Great Northern Festival taps local artists to build ice-enclosed greenhouse

Winter is here, but black cone flowers, velvet petunias, coleus, and more will soon blossom in St. Paul. The blooms will be inside an ice-enclosed greenhouse, the centerpiece of this year's Great Northern Festival, which runs from January 27 to February 6.

Titled Conservatory'', the icy creation is a response to the racial reckoning that began in the summer of 2020 following the killing of George Floyd and is intended as a testament to survival despite oppression.

Artists Jovan C. Speller and Andy DuCett wished to use the work as a way to elevate and make visible the resilience of marginalized communities.

"When we conceptualized 'Conservatory,' we weren't thinking of the concept of cold as a singular metaphor," said Speller and DuCett in a joint e-mail. "As two people who were physically separated/threatened by intense biological and sociological conditions, we were thinking of how best to represent that moment in time, knowing that there were many more who were in much more precarious situations."

To make the project more community-oriented and inclusive, artists from Minnesota who identify as Black will be invited to submit work that they made during the uprisings through an online portal that will launch when Great Northern begins. DuCett and Speller will curate work from selected artists.

The ice-enclosed greenhouse will be housed between two buildings in an alley at 340 Sibley Street in downtown St. Paul.

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