B-Lectric: A Celebration of Art & Light


- By Kara Larson - “Hey, there’s a yeti walking around over there. Oh, and a yeti made of ice holding oyster trays there. Nice.”

Welcome to winter in the North—a time and place where, to get through the frosty months, we get weird. But it’s a weird we can all get behind. Because within it, there is an imaginative playfulness, a genuine wonder, and a creative spark that only a season like winter could inspire. When we attended B-Lectric: A Celebration of Art and Light on Sunday, January 29th at Barbette, we found ourselves amongst yetis of all sizes, art in many forms, barrels of fire, cozy bevvies, and more. In this urban cove of wintertime bliss, we reveled in an event put on by Northern Spark and Barbette that certainly embraced the weirdness, magic, and spirit of winter.

As part of The Great Northern Festival, which is comprised of 10 days of signature events and new programming in the Twin Cities, B-Lectric was created with the mission to give residents and visitors a reason to get outside, enjoy the incredible winter season, and to experience the light of art along the way. During B-Lectric, the block behind Barbette was filled with artists commissioned by Northern Spark to create projections on neighborhood buildings and massive ice screens that were set up around the event. Highlights included Joshua McGarvey’s Ice Fall-Feel the Change, which allowed audiences to feel glaciers calving as they lean back into sound beds, and a documentary compilation by local curator Graci Horne.

In addition, a select number of Art Shanty Projects transformed certain areas of the event into creative community spaces that were part art gallery and part social experiment. If you are unfamiliar with Art Shanty Projects, it is an artist driven temporary community that explores how public spaces can be used as challenging artistic environments to expand notions of what art can be. B-Lectric featured a sample of shanties that will be part of the On-Ice Program each weekend from February 4-26 in White Bear Lake. The shanties in attendance were Sesa-station Story Shanty, which aimed to engage participants in story writing, The Dance Shanty, which encouraged free-spirited dancing, and the Vehicle of Expression, which connected writers and readers of literature to share performances. Lastly, Chef Shanty by eatontheloose.com combined art and food, featuring maple syrup lollipops made on site, tastes of winter libations, and a creative outlet to warm your artistic soul.

Beyond all this, B-Lectric featured DJ Jake Rudh (of The Current and Transmission), performances from Infiammati FireCircus, fire barrels, the mysterious YETI, Indeed Brewing Company, a whiskey and bourbon winter cocktail bar thanks to Beam Suntory, mulled wine, oysters, kefta, halloumi cheese skewers, and more. As a free and zero waste event, other partners included Indeed Brewing, Effen, Beam, Teacher’s, Sauza, City Pages, 89.3 the Current, Uptown Association, Thrifty Hipster, and Yelp.

A line up like this made for a festive affair with just the right amount of fire to huddle around, hot toddy’s to sip on, and different forms of yetis to keep you honest. It also served as a helpful reminder that winter in the North is a time that deserves to cherished, explored, and celebrated. Because, in a way, winter here, no matter how cruel, feels like it belongs to us—a defining key in our sense of cultural identity. It’s harsh out there, but we’re yeti tough and too stubborn to give up now.