The creator of the genre-bending, artist-matchmaking Liquid Music series will now help lead the Great Northern, an annual festival that embraces Minnesota’s winter.
Kate Nordstrum will be tasked with building new arts programming for the fest when she takes over next week as executive and artistic director.
“We see an opportunity to create a homegrown event of national caliber and scale,” founder and board President Eric Dayton said in a news release Thursday.
Festival leaders were drawn by Nordstrum’s innovative programming and entrepreneurial spirit. “They were looking for someone who could innovate and have a real vision for this next chapter,” she said by phone. “I think we can get really creative about what a winter festival can mean.”
Launched in 2017, the Great Northern is best known for the events it brought under its umbrella (igloo?): the St. Paul Winter Carnival, City of Lakes Loppet and U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. But it wants to boost its original programming in the arts, ideas and hospitality, Nordstrum said. Music, of course. But conversations, too.
“I’ve really enjoyed stretching my mind around the outdoor element of the festival,” she said. “There are some really interesting festivals in the world who do site-specific work.”
She pointed to Iceland’s Dark Music Days, an annual music festival in Reykjavík during the darkest period of winter. The lack of light shapes the event.
Planning for this winter’s festival is well underway — it takes place Jan. 23 to Feb. 2 — so her impact won’t be felt until 2021.
Earlier this year, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra announced that it was cutting loose Liquid Music — and Nordstrum — as part of cuts responding to the loss of more than $200,000 in corporate funding. The series, launched in 2012, has carved an uncommon space in the state’s music scene, presenting new classical and chamber-music hybrids.
Along the way, she’s become a storied matchmaker, pairing pop artists with unlikely partners. Among them: Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon with TU Dance for a still-going-strong project titled “Come Through” and Poliça with Berlin-based orchestral collective Stargaze, birthing an album.
This weekend’s Liquid Music concerts at Walker Art Center will be the last copresented with the SPCO. But Nordstrum plans to continue that brand. She’s forming a Liquid Music LLC that will house her independent projects and contract work. In the coming year, she has gigs with the National Gallery and Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Big Ears Festival in Tennessee and the Cincinnati Symphony.
“My passion for instigating new projects and building up the cultural life of the Twin Cities — with impacts beyond — remains unwavering,” she said.