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Christina Woods, Executive Director

Member of the Bois Forte Tribal Nation


A top talent, brilliant administrator and strategist, Christina is a talented leader. Her success includes a 14 year career teaching, writing curriculum and grants, fundraising, and diversity/inclusion consultation.  Christina brings an extensive range of non-profit experience as a board member, executive director and business leader.  As an Anishinaabikwe and community leader, Christina empowers individuals and illuminates the breadth of human experiences. Christina enthusiastically leads the vision of the Duluth Art Institute as its first Anishinaabe leader. Her focus is delivered with tender attention to advocacy rooted in celebrating inclusivity and professionalism. Christina thoughtfully serves our community with a vision to the future. Christina currently chairs the State of MN Capitol Arts Committee, is President of the Duluth Public Arts Commission, and serves on the State of MN CAAPB Task force on Monuments and Statues. Christina was awarded an AARP 50 over 50 most influential people in MN award as a bias buster.  She lives in Duluth, MN with her acknowledged home in the Bois Forte Nation in Northern MN.

Amy Varsek, Exhibitions Director

Exhibitions Director Amy Varsek joined the Duluth Art Institute in 2014, after nearly 10 years of experience installing artwork in small galleries. She aims to align each artists vision with the strengths and challenges in an exhibition space and looks for artists that evoke emotion through their work. As an artist, Varsek prefers drawing with a no.2 pencil and building sculptures with found objects.  With a degree in biology, her work often represents the living world with a special interest in mammals and anatomy.

Alyssa Swanson, Community Engagement and Development Manager

Alyssa Swanson is an artist working in fibers, painting and drawing. She earned a BA in Art from the College of St. Scholastica and an MFA in 2-D Studies from Bowling Green State University. Her work currently focuses on issues related to the feminine voice and domestic craft and has been on display throughout the Midwest. In addition to her career as an artist, Swanson is passionate about art education, accessibility in the arts, and art’s unique potential to bring communities together. Swanson is so excited to return to the Duluth area and join the Duluth Art Institute as the Community Engagement and Development Manager. Outside of her career, Swanson spends her time outside running, biking, snowboarding, and taking her beautiful fur-babies for hikes with her husband.  

Liz Axberg, Community Outreach Coordinator
AmeriCorps VISTA


Liz Axberg will be serving the Duluth Art Institute as the Community Outreach Coordinator through AmeriCorps VISTA. In May 2020, Liz graduated from St. Catherine University with a double major in Economics and Public Policy and a minor in Statistics. As a recent graduate, Liz is excited to apply the skills developed throughout college and volunteer experiences to give back to communities and promote equity. The Duluth Art Institute particularly caught her eye as she is passionate about how we can use art as a vehicle for community empowerment and uprooting false neighborhood narratives, setting the seeds for grassroots movements, and ultimately alleviating poverty. Liz looks forward to collaborating with the Duluth community to increase accessibility for our resources and expand our reach. Liz is especially excited to be in Duluth for all of the beautiful hiking, mountain biking, trail running, cross country skiing, and, of course, life by Lake Superior. 

Emma Spooner, Education Coordinator


Emma Spooner is a multimedia artist who combines performance art, fabric collage, photography, sculpture, and written work to create narrative installations. She earned two Bachelor’s degrees in Art and Art History from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2020. Her Art History focus reflects her interest in performance art, geopolitical border art, and visual activism. Spooner is delighted to coordinate educational opportunities that enrich the community. Her community work includes participation in the Chester Bowl Improvement Club and Myers Wilkins School, working with youth in outdoor activities and promoting accessibility. Spooner enjoys biking, listening to obscure music, playing pick-up soccer, and gardening.

Melissa Harper-France, Administration & Engagement Assistant


Melissa Harper-France earned her BA in Writing with a minor in English from the University of Wisconsin- Superior. Harper-France is bilingual in English and German. Harper-France was raised in Austria by her Austrian mother and Duluthian father. She first fell in love with art through the works of Hundertwasser, Kandinsky, and Kahlo. It is that love that brought her to the Duluth Art Institute. Harper-France loves to write, read, sail, watch too many tv shows, and spend time outdoors with her husband. Melissa is excited to support the regional art scene and all its artists.

Robert DeArmond, Ceramic Studio Manager



DeArmond comes from a long background of working in the arts and arts administration.  Upon graduating from UMD in 1971, he worked as a full-time potter in the state of Virginia and then established his own shop and studio in Duluth.  When the Duluth Art Institute was moving into the Depot, he was hired as the Executive Director, a job he held for eight years.  From there he took the position of Development Director at KUMD, Duluth Public Radio, on the campus of UMD.  He finished his career in arts administration as the Executive Director of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, a position he held for 30 years.

As the Clay Studio Manager, he mixes his organizational skills with the opportunity to get back in the studio producing pots and teaching. 

John Sager, Darkroom Manager


Business Office: 218.733.7560


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