Photo: William Hurst
Nelia Harper, November 2021
The DAI’s youth artists for this piece are part of BAM, which takes its name from the Birkenstein Arts Movement named for Chicago artist and activist Jean Birkenstein Washington. The group, now open to other middle school-aged kids, began with students from the Lincoln Park Middle School, uses art to build leadership skills and pride in self and community. As part of this program, the DAI brings in working artists in all mediums to allow exploration and experimentation with BAM participants throughout the year culminating in BAM Camp in June which results in a group project.
Enter Nelia Harper, an artist studying at the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art had secured a grand for an eight-week summer camp for kids at the Steve O’Neil Apartments and Damiano Center and loved it so much, she wanted to do another one. The DAI contacted Harper, and between the DAI’s Liz Axberg and Harper, decided on an appropriate location that would be open to community-created art, didn’t require scaffolding, had a large wall, and didn’t sell alcohol – the Lincoln Park Hub. With assistance from UMD Art Education Intern Deborah May, Harper took the kids through a design process which included walking through the neighborhood, individual and group charcoal concept drawings, and a meeting with the “client” (Jodi Slick, CEO of Ecolibrium3) to see what they would like.
Despite reservations from some of the BAM artists about how so many ideas could result in a cohesive piece, a triptych was created on a bebond aluminum core panel with acrylic paint, tissue, and craft paper depicting images that answers the questions, “What is the history and future of Lincoln Park?” and “What do you want to see?”. “The kids didn’t always distinguish Lincoln Park from Duluth as a whole,” said Harper. “But everything came back to water.”
Before placement at the Lincoln Park Hub, the artists had an opening at the Duluth Folk School/Dovetail Café. The students had not shown their work in this way, but learning confidence is part of the BAM program. After the opening, the student artists indicated a sense of pride and community with what they had created. Bringing this community piece to a permanent home at the Lincoln Park Hub just blocks from the DAI certainly completes the circle.
Photos: William Hurst
Ecolibrium3 Resilience Hub, 2014 W 3rd St (indoor mural triptych located in the east hall, upper level)