Duluth Art Institute – DAI – Design Duluth

This fall the Duluth Art Institute is starting a year-long celebration of contemporary design and an exploration into Duluth’s unique visual voice.
They will host six design discussions based around the central theme of Duluth’s visual identity. Find out more about Design Duluth here.


Business name and location: Duluth Art Institute – 506 West Michigan street AND 2229 West 2nd street

Years in business: 108 year (started in 1907 – unofficially in 1897) The Duluth Art Institute was founded in 1907 by a group of prominent Duluthians including Chester Congdon, Bishop McGolrick, Julius Barnes, G.G. Hartley, and Mrs. H.C. Marshall. Their stated purpose was to provide opportunities for regional artists to display their work. These visionaries saw art as a crucial cornerstone to city development and civic betterment.

Members of the board: 13

About you: Anne Dugan – I studied Art History in undergrad at Carlton College and then got a masters in Art History and Curatorial studies at Columbia University in New York. I worked briefly as the education director at the DAI before going back to grad school. When I came back to the area I worked as the director for the Carlton County Historical Society before starting at the DAI five years ago as an enhancement coordinator for exhibits. Since then I’ve worked as the curator and now serve as the Executive and Artistic Director.

What is one thing the DAI is primarily known for? Visual arts exhibition and quality arts education

What is your favorite thing about Duluth? Lake Superior is what draws a lot of artists to our region and it also serves as a force of energy that keeps a lot of artists creating amazing work. What do you think about the current Duluth economy?
It’s really exciting to see the kind of success arts and design based businesses have had in the last few years. I also love that people are making the connection between a strong economy and a strong arts community. A community with a diverse and healthy cultural scene is able to attract and retain exceptional talent – I definitely think Duluth is on its way there.


What would be your advice to someone looking to be in a show at the DAI? We’re looking for art that has an original voice and can connect with audiences in a unique way. If you can speak to your experience in this community through a visual medium, I’d love to see your work!

What is Design Duluth? Design Duluth is a way to explore Duluth’s unique identity through discussions with some of our community’s most creative voices. We’re organizing these events around question prompts like “how do we embrace the cold” or “how do we defeat Duluth’s inferiority complex” and we’re also adding in some hands on opportunities for those that can get antsy during lectures! We recognize design in all its forms so we’re casting a wide net for artist that include print design, costume design, airplane design, and beer design. The whole series will culminate in a pop up exhibition and panel discussion in the spring.
We also have a secret mission with this project. There has been a lot of talk lately of rebranding Minnesota as the ‘North’ and we see no reason that Duluth shouldn’t be its capitol city. So we’re getting a lot of really great creative people in the same room to talk about their community as a way to plant our flag for North!

A couple other fun facts about you – In addition to running the Duluth Art Institute I am also the co-owner of the Food Farm – the oldest and largest CSA vegetable farm in the area. I also started the Free Range Film Festival in my barn with a group of friends.
A fun fact about the Duluth Art Institute is that many of our instructors have gone on to make their names as hugely successful artists – Peter Gross, for instance, used to teach at the DAI. He is now the most published artist of Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

As far as the artists and individuals involved with the Design Duluth programming. I love how interconnected everyone is. It’s something we didn’t realize when we started the project: Loll is designing beer pulls for Bent Paddle, Bent Paddle works with Vikre, Vikre works with Lake Superior Honey Company, and so on down the line. That kind of cross discipline exchange and collaboration makes everyone stronger.

Favorite place to eat in Duluth: Does New Scenic count as Duluth? I should also admit that I frequent Northern Waters for lunch at least once a week and The Duluth Grill has become our go to spot for celebrating birthdays in the office.

Favorite local business in Duluth (besides the DAI!): All of the participants in Design Duluth! Cirrus, Loll Design, Medium Control, HTK, Salmela Architect, Swim, UMD, Bent Paddle, DSGW, Gimaajii, Vikre, Lake Superior Honey Co, Frost River, Hemlocks Leatherworks, Chaperone Records…. So many more!

Favorite Duluth “hidden gem”:I’ve got to plug the Duluth Art Institute’s annual fundraiser! It really is a hidden gem – and it shouldn’t be! This year is a design theme: “Artistic Duluth: Design edition” on November 7th. We always have fun, but this year I think is going to be really special – we’ll have a lollygagger lounge, Dance Attic performing, food by New Scenic, and a special performance by the Duluth Dolls! It’s got all these things I love about Duluth rolled up into a fabulous evening.