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Duluth Art Institute names artist-in-residence

"Confluence" is a public mural that Paul LaJeunesse created in Chattanooga, Tenn. As artist-in-residence at the Duluth Art Institute, he will create a similarly-themed piece in Lincoln Park. Photo courtesy of the DAI.

An painter with experience in turning a neighborhood's identity into a large-scale mural has been named the Duluth Art Institute's first artist-in-residence.

Paul LaJeunessePaul LaJeunesse, an assistant art professor at the College of St. Scholastica, will set up in the art institute's Lincoln Center for a three-month project that includes getting to know his neighbors then painting a piece of public art — with the chance for audience participation.

"It's a project that will have a large and lasting impact," said DAI Interim Programming Coordinator Amber White, who will oversee the project. "It's an opportunity for members of the community to get hands-on. So they can say, 'I helped make that, it's a representation of all of us.'"

LaJeunesse was introduced during a media conference Thursday morning at the Duluth Art Institute's more than 100-year-old building in Lincoln Park. He already had plans to visit with Bent Paddle Brewery, Hemlocks Leatherworks, Duluth Pack, Duluth MakerSpace and others to get a feel for the area he described as a "blue collar, handmade neighborhood."

His process involves interviews — "What do you love about (the area); why wouldn't you live down the road; what do you care about?" — he said. He plans to photograph people in action for reference and consider the signature structures, like Wade Stadium and the railroad tracks.

He will later condense the images into a collage.

The placement of his piece has not yet been decided.

In 2014, LaJeunesse completed a similar mural project in Chattanooga, Tenn. "Confluence" was painted on five panels of PolyTab and shows human figures, nature and local landmarks in bright colors. It hangs on an outdoor wall in the city's north end.

"Everybody has ideas about what they want to express," he said. "If I listen, I can represent that. It's a level of trust that is mutually beneficial."

The Duluth Art Institute plans to have two artists-in-residence per year — one local, one national. A call for artists will likely be posted in the spring. LaJeunesse was selected by a panel of three artists who work in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.