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RIP Northern Spark

Plus first-time fat biking, weed tax questions, and spooooky license plates in today's Flyover.

'Scattered Light' by Jim Campbell at 2011's Northern Spark.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Aw, Shit: Northern Spark is Calling It Quits

For over a decade, all-night art party Northern Spark has brought a little whimsy to the witching hours, offering pop-up installations, hands-on art-making sessions, games, and performances. Some years the event sprawled through downtown Minneapolis, one year it was in Lowertown St. Paul, and other years Frogtown, Rondo, and University Avenue hosted happenings. This summer it won't be anywhere, as Northern Lights.mn, the 501(c)3 that organizes the event, is shuttering. 

“NL is not in a fiscal or leadership crisis, but a careful analysis of our current finances and projections into the next several years show a picture of reduced income to such a degree that we would be unable to fulfill our mission and vision with integrity,” the press release states. “The reasons for this are complex, from the pandemic to shifting philanthropic focus to decreases in individual donations.”

Past participating artists include yarn bomber HOTTEA; Keetra Dean Dixon, whose Swing Hall, Swing All turned an MCAD pathway into a swing set; and Chris Larson, who recreated architect Marcel Breuer’s 1962 St. Paul house, which was then set afire and sent down a river. Past participating organizations included the Center for Lost Objects, Bedlam Theatre, Black Dog, and the Soap Factory, which moved its 10 Second Film Fest to the event for a few years. “While we believe that participatory art in public space is what the world needs now, we also believe that not everything is intended to last forever,” the release somberly concludes.

Northern Lights.mn’s last event will be this June, and is being billed as a "program" rather than a full-blown Northern Spark, though the details and location has not been announced yet. A publication celebrating the festival’s history and the artists who made it great will be released in 2024.

MPR's Foray Into Fat Biking

By late January, even the hardiest Minnesotans start to get a little fatigued by the cold, the dark, and the snow. Enter a new series from MPR that gets their reporters outside in the elements to try new-to-them cold-weather activities. First up? Correspondent Kirsti Marohn, whose beat is typically covering central Minnesota and the environment, tries fat biking for the first time in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. Just a $40 rental fee gets her a half-day rental of a bike (and helmet) from Cykel bike shop, and from there, she hits the trails, taking a few falls into pillowy snowbanks, learning the importance of layering up for a ride (and, in the future, wearing boots instead of running shoes), and making new friends along the way.

How Much Weed Could a Weed Tax Tax If a Weed Tax Could Tax Weed?

We all know legal weed, if and when it comes to Minnesota, is gonna be taxed. But that leaves a big question: How? In the Minnesota Reformer today, Christopher Ingraham looks at the options: the DFL legalization bill contains an 8% tax, while Gov. Tim Walz proposes a $15% tax. (Both of these would be in addition to the already existing 6.5% state sales tax, and any local sales taxes.) The concern some experts in the field have about imposing high taxes immediately is that many consumers will simply stick with their current weed dealer rather than seeking out more expensive legal options. The way of counteracting that, they propose, is to begin with a small sales tax, to wean smokers off the illegal stuff, and gradually increase the tax once you’ve undercut the untaxed market. The piece also looks at lots of other questions about weed taxes you’ve likely never thought about.

Goth Plates Coming?

So-called "blackout" license plates are popular in Colorado, Iowa, and Mississippi, MPR News tells us, and the gothic vehicle name tags may soon be available for Minnesota drivers. Here's Gov. Tim Walz getting in a nice dig at Iowa. (It's a wisecrack Sen. Klobuchar could never muster the political courage to deliver.)

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety estimates that around 140,000 drivers could opt for the plates, meaning the annual fee of $30 per plate might bring in almost $5 million per year, the agency reports. As you may have gleaned from the above tweet, Walz is encouraging the legislature to authorize passage of the bad-ass design. In other plate news: Here are 10 things we learned while reading all 93,188 personalized MN license plates.

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