Monday, April 18, 2016

Designers to Talk About Minnesota Nice at Design DLH

Hard to believe we're nearing the end of another great Duluth Art Institute series. This one has been titled Design DLH, a series in which professional designers from various industries have been making presentations around various themes. This Thursday's topic is Minnesota Nice: Good, Bad, Nice? The programs begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Red Herring Lounge, 208 E. 1st Street. in Duluth.

This sixth and final session  of the series will feature Sean Elmquist, Chaperone Records; Candace Lacosse, Hemlocks Leatherworks; Chris Benson, Frost River; and the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Committee.

The program, if you haven't been to one yet, goes like this. Each Design DLH gathering incites local designers and creative thinkers to present ideas around a prompt that addresses some aspect of Duluth's visual identity. The focus of Session Six is the pros and cons of "Minnesota Nice": the politeness, the aversion to confrontation, and a tendency towards the stoic. As with all our other themes, this was looks to be again an interesting and potentially lively topic. Because space is limited, you will need to RSVP at

Sessions are free and open to the public. Can't make it? You can also join the conversation via Twitter, using the hashtag #DesignDLH.

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Also slated for Thursday is the Carlton Trunk & Tent Show at Carlton Bike Rental (CBR). Joelene Steffens, founder of CBR, also has an art framing business called Art Dimensions. Her work is of the highest quality. Though this event is designed for bicycle enthusiasts, I recommend CBR as a stop for creatives as well. The Trunk & Tent Show runs from 3 - 8 p.m., so theoretically you can make it to both events if (a) you are not working that afternoon and (b) begin in Carlton.

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This month's Design DLH topic might be interesting as a starting point for more discussion about the roles of art and artists in general. Occasionally we hear expressions of the sentiment "we can't afford for our artists to be politically neutral." Perhaps being Minnesota Nice keeps us from discussing this and other potentially divisive themes in the open square.

The designers who have been speaking all year at the Design DLH events are professional and commercial artists. There are some who might suggest that art and commerce should be separate from one another, but then I'd respond with this... do we want homes and appliances and cars with good design or bad design? It really is possible to let function become all that matters and ignore design. Aesthetics play a role in what we value.

Then there is the matter of motivation. Outside our Western art scene we learned from a Tweevening lecture this past year that in other parts of the world, especially the Orient, artist make objects of beauty for their own sake as opposed to making art to make a name for oneself. Art is a contemplative aiming for perfection versus self-absorbed self-expression.

Like life itself, we there are many paths we can explore. Fortunately there's no law that I know of that requires us to check our motivations at the door when we create.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

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