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MINNEAPOLIS, MN (December 1, 2020) – The Great Northern,
which celebrates Minnesota winters through ten days of diverse
programming that invigorate mind and body, today announces its
2021 festival plans. The Festival brings together legacy events and
produces original artistic, cultural and ideas programming to share the
spirit of the North with the world and inspire action on climate change.
Think large scale citywide projections of digital animated artwork by
“ChangeMaker” (MPR) Marlena Myles; a series of experimental walks
with award-winning architecture/art duo Dream the Combine meant
to highlight the sensorial experience of winter; a conversation on
climate science, policy and justice with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson;
live fire grilling from celebrated chef Yia Vang; and more.
Since its inception in 2017, The Great Northern has drawn 375,000
annual visitors from around the region and engaged them with
opportunities to learn, play, think, and build connections in the heart
of winter and to highlight Minnesota at its seasonal best.
The Great Northern was founded by board president Eric Dayton—
CEO of Askov Finlayson, named 2019 Young Global Leader by the
World Economic Forum—in the belief that Minnesota can be a
vibrant, welcoming place for everyone to live and work year-round.
With a mission essential to the wellbeing of the Minnesota community,
particularly during this challenging and socially isolating time, The
Great Northern will continually evaluate best practices related to
COVID-19 to ensure a safe experience for all.
“The 2021 festival will include conversations, arts and cultural
programming, and activities designed to create human and
environmental connection,” said Kate Nordstrum, executive and
artistic director of The Great Northern. “We examine our changing
climate creatively—through walks, art, music, writing and storytelling.
These poignant and visceral experiences will hopefully personalize the
issue for attendees and inspire them to become advocates in their
own networks and communities.”
The Great Northern hired Kate Nordstrum as executive and artistic
director in December 2019 to lead the organization into this future
and reimagine its mission and programming. A “curatorial powerhouse
with international pull” (MPR), Nordstrum is known as a “storied
matchmaker” (Star Tribune) and natural connector who collaborates
with partner organizations to apply complementary lenses to projects
and aggregate resources.
“I’m incredibly excited for The Great Northern this year, our first under
Kate Nordstrum’s visionary leadership,” said Dayton. “She has created
a robust and diverse calendar of programming at a time when, now
more than ever, we need opportunities to safely come together and
experience the healing power of community.”
Three legacy festivals—the City of Lakes Loppet, Saint Paul Winter
Carnival and U.S. Pond Hockey Championships—are founding
partners of The Great Northern. Previously scheduled across the
winter months, the three festivals now place over a coordinated
10-day period with signature events, including the Winter Carnival’s
celebrated Ice Carving Competition and Snow Sculpture Contest
(now a drive through at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds). Due to
COVID-19 health and safety guidelines set forth by the state of
Minnesota, the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships had to cancel its
2021 games but plans a celebratory return in 2022.
The full schedule of 2021 original programming is available at
thegreatnorthernfestival.com. All Great Northern-produced events
have been designed in full compliance with COVID-19 safety guides
put forward by the Minnesota Department of Health and are subject
A few highlights of 25 projects—divided by category—are highlighted
MUSIC & PERFORMANCE
Original work and world premieres by visionary local, national and
• The Palms, a world premiere storytelling, photo sharing,
semi-improvised new music event by first-time collaborators,
renowned photographer Alec Soth (“celebrated chronicler of
contemporary American life" –The Guardian) and drummer/
composer Dave King (“better than anyone at mixing the
sensibilities of post-‘60s jazz and indie rock” –The New York
Times), commissioned by The Great Northern.
• The Meta Simulacrum Vol. 1 uses the symbology of our shared
past to look forward into an uncertain future of climate
change. This world premiere streaming concert, copresented
with the Walker Art Center and Cincinnati Symphony
Orchestra, features musician-composer supergroup William
Brittelle (music director), Holland Andrews (Like a Villain),
Channy Leaneagh (Poliça), Will Johnson (WILLS), Immanuel
Wilkins (sax), Ian Chang (percussion), Erika Dohi (synth),
Chris Fishman (keys), Rafiq Bhatia (guitar), Jackson Hill
(bass), and musicians of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
The Great Northern promotes a healthy, active, outdoor lifestyle by
encouraging individuals to get outside and enjoy all the season offers.
• Award-winning architecture/art duo Dream the Combine
design a series of experimental walks meant to highlight
sensorial experiences of winter, from the retinal-burning white
of fresh snow, to the crisp blue of the vapor-less sky, or the
snap of footfalls cracking newly formed ice. DTC’s walks aim
to provoke discovery and seeing our city, landscape, and
each other in unexpected ways.
• In partnership with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation’s Next
Generation of Parks, Dudley Edmondson and Monica Bryand
of the Urban Bird Collective will lead Winter Birding, a familyfriendly
discussion and exploration of the most common—
and colorful—birds seen in metro area backyards, binoculars
for beginners, ways to attract birds to your backyard, and the
best Minnesota field trips for winter birdwatching.
Keynote and panel conversations, specialty podcast episode launches,
film screenings, commissioned writing, author talks, storytelling and
other thought-provoking formats that allow us to explore time, place,
and our changing climate through the lenses of culture, the economy,
and social equity.
• A conversation on climate science, policy and justice with
“the most influential Marine Biologist of our time” (Outside)
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, in partnership with Westminster
Town Hall Forum and Minnesota Public Radio, kicking off a
week of climate solutions “lunchtime learning.”
• Peabody Award-winning broadcaster, New York Times
bestselling author, and National Humanities Medalist Krista
Tippett interviews poet, teacher, birder and conservationist
J. Drew Lanham, author of The Home Place—Memoirs of a
Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (Milkweed Editions)
for a special episode On Being in partnership with The Great
• Films are a powerful tool to address climate change — they
educate, inspire, and empower audiences toward action.
For the inaugural collaboration of The Great Northern and
MSP Film, we will present a virtual film festival that speaks to
essential issues in the climate conversation based around the
four elements: Earth, Water, Air, Fire.
FOOD & DRINK
Curated experiences focused on craft, regionality and seasonality.
• Dialogue with Sean Sherman (The Sioux Chef, Minneapolis)
and Mikkel-Lau Mikkelsen (Noma/VILD MAD, Copenhagen)
on getting outside and connecting with nature through
foraging. The talk will include a focus on seasonality/rhythm of
foraging in northern climates, similarities/differences between
Sherman and Mikkelsen's approaches, what is foragable in
winter, climate change's effects on foraging in Minneapolis
and Copenhagen, and foraging as a path to sustainability.
• Famed Chef Yia Vang (Union Hmong Kitchen, Vinai)
welcomes visitors to this Live Fire Grilling takeout site
with optimum viewing for the premiere of Marlena Myles’
Innerworld Prism, outlined below.
Site-specific art that changes the way we see and engage with our
• Innerworld Prism: Large-scale digital animated artwork by
visionary creator Marlena Myles, projected onto the iconic
Highlight Tower in NE Minneapolis on “festival eve”, then
displayed at different pop-up sites across the Twin Cities
throughout the festival. The Great Northern-commissioned
work is described by Myles as “the loss of Ego to regain
Nature, a reverie of ourselves to cherish and explore.”
• UNWEAVING is a temporary outdoor sculpture installation
by multi-disciplinary artist Tia Keobounpheng that explores
the ways that tradition, culture, communities, and individuals
are unwoven when they are disconnected from their
foundation of ancestral history.
“We are prompting people to be intentional this time of year to
use winter as a period of invigoration for mind, body and spirit,”
said Nordstrum. “This is a very rich time for our culture—The Great
Northern spotlights it.”
For more information on The Great Northern, please visit
www.thegreatnorthernfestival.com or follow along on social media at