Andrea Carlson isn't used to chasing her artwork around. But when her canvas becomes a 100,000-pound light-rail vehicle, it's about the only way to get a glimpse of the finished product.
Carlson managed to catch up with the train twice last week, traveling down University Avenue and at an informal gathering at the Green Line’s Operations & Maintenance Facility in Lowertown.
Seeing the design come to life, she said, was overwhelming.
"Of course I'd seen it on the computer screen but this is totally different," the St. Paul- and Chicago-based artist said. "When I got on the train I actually cried a little."
The "Water is Life" artwork was commissioned by Northern Spark organizers to promote the annual arts festival and to bring attention to the event's theme, climate change. The all-night celebration will focus heavily on the Green Line, with more than 70 events happening in neighborhoods along the light rail corridor between sunset on Saturday, June 10, and sunrise on Sunday, June 11.
Carlson's design has images of a Thunderbird and a Water Spirit, along with two messages about water – Mni Wiconi, Dakota for "water is life," and Nibi gaa-bimaaji’iwemagak, Ojibwe for "water gives life."
The design both reflects the parallels between urban streets and pays tribute to the Native lands the Green Line traverses. It also recognizes efforts by the University of Minnesota's American Indian Studies Department to revive Native languages that are endangered.
“It’s really a love letter to people working on language revitalization,” said Carlson, who studied the Ojibwe language Anishinaabemowin at the U of M.
The train wrap will remain up through the conclusion of Northern Spark. Northern Spark organizers are encouraging people to take photos of the train and to share them on social media with the hashtag #catchatrainNS. A Northern Spark juror will review photos shared before March 31 and the winning photographer will receive two tickets to the Northern Spark launch party.
To learn more about Carlson’s inspiration visit the project page at 2017.northernspark.org and read an interview with Northern Spark Curator Elle Thoni.