For as long as anyone can remember, West Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood has been a craft district. Handcrafted goods made by skilled workers and unique pieces of art have contributed to the reputation of the area.

Today, Lincoln Park's craft district is expanding rapidly as artists, artisans, and skilled workers move their operations to Lincoln Park. You'll find craft beer from Bent Paddle, handmade canvas packs at Frost River, cozy Northwoods craft products from Two Loons, and so much more. The success of small businesses has transformed Lincoln Park for the better.

Transforming Communities Through Art

At the heart of Lincoln Park's arts industry, you'll find Dana Mattice, Interim Director of the Duluth Art Institute (DAI). The DAI is a
501(c)(3) non-profit visual arts organization, offering rentable ceramics studios, multi-purpose studios, art galleries, free family events, and more. With locations in downtown Duluth and in Lincoln Park, the DAI is always growing. 

This year, the DAI celebrates 110 years of providing visual arts programming in the region - and they've been in Lincoln Park's historic Carnegie Library building for 25 years. 

"The library is such a wonderful space to share our educational offerings with the community," said Mattice. "We offer art classes, workshops, and rentable ceramics studio space. This is also where we put on our quarterly free Family Days - where kids and their parents can explore their creativity together."

Artists as Community Builders 

The DAI recently launched an Artist Residency Program to support the role of artists as effective community builders in Lincoln Park. With the support of Duluth LISC and Bent Paddle, the 3-month program provides the resident with a $1,000 stipend and a beautiful 14 x 9 studio to create a project that engages and showcases Lincoln Park. 

"Access to the arts transforms lives," explained Mattice. "People crave public art and providing affordable access to experience and create art is essential in building a strong community."

The first resident was Paul LaJeunesse, assistant professor at the College of St. Scholastica, who created a stunning mural celebrating Lincoln Park's craft workers. The permanent mural was installed outdoors on Frost River's building. 

The current resident, Nik Nerburn, is showcasing the people of Lincoln Park with a Polaroid photojournalism project. You'll often find him interacting with the community and photographing his experiences. Look for Nerburn's pop-up display in Lincoln Park's Esmond storefront windows starting Tuesday, September 12, 2017.

Advancing Lincoln Park

In 2015, the Entrepreneur Fund recognized the opportunity to share the transformation of Lincoln Park. After convening a group of prominent small business leaders, the Advancing Lincoln Park group was formed to strengthen, build, and promote Lincoln Park as a destination craft district. Today, Advancing Lincoln Park has grown to over 100 individuals who are dedicated to the area's future.

"The Advancing Lincoln Park group has increased awareness for what we're doing here," continued Mattice. "We're building on the energy being cultivated in the community. So many businesses are thriving and it feels like there's always someone new around the corner."

Advancing Lincoln Park is invested in three key strategies: recruiting like-minded entrepreneurs, partnering with the city of Duluth, and branding the area as a destination craft district. 

"I often tell artists looking to relocate or expand to attend the next Advancing Lincoln Park meeting," said Mattice. "It's a chance to connect with active entrepreneurs who can share what it's like to open a business here."

Advancing Lincoln Park's monthly meetings are open to the public. Meetings are frequently attended by the city of Duluth, local entrepreneurs, and community members. The next meeting will be on Thursday, September 21, 2017 from 7:30am-9:00am at OMC Smokehouse. All are welcome.