The Duluth Art Institute enriches daily life with dynamic, innovative visual arts programming that upholds excellence and promotes inclusive community participation.

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Birkenstein Art Movement (BAM)

The Birkenstein Art Movement, or BAM, is a program inspired by Jean Birkenstein—an artist, a teacher, and a leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s Chicago. Her home served as a safe house and community center for rival gangs, where members were free to visit and express themselves through art. The connection to Jean to the Duluth Art Institute is through DAI Board President Robin Washington. She is his mother. Jean inspired and lead community change through activism and visual art. The Duluth Art Institute recognizes the her contributions and is honored to teach youth about the importance of speaking up and the power of art. 

Seventh graders from the Lincoln Park Middle School participated in 12 art classes and 24 leadership sessions to teach creative problem-solving. The youth met weekly at the DAI Lincoln Park building free of cost, with included meals and transportation vouchers to remove barriers to participation.

Students stretched their abilities to create artworks, learning to appreciate the results of their efforts and believe in their ability to succeed at new things. The program addressed an opportunity gap with youth learning how to voice their concerns and be heard. The youth presented their concerns about a neighborhood park to Duluth City Hall to end the experience, incorporating art to tell their story.


Jonathan Thunder, Adam Swanson, Florencia Matamoras, Ashley Hise, Carla Hamilton, Charles Smith, Karen Keenan, Delphi Starr


This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit

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