“Finding your ‘mojo’ means finding the magic in what you do,” Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris said. “You have to dig deeper and find what’s unique, because people are looking for authenticity.”

When Harris takes the stage for the annual State of the City address at 7 p.m. on Jan. 26, everyone will see that Duluth’s “mojo” is alive and well, and the arts are playing a major role. The theme for the event is “Finding Our Mojo,” and a very special presentation will take place.

“It’s not really an address or a speech,” Harris said. “It’s an event! We will have music, humor and art!”

This enthusiasm for the arts has been building in Duluth for many years. The Duluth Fine Arts League has set a standard for fundraising, helping young artists from the city afford college to continue their artistic studies. But that is definitely not all that’s going on in Duluth regarding the arts.

The Duluth Public Arts Commission is currently very active. The sculpture “Ascension,” which graces the roundabout on McClure Bridge Road, was a motivator for DPAC, and it created excitement about art in Duluth.

“People started to see the economic value of having public art,” Harris said. “People drive to see ‘Ascension’ and come into the city, which has economic impact.”

The past four months have seen a great deal of work creating a Master Public Arts Plan with the help of renowned Ohio firm Designing Local.

“This plan is a vision for Duluth which goes 20-25 years into the future,” Harris said. “I am very excited about the MPAP. It shows our long-term commitment to the arts.”

Many public arts initiatives are centered on visual art, but the performing arts are to also play a part of the MPAP.

“The Duluth City Council created a marketing study in 2013 to see what effect Eddie Owens and Red Clay Theatre made on the city. We found that Red Clay Theatre had a great effect on Duluth. It brought in tens of thousands of people to Main Street,” Harris said. “We decided we needed a master arts plan that included the performing arts. This is unique. We couldn’t find another city plan that included performing arts.”

The Master Public Arts Plan will be unveiled this spring, probably in April or early May. Meetings all over the city have taken place to hear what people had to say about public art.

“Developers trying to redevelop Duluth came to these meetings, and they were very impressed,” Harris said.

A special Art Week is being considered during the continuing meetings about the MPAP. The Jan. 26 State of the City event will definitely be a harbinger of things to come. Between this event and Barefoot in the Park, which is on Mother’s Day weekend, the arts will be up front and center in the city of Duluth.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com

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