Photo: William Hurst
Lincoln Park Craft District
Paul LaJeunesse - July 2017
The name of the piece is Lincoln Park Craft District, and it is the mural that started the current Lincoln Park public art movement.
In November of 2014, Urban Strategist Michele Reeves was invited to Duluth to assess the then-languishing Lincoln Park commercial district and make recommendations about how Lincoln Park could be brought back to life. High on the list of district improvements was to improve the streetscape to improve the perception of the neighborhood. Public art was a part of that approach.
In 2015, a group of Lincoln Park business owners and residents worked together to develop a neighborhood logo and tagline #craftingsomethinggreat as a jumping off point to better market the neighborhood. As part of this process, a marketing plan was created that quickly turned into a community development plan illustrating the desires of both residents and business owners. Surprisingly, the number one amenity – before lighting, garbage cans or benches – was “Public Art”.
Several approaches were discussed, from leased sculptures to painted crosswalks to covering utility boxes. Coincidentally, the Duluth Art Institute (DAI) was also considering the possibility of an Artist in Residence program. A win-win was created when the DAI decided the Artist in Residence program would be housed in the Lincoln Park building rather than the downtown location and the Request for Proposals would require the artist to create a project to benefit the neighborhood.
The first artist chosen was Paul LaJeunesse. After researching the area and interviewing several business owners, LaJeunesse approached the mural content connecting the past history of work and the craft of making in Lincoln Park with the present day version of makers. The bottom features representations of the past with a stand of manoomin (wild rice), a metal worker, and a lumber saw with the top illustrating present day makers using past technology in new ways today. The image of the St. Louis River that runs from top to bottom near the industrial sewing professional “threads the past with the present”. With Lincoln Park situated at the mouth of the St. Louis River, it is an appropriate correlation. Although there is acknowledgement with the manoomin in the mural that Lincoln Park was a trade area for the Anishinaabe and a long-standing area of commerce before colonization, LaJeunesse recognizes that most of the the history depicted is mainly white history. “That’s what I am qualified to talk about. It is not my place to tell the Anishinaabe story.” It is his desire to see an additional piece illustrating the trade and connectivity of the St. Louis River from that perspective for a more complete story. Since the installation of Lincoln Park Craft District, there have been three murals added to the neighborhood by artists Jonathan Thunder and Moira Villiard that feature Anishinaabe imagery, but none specific to the St. Louis river.
Since this was the first mural, LaJeunesse knew that it needed to be big and bold in order to get people’s attention. He also wanted to show the backstory behind the current maker movement – that efficiency doesn’t need to be fast or poor quality. “If you want to change a culture, you need to make something in step with that”, he says.
Lincoln Park Craft District uses a unique application method using Polytab, a non-woven acrylic fiber that is then applied to the building. This method allows the artist to work off site without weather constraints and also allows the surface of the building to influence the mural in a way that makes it appear as though it is painted directly on the building.
In step with his credo of “community matters”, LaJeunesse donated approximately $15,000 in time and materials towards this project. The College of St. Scholastica paid CSS graduate Erin Diver to assist, Duluth LISC provided $1,000 in funding, and Frost River prepped the wall, provided scaffolding, assisted with the installation, installed lights to highlight the piece, and continues with ongoing maintenance of the wall and associated areas.
In March of 2017, LaJeunesse was featured in Perfect Duluth Day. In that piece, he was quoted as saying “Hopefully this all leads to more murals and art projects in Lincoln Park for regional and national artists.”
Photos: David Hoole, Shannon Laing, William Hurst
1902 W Superior St (19th Avenue-facing wall)