weekdays and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekends, Jan. 26 through Feb. 5 at The Market at Malcom Yards.  

For those interested in learning more about sauna culture, two free speaker series events will be held at the village on Jan. 28, including live broadcasts of the podcasts “Sauna Talk” at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and “Rebel and Be Well” at 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.  

A picture of a person with a yellow tint
Artist and activist Eric Pasi's “Palms and Psalms" will be performed at The Icehouse in Minneapolis.
Courtesy of Great Northern Festival

Jan. 27: Eric Pasi, Palms and Psalm

After a several year hiatus from the stage, artist and activist Eric Pasi will debut music from his new project, “Palms and Psalms.”  

Described as a “Polynesian surf rock project,” the concept album handles themes “addressing climate annihilation, colonialism and Polynesian culture,” according to the Great Northern’s website. Pasi will also be joined by Diane Miller, a host at The Current.

The performance will take place Jan. 27 at the Icehouse. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the show begins at 10 p.m. Guests must be over 21 to attend the event. 

Jan. 28: Jovan C. Speller and Gabrielle E. W. Carter, Cultural Food Perseveration, Climate Limitations and Adaptions.

This panel discussion will examine how farming and cultivation practices rooted in the Global South can be adapted to cooler climates.  

Artists and agriculturists Jovan C. Speller and Gabrielle E.W. Carter bring up the example of The Great Migration’s influence on how Black farmers adapted their traditions to northern states. They also ask in their artist statement: “What does it mean to adapt, and does adapting tradition for climate limitations still preserve and feed the culture?”  

The discussion will take place Jan. 28 at 5 p.m. at the American Swedish Institute.  

An orchestra plays
The Minnesota Orchestra offer a performance for the Lunar New Year at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
Courtesy of Courtney Perry

Jan. 28: Lunar New Year with the Minnesota Orchestra

To usher in the Year of the Rabbit, the Minnesota Orchestra is hosting its second concert dedicated to the Lunar New Year. While not observed in all Asian communities, many — including Chinese and Korean communities — celebrate the holiday that started on Jan. 22 this year.  

The concert will be conducted by Junping Qian. According to the Orchestra’s website, the Orchestra will “strive to embrace the joy of Lunar New Year traditions while also recognizing the loss and tragedy” in relation to last weekend's mass shooting at a Lunar New Year celebration in California.  

The concert will take place Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. at Orchestra Hall. It will also be broadcast live by YourClassical MPR.  

Jan. 28: Seth Parker Woods and Spencer Topel, Iced Bodies

There may be no performance more wintery than “Iced Bodies,” composed by Brooklyn-based Spencer Topel and performed by cellist Seth Parker Woods. The title is chilly, inspired by a 1972 piece by the art group Fluxus, but what makes it especially frigid is its instrument.

Woods will perform the piece on a cello made from black ice, and the instrument will melt as he plays it.

But the ice cello serves as a broader metaphor, as Woods and Topel explain on their website: “The inherent vulnerability of a melting ice sculpture — with its eventual destruction — serves as a commentary to overlooked and undocumented cases of mental disability within underrepresented populations.”

“Iced Bodies” will be performed Jan. 28 at 2:30 p.m. at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.

People dancing with instruments
Contemporary music ensemble Alarm Will Sound will perform "Ten Thousand Birds" on Feb. 5 at Minneapolis Institute of Art’s contemporary gallery.
Courtesy of Great Northern Festival

Feb. 5: Alarm will sound, Ten Thousand Birds

Contemporary music ensemble Alarm Will Sound will perform a 60-minute interpretation of a musical piece inspired by birdsong. Composed by Grammy- and Pulitzer Prize-winner John Luther Adams, “Ten Thousand Birds” follows an “open, modular structure,” which allows it to be performed in a variety of ways. Alarm Will Sound will also move through the event space while they perform.  

The performance will take place Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s contemporary gallery.  

A piece of art with holes
Artist Kablusiak's show “Qiniqtuaq” is on display at Bockley Gallery through Feb. 5.
Courtesy photo

Through Feb. 5, Qiniqtuaq

During a pause in the art installation process at the Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis, artist Kablusiak talks about how their show “Qiniqtuaq” — an Inuvialuktun word that means “searching” or “looking”— will be experienced mostly from the street.

“There's a component of voyeurism to this work, where I'm asking the audience to peer through these little ghostly eyeholes cut into fabric,” Kablusiask says.  

What will they see? A video montage inside the gallery that juxtaposes clips from “The Simpsons” and “Seinfeld” with programming from the Aboriginal People Television Network and an Inuit cooking show.  

“All of the clips kind of fall under this umbrella of nostalgia,” they say. “It’s an homage to growing up with my brother and just watching TV.”  

Kablusiask is a self-described urban Inuk artist based in Calgary, Canada, who is in town as part of the FD13 residency. They often use ghosts to explore being “othered” and existing in two worlds.  

Erin Gleeson is a curator and director of FD13 residency for the arts. Gleeson says they “invited Kablusiak to be here in Minnesota during and in collaboration with The Great Northern Festival to highlight Indigenous perspectives and ask, ‘Whose North?,’ when for many, Minnesota is a southern Prairie.” 

Qiniqtuaq runs through Feb. 5. Kablusiak will also be giving a curatorial talk Feb. 1 at All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis and will collaborate with North American Indigenous Food Systems for the Feb. 2 public event “Mamaqtuq!”, inspired by Inuit country foods, at the Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis.  

Through Feb. 5, Love (for Minneapolis)

New York-based artist and educator Maren Hassinger has reimagined her iconic hot-pink installation “Embrace/Love” (2008/2018) in collaboration with students from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.  

Like the original, the new piece “Love (for Minneapolis)” uses hundreds of biodegradable bags inflated with human breath paired with love notes. This time, the makeshift lungs, a “healing intervention," are installed in the MCAD skyway in Minneapolis, accessed through its second floor Concourse Gallery. “Love (for Minneapolis)” will be on view through Feb. 5.  

A person kneels in the grass
New York-based artist and educator Maren Hassinger, whose work "Love (For Minneapolis)" is installed in the Minneapolis College of Art and Design skyway through Feb. 5.
Courtesy of Great Northern Festival

Through Feb. 24, Out There

The Walker Art Center’s Great Northern Festival programming, the existential cosmic blaze of an immersive art experience “N O W I S W H E N W E A R E (the stars)” by artist and tech wiz Andrew Schneider, is unfortunately sold out — all 64 shows.

The experience is at once one of sensory deprivation (a room so inky black you can’t see your hand in front of your face) and senses alight (pin pricks of light activated by your movement, audio that rushes through your body in waves).  

All of this plays out with Schneider’s narration, asking you to ponder questions like “If the apocalypse came tomorrow, which direction would you walk in?” and consider a life summed up by uncanny measurements (“Three weeks spent looking away”).  

The performances, in the Walker’s blacked-out McGuire Theater, are done in groups no larger than eight and feel something like a communal near-death experience. After one rehearsal run at the Walker, Schneider, dressed in all black with headlamp hanging around his neck, told participants that this experience is about the conversations he wants to have with people. The show is basically saying, “Human beings, right?” he explained, laughing.  

This production is part of the Walker’s return to new performance and radical theater with the event series Out There 2023. Next up for Out There is the Ogresse: Envisioned performance by jazz vocal genius and artist Cécile McLorin Salvant, Feb. 24-25. 

Through March 24, To Illuminate Abundance

Local curating team Olivia House and Silent Fox of the 13.4 Collective describe the “To Illuminate Abundance” exhibition at Augsburg College as Afrofuturist.  

“We wanted to create a show around joy and light and imagining a life in which Black women and femmes are able to live a full life, full of light and joy and happiness beyond survival,” House says. “We thought it was important to feature this joy and light after the past few years of what Minneapolis has experienced and Black women in particular have had to carry.”  

The show features the work of nine Black women and femme artists and designers, including House and Silent Fox, either based in or connected to the Twin Cities. Each piece was created in 2022 specifically for this show. The Great Northern Festival will host an artist talk 6 p.m. Feb. 2 at Hagfors Center, Augsburg College. 

A gallery with people in the back
"To Illuminate Abundance" featuring art by Kelsi Sharp, at the Augsburg College Gage Gallery.
Courtesy photo

Feb. 1 - May 28, Fluidity: Identity in Swedish Glass

The American Swedish Institute celebrates women artists in the medium of glass with the new exhibition “Fluidity: Identity in Swedish Glass.”

At the center of the show is the U.S. premiere of the immersive installation “Being,” by the California-born, Sweden-based artist Jo Andersson. In a darkened gallery, the installation uses a combination of Andersson’s handblown “light vessels,” water, soundscapes, and light from your own smart phone.

An art installation in a room
Jo Andersson's installation "Being" in the Fluidity exhibition at the American Swedish Institute.
Courtesy photo

“Jo invites the visitor to bring the light to the exhibition,” says Erin Stromgren, exhibitions manager for the Institute. “In using the smartphone, it started as an idea of: it's a device intended to connect us all, but often, we feel really disconnected from the person next to us, right? We're all on our phones, but here you're using the flashlight from your phone to be present, to be in the space immersed in the setting.”

Stromgren says there will also be a display from local glass artist Emma Wood and a pop-up from Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts.

Correction (Jan. 30): An earlier version of this story misidentified the North American Indigenous Food Systems. The story has been updated.

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.