The Duluth Art Institute enriches daily life with dynamic, innovative visual arts programming that upholds excellence and promotes inclusive community participation.

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David R. Becker  Since 1983, David has spent all of his artistic life and career in the city of Chicago. Becker studied at The American Academy of Art in Chicago and is the reason that a large majority of his subject matter comes from his life here in the city that he loves so much.  After studying at The American Academy of Art in Chicago, Becker went into illustrating for a major advertising agency J. Walter Thompson and later for Foote Cone and Belding. He also started teaching around the country, right out of school, but always found time for his favorite ambition, creating fine art paintings. Becker is the author of  Watercolor Composition Made Easy, and How to Sketch with Watercolor. He has had two different articles published in International Artist Magazine and in Watercolor Magic. Has reached signature status to the Transparent Watercolor Society of America, and has won numerous awards for his work from watercolor societies around the country. Becker works in many mediums, including Watercolor, Oils, and Acrylics, he is mostly recognized for his watercolor scenes of Chicago. You can find many of his works hanging in homes and businesses throughout Chicago. David’s favorite painting was commissioned by Starbucks to do a scene for their Macy’s Starbucks store that was to include a scene looking out of that store's window, unto Wabash, that included the “L” platform. This painting can be seen at the Northeast corner of the Macy’s Starbucks store on Randolph and Wabash, and at the same time have a great cup of coffee while viewing this Becker original.

Aryn Bergsven has taught art for 15 years in the Duluth area. Her background includes studying art at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and painting in Aix-en-Provence, France in the Post-Impressionist style of Paul Cezanne. She has 2 active young children and a busy musician husband.  Aryn enjoys painting in her studio and exploring the natural world with her family. She currently teaches high school art at Harbor City International School in Duluth.

Heidi Blunt My goal as an artist is to encourage a celebratory embrace of fat bodies as  imperfectly perfect. Contrary to the vast and intricate systems that shame  and demonize fat bodies, I feel it is imperative to point out that having a fat  body is neither a moral deficiency nor intellectual failing. I unapologetically  represent the body as positive, not gross, repulsive, or with reference to the  body’s inevitable betrayal through various forms of aging and disease. As I explore my own physicality and its importance in how I negotiate  personal relationships, I come to the topic of fat embodiment through  personal experience as a self-identified fattie, yet my work is not simply a  self-referential narrative. My work offers viewers instruments to confront  cultural biases around fat by offering a space for inquisitive exploration of  the body and its intrinsic contribution to the building of self-identity - a crucial step in the process of self-embodiment. While investigating  questions that I have about my own embodiment, my work holds space for  viewers to question and experiment with theirs. These investigations often take the form of participatory opportunities  in which I incorporate the aesthetic tools of camp, humor, kitsch, play, and  an uplifting color palette to encourage celebration of our bodies as  imperfectly perfect. My intention is to elicit conversations, not simply about  fat shame or weight stigma, but conversations that establish the space  required for building resiliency and resolution for those with fat identity  crisis. We all live in bodies that "betray" us, whether through the natural  forces of aging or disease, or through the societal and cultural constructs  that permeate how we build, encounter, and understand identity. How do  we craft our own visions of positive embodiment, a love for our fleshy  forms, amidst the failings of our physical bodies? Tea with the blubbies, anyone?

Craig Bruce was born and raised in Eau Claire, WI where he developed early on a curiosity and awe-like love of nature. He graduated from UW-Superior in 1991 with a BFA in ceramics and stayed in the area because of great variety of beauty here to explore via hiking and biking. Craig’s main focus is wheel-thrown functional stoneware pottery, but also enjoys making low-fired options as well. Clay records every touch of the maker, be it the thumbprints in an ancient brick or the throwing marks on pot. This creates a conversation between the maker and the user that can connect us as one human being to another. It is this dialogue and the almost endless possibilities of ceramic forms and surface decorations which keeps Craig immersed in clay.

Andy Evansen His interest in art started in childhood, as he can’t recall a time when he wasn’t drawing.  He decided to pursue a career in art and attended the University of Minnesota’s commercial illustration program.  He was hired as a medical illustrator in Minneapolis, creating artwork for medical device companies, textbooks and surgeons.  Once that industry became dependent on digital art, he longed for a return to fine art and began watercolor painting.   Choosing a ‘style’ was not difficult, as Andy was always inspired by the watercolor paintings of British artists Trevor Chamberlain, David Curtis, Ed Seago and John Yardley, among others.  He found himself attempting to capture the landscape with the same economy of brushstroke, taking advantage of the luminosity of watercolors done in just a few washes.  In addition, he was impressed with the way those artists seemed to capture everyday scenes in such a way that revealed a hidden beauty, subjects that many would simply pass by.  This appealed to Andy as he grew up in the rural Midwest of the United States, far from the large, bustling cities of the east coast or the drama of the Pacific on the west coast.  His familiarity and love of simple farm scenes and small towns is evident in his work today. His work gained recognition after winning an international watercolor competition through American Artist magazine, appearing on their cover in 2005.  He’s been featured in numerous other publications since, and has become a sought-after workshop instructor who paints and teaches internationally.  He became a signature member of the prestigious Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA) in 2012 and was elected their President in 2015. His paintings have won numerous awards, including the Bronze Medal of Honor at the 2012 American Watercolor Society Exhibition, and in 2015 he received the High Winds Medal and his signature status from the American Watercolor Society. His love of painting on location also led to him being a featured presenter at the 2014 and 2016 Plein Air Conventions and inclusion in the 2017 Qingdao International Masters Watercolor Plein Air Event. Andy has been asked to jury several exhibitions, including the Hoosier Salon in 2016 and the New England Watercolor Society, Philadelphia Watercolor Society and Red River Watercolor Society National Exhibitions in 2017. You can view his work at  

Sarah Brokke Erickson grew up in Grand Forks, ND, and received her BFA in Pre-Graduate Studio Art from UMD.  During that time she studied abroad in Birmingham, England.  She received her MFA through a joint program between Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy and Bowling Green State in Bowling Green, Ohio.  She returned to Duluth in 2004 where she has since taught Painting and Drawing (focusing on Portraiture and the Figure) at the Duluth Art Institute, and Art and Art History at the College of St. Scholastica.  Sarah's artwork is manifested primarily in paintings, with a focus on the figure.  Thematically, her work explores gender roles and traditions, relationships, and identity. She has exhibited at many venues locally, as well as nationally and internationally.   A recent interview of her working in her studio can be found here.

Lauren Faherty is a visual artist and art educator who lives and works in Duluth, Minnesota. She received her BFA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Sculpture from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2016. In 2020, she earned her MFA in Sculpture at Colorado State University. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, most recently at the Curfman Gallery, the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art, and the Indianapolis Art Center. Faherty is passionate about fiber arts as she grew up working with textiles, which has widely influenced her art practice. From working with fabric to rope, she enjoys the fluidity of fiber materials to explore themes of vitality and fragility found in human life. By working with malleable materials, she is not trying to establish fixed points — instead, her work exists in a state of flux much like the human experience.

Tony Ferguson is a wood, gas and raku ceramic artist/educator working in Duluth, MN making functional and sculptural works in clay.  He also moonlights as a web designer,  computer consultant and digital photo/videographer.  Tony holds an MA in Studio Arts and soon an MFA in Screenwriting.  Married with four children, Tony and his wife Anna are very busy with their four teenagers’ education, their doodle, vegan cooking, inventing new tools/kilns and screenwriting. Tony’s been making work since 1991 learning formally from American Ceramic artists Mike Weber and Jim Grittner and influenced and inspired by Toshiko Takaezu, Peter Voulkos, Don Reitz, Shiro Tsujimura, Tom & Elaine Coleman, Ernest Miller, Tony & Mindy Winchester, Bob & Cheryl Husby, Richard Gruchalla, Michael Shale, Bob Briscoe, Lisa Hammond, Robert Fornell, Akira Satake, John Britt and many others. Okakura Kakuzō’s work “The Book of Tea” (茶の本  Cha no Hon) and Tony’s study of Eastern philosophy, religion, and meditation also influence his work. Occasionally Tony teaches at local colleges as well as gives workshops. Tony’s work in clay explores traditional Japanese wabi sabi aesthetics combined with Chinese and Korean influences from his travels with a focus on tea ware and experimentation. With a modern twist, Tony pushes his forms, surfaces, and glaze treatments in a variety of firing environments and techniques exploring shino, tenmoku, oribe, celadon, chun, ash and other glazes he creates from raw elements.  Whether his explorations find their way into porcelain, a dark chocolate stoneware or shigaraki type clay body, Tony’s forms follow function. Tony Ferguson’s work currently can be found on Etsy or this web site and is found in private and public collections around the world including: Ami-Machi City Museum, Ami-Machi, Japan; Nanfeng Kiln Contemporary Museum, Foshan, China; Mesabi Range Technical College Collection, Virginia, MN; Tweed Museum, University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN; University of Wisconsin Superior, Superior, Wisconsin; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA and Flint Institute of Arts. 

Susanna Gaunt is a visual artist living in Duluth and a recent BFA graduate from UMD’s Painting, Drawing and Printmaking program. Since graduation, she has found ways to insert herself in the creative community, from exhibiting at Kruk Gallery at UWS in Superior and MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, to helping to start both the Printmaking and Youth Film Photography Clubs at Duluth Art Institute. Her work incorporates mixed-media in both two and three dimensional installations and she openly shares her knowledge with students to help them realize their own ideas. Before moving to Minnesota, Susanna was a core instructor for Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana for 10 years where she had the opportunity to teach throughout the country and abroad. Susanna also has a philosophy degree from Boston College.  You can see more of her work at

Carol James has been playing with strings for a long time; she learned to embroider and to crochet before she entered kindergarten. Since the 1980s she has been exploring a wide, flat, braiding technique known in North America as finger weaving. In the mid 1990s she was introduced to sprang. She is now a world-recognized teacher. She has spent the past 20 years rediscovering textile forms that had been considered lost, resurrecting these ancient techniques and making them accessible to everyone through her publicationsbooks and workshopsCarol believes that textile creation is part of our human heritage. Textile is an amalgamation of threads interconnecting with each other, just as humans work together in order to create the fabric of society. The method used to create fabric in disparate communities around the world is often quite similar. This is a common language of humans: the construction of fabric. Woven together we are stronger. 

Matt Kania Born in the heart of Chicago and later raised in the farm country of Illinois, at an early age Matt Kania was instilled with a deep appreciation for both urban environments and wide open spaces. In fact, to this day, Matt tends to thrive and feel equally at home in a fast paced city and in the quiet of a far removed wilderness. As a result, Kania's imagery tends to be eclectic – sometimes focusing on themes based in culture and at other times looking at themes that revolve around the natural world. As Kania says, "The commonality in my work is a reflection of the view that 'all experiences are equal'." A deeply rooted love for Lake Superior and northern landscapes eventually landed Kania in Duluth, Minnesota – where today he can be seen carrying his paint box to environs around the lake to paint 'en plein air' or mixing paints in his studio to work on his next composition.  

Serenity Kenan creates award-winning, painted pottery, and is also known for her life-size paper mache figures. She has a Master’s in Education, and for a few summers, was the Art Director at a camp in Door County, Wisconsin. Now that she is back in Duluth, when not mixing clay for her next collection, she and her partner are probably running their retired sled dogs, Donny and Denny, at the Lakewalk.

Rebecca Layman  Art has always been a huge part of my life. I became a visual art educator because I discovered at a young age the value and connection that I had with art to the world.  I learned that I could express and say things through art that I couldn't say any other way.  My goal as a visual art teacher, is to provide instruction, guidance, and an environment where students can find their own voice through art. Rebecca Layman has taught art in the summers at the Duluth Art Institute for the last eleven years. Rebecca says she looks forward to teaching art camp at the DAI as something different than a regular school setting. She started her teaching career teacher elementary art at Bagley Elementary school for six years. Five years ago Rebecca decided to switch from teaching elementary students to teaching high school students. This is her fifth year of teaching art at Lincoln High School and says, "I am loving every minute of it".

Ernest Miller  I am ceramic artist working in Minneapolis, MN. I can be found at local art centers sharing ceramic techniques and experience through teaching classes at Fired Up Studios in Golden Valley, MN and the Minnetonka Center for the Arts in Wayzata, MN. My ceramics career has been mostly built through showing work in various regional and national art fairs including the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis and the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, DC. You can find a selection of my work at The Grand Hand Gallery in St. Paul, MN and Schaller Gallery in Saint Joseph, MI. I credit a formal education as foundation for a successful outlook on ceramics and the arts. I received an associate degree from Olney Central College in Olney, IL and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL.

Karen Owsley Nease is a painter working with contemporary landscapes and pattern abstraction. Originally from the Kansas City area, she relocated to Duluth in 2013 to be near Lake Superior and the north woods. A lifelong painter with a concurrent interest in design, she has a BFA in Painting/Printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute and two architectural degrees from the University of Kansas. She was co-owner of the acclaimed contemporary Joseph Nease Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri. She has exhibited extensively and recently had a solo exhibition of paintings in the Morrison Gallery at the Duluth Art Institute. Her work is in corporate, museum and private collections in Missouri, Kansas and Minnesota.  She is represented in Duluth by Lizzard's Gallery. Karen has great passion and enthusiasm for art, especially painting.  She loves sharing her deep knowledge of various painting media, techniques, and styles. She is particularly excited to work with students to develop their strengths around their specific interests and motivations as painters.  Her website is

Ann Price is a visual artist, art educator, and art therapist who recently retired after 20 years from teaching art in the Duluth Public Schools. She was born and raised in Massachusetts and and lived in NYC and received a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. On a post college hiatus she visited a friend in Duluth and forever fell in love with Lake Superior. Like so many she moved here. She met her husband Jack, raised three sons, completed her Masters in Art Therapy while enjoying a teaching career. While skilled in many mediums her attention is always on drawing and graphite working both abstractly and realistically. Working intuitively has always been most important in her creative process. Collage became another means. She personally uses collage to unveil the power of her own wisdom as a personal guide into life’s journey. She has led many others in this practice.  

Pete Prudhomme started with clay as a prerequisite for my degree program in management from Lake Superior College, and graduated in 2003 with high honors.  In the past 13 years I’ve studied with Bob Husby, Dorian Beaulieu, Tonya Borgeson and Dave Lynas.  I’ve enjoyed working with porcelain and stoneware with the high fire results you can get from wood and gas fired pottery.  Recently, I taught kiln building classes at Guangzhou Acadamy of Fine Arts in Guangzhou, China  and have assisted in many Duluth Art Institute classes. My experience in ceramics includes kiln building and firing, high fire pottery, and Raku processes.

Sheila Staubus former manager of the DAI ceramics studio, also teaches Beginning and Independent Study classes in clay.  “Teaching others forces me to think about how and why I do things a certain way, and what new (or old) techniques I want to try.  I also meet many wonderful and creative people.”Sheila first learned the art of ceramics under the instruction of Dave Lynas at the DAI in 2001.  Since then she has studied under many instructors of local, national and international renown.  She loves the rhythm and line of Moorish architecture, the intricacy of Indian stone and woodcarving, the soft brushstrokes of Oriental watercolor and the color and swirl of Rosemaling.  “I like to celebrate the ordinary. . .vines, birds, snowflakes, things I see out my window, things that make me laugh.”

Adam Swanson "In my work I deconstruct the ideas that are part of our childhood and adult culture. My work also addresses the future, fragility of the human presence, perseverance of nature and underlying threads of danger that underpin societies. I use my work to encourage thought and interest in science.  I received my BFA at the U of MN Duluth and have painted and studied in Europe, Asia, South America and the South Pacific. After three years in New York and a couple stints in Antarctica, I have called Duluth, MN home since 2008. I paint full-time, am married and a father of two. More of my work can be seen on my website"

Tara Sweeney is an award-winning artist, illustrator and author based in Saint Paul, Minnesota who creates with watercolor and ink. Her prolific body of work was recently showcased in TPT2 public television’s MN Original and includes studio painting, plein air sketching and book illustration. 

Liz Vandersteen After working in education for many years, I returned to school to receive my Masters of Art Education from University of Wisconsin, Superior. Since then, I have continued teaching within the community through a number of venues. For me, learning and teaching are one in the same. I am always interested in putting together new curriculum that integrates the visual arts with math and science, connecting it to the world around us. As a visual artist I feel a responsibility to not only create my own artwork but to also encourage, engage and educate others in their continued exploration of the creative process. I’m extremely thankful to live in a community that shows such a strong appreciation of and commitment to the visual arts!

Bill Wise was born and raised in Duluth MN. His passion is painting the face and figure to capture the emotion and story of the subject. Painting in watercolor provides him control and accuracy of the drawing and the freedom spontaneity and luminosity of the medium. Bill loves to share his passion and knowledge by teaching formal and informal classes in drawing and painting at different locations in the Duluth area. You can learn more at


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