The art world is quickly carving out space for itself in an ambitious neighborhood revitalization project in Duluth’s West End neighborhood.
An established Twin Ports potter, a new gallery and retail store with studio space and an arts arm of an American Indian social service organization have all recently announced plans to renovate and open buildings on West Superior Street. All three projects fall within the boundaries of the Lincoln Park Craft District, a rebranding and redevelopment effort organized by neighborhood businesses last year.
The three new art-related projects currently underway in the craft district are:
Duluth Pottery. Artist Karin Kraemer and her husband Tom Hollenhorst have purchased the former P&J Paint building at 1924 W. Superior St. and are currently directing its renovation. Kraemer worked out of the old Superior City Hall for 16 years. She plans to reopen her studio and gallery in Lincoln Park this summer. The building was originally a bank.
Two Loons. Minneapolis retirees Joel and Lori Baird, along with their son Jonathan, purchased and renovated the old Ben Franklin store at 2025 W. Superior St. The Bairds will open an art gallery and retail store in half the building this spring. The remainder will be available as leased studio space. The building was originally a haberdashery.
AICHO Lincoln Park Gallery and Coffee Shop. American Indian Community Housing Organization purchased a hair salon and laundromat at 2301 W. Superior St. last year. The fire-damaged building was originally a grocery store with two apartment floors. The nonprofit will rebuild a third floor, creating affordable housing on two upper floors. A renovated storefront will feature an American Indian art gallery and coffee shop. The $1.4 million project is currently awaiting funding. Construction is planned to begin in late 2017.
All three project developers were attracted to the area after learning about the craft district initiative, now being promoted through organizations like Lincoln Park Business Group, Advancing Lincoln Park and Our Lincoln Park.
With a backbone of established “craft” businesses like Duluth Grill, Bent Paddle Brewing, Duluth’s Best Bread and Frost River, the district sits roughly between the Point of Rocks and the ore docks. It features a large number of older, inexpensive buildings closely assembled on West Superior Street. The city of Duluth has created an Advance West loan program, which provides funding assistance for owner-occupied building renovations in the area.
The West End has been home to the Duluth Art Institute‘s Lincoln Building, in a former Carnegie Library, for about 20 years. A handful of studios and artisans have always called it home, but the neighborhood has generated more artist interest in the past year.
“It’s so exciting,” said DAI Interim Director Dana Mattice. “Rebranding the neighborhood as the craft district has really helped raise awareness in the arts community.”
Mattice said artists and art related businesses are now actively looking for space in the neighborhood. For example, Hemlocks Leatherworks was one of the first newcomers, opening shop at 1923 W. Superior last fall.
And more are on the way.
“All the changes going on in Lincoln Park, I think are fantastic,” said Joel Baird. “Lincoln Park still has the in-fill, it has a stretch of buildings all in a row, which makes for a nice retail district. Other areas have a lot of buildings torn down and that breaks things up.”
Baird said Lincoln Park will become a destination for art lovers, tourists and shoppers of all kinds.
“It’s going to be a real nice retail district,” he said. “What’s really going to help Duluth is if we have more destination points, so people coming here to shop can make a weekend of it. I see Lincoln Park fitting right in with Canal Park and Downtown Duluth.”
The American Indian Community Housing Organization has hosted five pop-up galleries in its building since it was purchased a year ago. “We turned what used to be a hair salon into a pop-up gallery,” said Executive Director Michelle LeBeau. “That’s been extremely successful.”
LeBeau said the AICHO has maintained a gallery at its downtown location for three years and has built a solid list of contributing artists. With encouragement from Lincoln Park business groups and the city of Duluth, the organization purchased and launched gallery and coffee shop plans.
“When everything gets developed down there, I think it’s going to fit in perfectly,” she said. “We have all these artists and buildings down there, it kind of was a perfect match. That area really needs some good investment.”
Kraemer said she outgrew her Superior location and was looking to relocate her pottery studio and gallery somewhere in Duluth. She looked for more than a year, including a half dozen West End buildings.
“For a variety of reasons, I liked Lincoln Park,” she said. “First of all, there are some rocking, like-minded businesses in the area and more on the way.”
The future Duluth Pottery space fronts West Superior Street and has a back door across Michigan Street from Bent Paddle’s tap room. “We have a great big garage door and loading bay back there,” she said. “We will be having numerous and sundry events in both street entrances.”
Kraemer said city officials accommodated her difficult zoning needs for both manufacturing and retail. She also hopes to take advantage of Duluth job creation and building renovation incentives targeting the western side of the city.
“Duluth needs a neighborhood for artists and small businesses to have affordable spaces into the future for financial stability,” she said. “I hope we can build this community in Lincoln Park.”
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