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History

For over 100 years

the Duluth Art Institute has been providing visual arts programming to the region encompassing northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin through exhibitions and education.

The DAI is a multi-service, non-collecting 501(c) 3 non-profit visual art organization achieving our mission and purpose through three primary programs for artists and the community at large: exhibitions, education and artist services.

With organized art activity beginning around 1871, the Duluth Art Institute incorporated in 1907 as the Duluth Art Association. Twenty-five years later, a number of Work Projects Administration artists established a school under the auspices of a fledgling organization called the Art Center Association. The new school attracted distinguished faculty members including David Ericson, Knute Heldner, Kathryn MacKay, Birney Quick and Paul Van Ryzin. In 1946, the Duluth Art Association and the Art Center Association merged to consolidate and strengthen visual art activities under the name: Duluth Art Institute Association, which we remain today.

After existing in storefronts, churches and private residences for nearly eighty years, in 1975, the Institute found a permanent home with several other cultural entities to form the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center also known as “the Depot.” The stability of having cultural partnerships and a permanent home was of great benefit to the Institute. Within a very few years, the organization greatly increased its visibility in the community and significantly enhanced the presence of visual art and artists in the region.

In 1992, the DAI expanded again. Inspired by a desire to reach under-served communities and compelled by an increasing demand for educational programming and studio space, the Institute purchased the former Lincoln Branch Library, an authentic Carnegie Library in Duluth’s ethnically rich, yet economically challenged Lincoln Park area.  Artist residencies have been established at the Lincoln building which in turn have produced celebrated projects, such as the Clayton-Jackson-McGhie Memorial, created for the city of Duluth’s Public Arts Commission by sculptor: Carla Stetson and writer, Anthony Peyton Porter.

 

Programming Today

The DAI is a non-collecting art center.  We do not own a permanent collection which allows us to show a fresh and ever-revolving schedule of solo and group exhibitions with a focus on work created by living, breathing artists –mostly from our region.  In 2011, 15 exhibitions were mounted, displaying over 500 emerging, mid-career and established artists and serving over 56,000 gallery visitors.

The DAI is about the process –not the product.  People actively engage with artists by attending exhibit receptions where artists may be creating work on site or you can attend artist talks in the gallery to learn more about the behind-the-scenes story from artists and curators.

People do things with their own hands and learn how to use the “tools” of art by attending a class or workshop.  The DAI holds Free Family Days at our Lincoln Center and art camp for kids and teens in the summer, plus outreach to schools, scouts and other groups.  On average the DAI serves 2,000 people in arts learning and at least 1000 of those served are youth.

The DAI collaborates with other organizations to make our community stronger, such as the popular: Empty Bowl fundraiser for Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank which raises between $50,000 and $65,000 each year to help feed hungry people.  

Art is for everybody!  At the DAI we believe there is an artist in everyone and sometimes that means getting a little bit messy!  Please join us.