My father gave me that which sustains me (c) Ivy Vainio. Image: Stephan Witherspoon at Boy Scout Landing on the St. Louis River, 2016.

The public is invited to a free opening reception from 5—7 PM on Monday, April 4, with the chance to record their own stories of the St. Louis River with PBS producer Karen Sunderman at WDSE’s video story booth.

From April 4 – 9, the Duluth Art Institute will present the kick-off event for the month-long media focus around the St. Louis River corridor: One River, Many Stories. The week-long exhibition will feature gallery walls “snaking” through the Great Hall of the Depot to echo the loose form of a river. On one side will be a photo exhibition, “The St. Louis River: Diverse Connections by Ivy Vainio.” The other will feature a map of the river by cartographers Matt Kania and Tom Hollenhorst, with the public invited to write or draw stories of their connections and pin them on. In addition, a second interactive, overview map dedicated to place names will be featured in the Great Hall alcove. The opportunity to add to the maps will continue throughout the run of the show.

“The St. Louis River: Diverse Connections by Ivy Vainio” will showcase all new work commissioned for the project. Vainio, a local African American and Anishinabe digital photographer, will display photographs that reflect a handful of the diverse people who are deeply connected to, and interact with, the St. Louis River, along with text revealing the individuals’ stories of their relationship with it. For example, Vainio’s work will highlight Melanie Sautbine’s story of connection to the river through the role it played in saving her Anishinabe grandmother’s life during the 1918 fire; and the Cher Pao Vang family story will share the generational connection to fishing on the river. Vainio’s work has been internationally, nationally, and locally published and is featured in several local and regional exhibitions and permanent collections, including the Americas collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

WDSE’s video story booth at opening reception
What is your St. Louis River story? A Story Corps-style video booth set up by WDSE-WRPT TV on Monday, April 4, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Depot’s Great Hall encourages all who have a connection to the St. Louis River to share a favorite story and a wish for its future. A team from the Duluth PBS station including Karen Sunderman, producer of The PlayList, will be on hand at the opening reception to gather stories, hopes and dreams for the river and its watershed. The recordings will be edited and broadcast on Public Television and/or posted online later in the month of April.

Maps for audience engagement
Cartographers Matt Kania and Tom Hollenhorst will create two maps that invite audience engagement. The first map will snake through the gallery, allowing viewers to contribute through writing and drawing about their connection to the river and pinning them up on the map. The second map will also be interactive, asking for gallery visitors to name regions of the river such as unnamed bays and streams. The cartographers invite colloquial, Ojibwe, and official names for these waterway features. The opportunity to add to the maps will continue throughout the run of the show.

Drumming and music
A live performance featuring Lyz Jaakola and Oshkii Giizhik Singers will also take place that night.

The exhibition will remain on view through Saturday, April 9.

For more information about the exhibition, contact: Dana Mattice, 218-733-7560,  or Anne Dugan, 218-733-7562,

About One River, Many Stories

“One River, Many Stories” is a media storytelling project and resource hub to assist journalists, educators and citizens tell stories about their community. The project is a partnership between the UMD journalism program and area journalists. Funded through a Knight Foundation Fund grant from the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, the project will test ways media collaboration can inspire innovation and nurture engagement among professional journalists, educators and citizen storytellers in the Duluth area. The river corridor was an easy choice for the topic — government leaders, local nonprofits and citizens are all passionately working to retell the narratives of places along the river. The St. Louis’ rich history parallels the story of this region: stories of triumph, struggle and renewal. Duluth’s past, present and future can be found in the river’s diverse and ever-changing landscape. The hope is that other communities will use it as a model to embark on their own experiments in collaboration. Follow One River, Many Stories: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About the Duluth Art Institute

The Duluth Art Institute is a 108-year-old nonprofit organization—one of the oldest art centers in Minnesota. The mission of the Duluth Art Institute is to enrich daily life with dynamic, innovative visual arts programming that upholds excellence and promotes active community participation. The Duluth Art Institute produces more than a dozen art exhibits each year featuring emerging to professional area artists in three galleries that are always free and open to the public. An Arts Learning Lab provides art books, reference materials, family activity packs, and other opportunities to reflect and engage with what’s on view. Free Family Days, youth art camps, and year-round educational programming for children and adults enables beginner to professional artists to develop their art forms and expand their practices. Community resources include painting and multipurpose classroom spaces, a darkroom, ceramics studios, a fiber studio, and professional development services for artists. The Duluth Art Institute also offers enrichment activities throughout the community. For more information, visit

The Duluth Art Institute’s programs and services are made possible through the support of contributing members of the Duluth Art Institute, Bush Foundation, Depot Foundation, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation, McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Northland Foundation, and the Wildey H. Mitchell Family Foundation.