Thursday, April 1, 2010

Duluth Art Office

This new nonprofit arts development office will be housed in a municipal building but with multiple funding sources. It will serve as a liaison between Duluth cultural workers (musicians, artists, theater workers, filmmakers, dancers, and more) and people and entities who need their services.

This office will also be an active advocate for Duluth artists of all kinds in other communities and cities. The office will be a business advocacy office for all those engaged in the arts: music presenters and venues like Sacred Heart, visual and verbal artists, writers, filmmakers, gallery owners, musicians, festival producers, dancers, publishers, arts nonprofits, and more.

The office will be a source of professional development services for artists and arts businesses: training in business and in professional practices will be made available, through individual consulting, workshops, or through links to other organizations, from the Northeast Entrepreneurs Fund to Springboard for the Arts.

This office will also be a resource for the various volunteer organizations that are forming in order to do arts advocacy, with specialized consulting services available at below-market rates.


The Duluth Art Office will eventually maintain a free, juried website/database of artists’ work to offer as a reference source for businesses, public entities, and private citizens. Those who want to work with local artists, musicians, writers, and craftspeople, who need artists or entertainers for their buildings or events, will be able to find the talent they need locally through the database but also through the deep knowledge and ongoing research of the staff of the agency. This database could be linked with ongoing website initiatives such as the DuSu.

The Office will also actively seek out opportunities for creative workers locally, making presentations to business and community groups to ensure that they are familiar with the diverse range of goods and services produced by Duluth artists and performers. The Office would keep current on building projects and startups locally and apprise artists of opportunities as they come up through the website.

The Office can serve as a resource for existing festivals and arts productions: contact information for artists, information and help in permitting, scheduling information (to avoid conflicts) and more could aid such existing programming.

The Office will recognize arts and cultural production as an industry, providing employment for Duluth citizens and drawing both money and tourists to the city.

In addition, the Office will advocate for Duluth artists and performers in the broader cultural world outside Duluth. Possible initiatives could include:

  • Working to build venue-sharing between Duluth theater, dance, music, and filmmaking groups and Twin Cities groups. The small rentable theaters we now have could be made use of by Twin Cities performing groups, and similar venues in the Twin Cities could be the sites for Duluth performers. Creating a regular touring season between Duluth and the Twin Cities in cooperation with such venues as the Play Ground, the Harbor City School Theater, and Teatro Zuccone, and in the Twin Cities, Bedlam Theater, the Bryant-Lake Bowl, and Open Eye Theater, would be a possibility.
  • Putting together group shows of Duluth artists and craftspeople that would travel to art and craft biennials and fairs around the world. The Office could act as a gallery in these instances, renting a booth at arts fairs in order to display the riches of Duluth culture to broader audiences. Nonprofit or new galleries showing in such fairs often can get a discounted booth rate. The art market is increasingly invested in such fairs, and economic survival for Duluth artists and craftspeople depends upon their developing markets outside of Duluth for their work. The staff of the Duluth Art Office would need to be able to professionally represent Duluth artists as contributors to the artworld.
  • Professional development guidance and help for Duluth artists. If Duluth artists, performers, and craftspeople are to develop markets for their work outside of Duluth, they need to meet high professional standards. The Art Office would provide training, critique groups, help with grants writing, portfolio review, liaison with recording and video services, connections to out of town galleries and labels, and other diverse professional development help. Small-business counseling and advice for artists could also be a service offered by the Office.


Funding for the Duluth Art Office will be diverse:

  • CDBG funds will be sought as seed money.
  • When independent nonprofit status has been obtained, grantwriting to cultural funders such as the Knight Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, the Minnesota Foundation, and Arts Midwest would be done.
  • The Andy Warhol / Creative Capital Foundation is interested in funding initiatives that treat artists as businesspeople. A proposal would be made to the Foundation to provide major funding for startup of the Office.
  • The state Legacy funds for the arts could be tapped for a new initiative like this one. Local representatives are on the committee now doing factfinding outstate on worthy projects. Springboard for the Arts, the fiscal agent for the Duluth Art Office, is also lining up funds from this source for artist professional development.
  • It is possible that economic stimulus funds could be available for an arts-jobs-business initiative like this.
  • Fundraising among local businesses for whom an active and professionally strong arts community would be advantageous is another possibility: looking at the long list of contributors to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority’s River Quest program, it appears that Duluth businesses are interested in helping enterprises that seek to expand the appeal of Duluth.
  • After the Office has programming in place, opportunities for revenue could be sought in the services the Office provides, in the form of commissions for services and affordable user fees.
  • The City of Duluth has expressed interest in supporting this enterprise with in-kind help, whether that would be in the form of office space, clerical support, or the endorsement of the city. Consulting services on such matters as RFQs, RFPs, contracts with artists, art restoration, project management for arts initiatives in city parks, and a host of other matters that require both arts expertise and a knowledge of local art resources will be offered in lieu of payment for these considerations from the city.

Service areas

Artists’ services:

For a membership fee of $12 per quarter (or $40 per year), artists are entitled to one hour of any of the following, and discounted rates ($20/hr) for further hours:

  • Grantwriting
  • Studio visit and critique
  • PR strategy session and statement writing
  • Help with basic website setup
  • Opportunities research (contact information for galleries, record labels, agents, registries, and other career-relevant entities)
  • Research and liaison with other service providers, such as small-business assistance, business-plan developers, accountants who serve creatives, and more.
  • Workshops and classes on career development with successful professional artists and craftspeople as well as business counselors will also be available at no cost to members.

Credits are cumulative for one year; that is, if you purchase a year’s membership, you get 4 hours of free individual services.

The Database:

This is a free, juried database of artists whom the Duluth Art Office will represent, in the manner of a gallery or an agent. This database will be freely searchable by those who want to find an artist or a musician, a performer or a craftsperson, a writer or a dancer.

Tentatively, a commission of 10% will be charged by the Duluth Art Office on work resulting from the database, unless funding sources can be found to cover database expenses.

Artists of all media will be actively represented by Duluth Art Office staff through the Web and social media but also through presentations for business organizations, churches, schools, municipal and other governments, and other potential end users.

Trade fairs will also be venues where the database artists will be presented, if funds allow: art biennales, booksellers and publishers conventions, music fairs such as South by Southwest, craft fairs whose booth fees are ordinarily too expensive for individual artists—the Duluth Art Office will take the work and images of database artists to these venues and actively represent and sell the work of Duluth creative makers.

A potential and fun way to take work to the public would be to contract for a downtown billboard on which would be presented the work of a different artist every month. Over the long term, this would build recognition of the diversity of local artists and create a sense of their presence in the region.

Consulting for arts users:

Single-project and short-term consulting for arts users will be available: Need a quartet for your wedding or reception? A comic for a bar mitzvah? An artist to paint a mural on your daughter’s bedroom wall? Custom ceramic tiles for a new kitchen or a patio or deck? A sculptor to create a garden sculpture for that gardener’s birthday? A custom bench for an important anniversary? A portrait of your spouse or son or pet? Consultation of the database is free; additional help or research, such as drawing up a contract or finding an artist or work not in the database, is available at $30 hour.

For longer-term services such as curating and hanging changing artworks for your business, private collections management, and project management for public art projects and aesthetic amenities development, fees are negotiable.

The Organization’s Legal Status

Currently, the Duluth Art Office has contracted for fiscal agency with Springboard for the Arts, an artists’ service organization of long standing in Minneapolis. They are helping us through the process of achieving independent nonprofit status.

We are now applying for nonprofit status from the State of Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, and getting an EIN and a bank account for the organization with Park State Bank. Eventually we will apply for independent 501c3 status. The goal is to achieve this in one year’s time.

The director of the Duluth Art Office, Ann Klefstad, will provide services on a contract basis and will, for now, be the only paid staff member. This may change as the scope of services expands.

Ann Klefstad
5913 London Road
Duluth, MN 55804

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