Kate Nordstrum and Jovan C. Speller Rebollar
“The Great Northern was born of place and is the embodiment of real, distinct Twin Cities values,” says Kate Nordstrum, chief programming officer of the one-of-a-kind festival she oversees alongside Executive Director Jovan C. Speller Rebollar. Now in its fourth year, the ambitious undertaking encapsulates 10 days of programming with two calls to action: to address climate change and to embrace winter together. The goal, Speller Rebollar says, is to “inspire action and protect our signature season. We’re changing hearts and minds about our cold climate.”
She would know. After living in Los Angeles, Speller Rebollar landed here with a plan to hibernate all winter long. But upon invitation, she participated in the event as an artist herself, with a work that was in part a reaction to George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Now, she’s helping lead the festivities, which include thought-provoking climate solutions panels with global experts; gourmet dinners discussing the future of food; arts performances and exhibitions; a new signature family event, Midwinter Melt at Silverwood Park; and the popular Sauna Village, where folks can gather and enjoy the thrilling, healing contrast of steamy sessions and icy air.
Nordstrum says this combination of crucial, complex topics and inspiring art helps everyone process their thoughts and feelings together at a time when we might otherwise be inclined to isolate. “Taken together, we’re asking the question: What do we stand to lose as our winters continue to warm?” she punctuates. “We connect climate to culture in a way that I hope deeply resonates, where people enter into a space of love and joy and appreciation. We’re extending an invitation for anyone to join us in fighting for our winters. It’s wonderful to have a bright light in the middle of the season and be in community.”