Art Gallery

This rotating gallery showcases local and regional artists whose work captures the spirit of the Lake Superior region.

Interested in showing your work? Apply now.

What’s next for the gallery? Check the schedule for the next upcoming opening reception!

Northern Spirits

Paintings by Amber Burns
September 9 to January 10, 2023
Opening Reception: Wednesday, June 8 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

What if we could see the invisible energies that radiate from animals and objects in our midst? How would they move? What colors would they be? Experience artist Amber Burns’ interpretations in Northern Spirits—A visual representation of the forces, spirits, and energies that connect animals and nature. The collection of acrylic paintings on canvas features dramatic images of owls, otters, eagles, and other animals radiating energy.

“I believe everything is alive and infused with energies that surround us and connect us,” said Burns, who has taught visual art, dance, and theater in Duluth and currently manages youth scholarships at the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. “The Aquarium is a good fit for this show because the paintings represent a lot of the creatures you see both at the Aquarium and out in the wild.”

Past Gallery Shows

Immersed in the Pause

Oil Paintings by Kelly Schamberger
June 2 to September 6, 2022

Take a pause and immerse yourself in the artwork of Kelly Schamberger, a classically trained, Duluth-based representational oil painter. Her new exhibit, Immersed in the Pause, contains more than 30 paintings, including many still life images and plein air landscapes. The series explores connections to the natural world around Duluth, Lake Superior, and the Arrowhead Region, which Schamberger finds incredibly beautiful and soothing.

“(My) hope for this exhibit is that others become immersed in a sense of pause,” Schamberger said. “It gives viewers permission to rest, observe, and refill their cups with gratitude for environmental stewardship, beauty, wonder, and mental health.”

This activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage fund.

Plan to attend the opening reception Wednesday, June 8 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Deep Sea Dances

By Naomi Christenson
March 18 to May 31, 2022

Paintings that celebrate the vivid colors, natural patterns, and fluid movements of octopi, jellyfish, and other deep-sea creatures will be on display in the Aquarium’s Merrill Lynch Fine Arts Gallery March 18 to May 31. The exhibit Deep Sea Dances features the work of multidisciplinary artist Naomi Christenson. “I am SUPER excited to exhibit at the Aquarium,” Christenson said. “I’ve been exploring deep sea subjects for a couple of years, and the Aquarium is such a great place to show them off.” Christenson’s work is inspired by patterns that exist in nature “from the freckle pattern on the skin of an octopus to the repetitive shapes of a hundred lily pads together in a pond.”

Plan to attend the opening reception March 24 from 6-7:30 p.m

Images from the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

January 16 – March 6, 2022

The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is amazing to capture on film. Just ask photographer Amber Nichols, one of several photographers whose work will be featured in Images from the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, on display in the Merrill Lynch Fine Arts Gallery at Great Lakes Aquarium this winter.

“There is a certain magic to watching the teams run out on the trail, especially watching them at dusk or sunrise as they run by me,” said Nichols. “The mushers and dogs are covered in frost, just the sound of their feet hitting the ground in the silence. These moments show just how much these dogs and mushers love what they are doing.”

COVID-19 restrictions limited spectators at the start and finish of the 2021 race, but didn’t stop hearty photographers like Nichols, exhibit organizer Kyle Krohn, and a handful of others from hitting the trail.

Stop by and see fresh photos and watercolors from the 2021 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon along with select images from past races.

A Life of Birds II

By Karl Bardon

September 9 – January 10, 2021

Step into the beautiful world of birds through A Life of Birds II, an exhibit of paintings by Karl Bardon. The collection is on display in the Merrill Lynch Fine Arts Gallery from September 9 to January 10, 2021.

Bardon has worked with and painted birds for almost his entire life. Formerly the official counter at Hawk Ridge in Duluth, he now travels the country counting raptors, water birds, seabirds, and songbirds at various migration hotspots and bird observatories. He hopes his paintings instill an appreciation of birds and nature in Aquarium visitors, particularly young people.

This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council.

The Estuary Project

By Kelly Beaster

Kelly Beaster is both an artist and a plant ecologist. Her experiences conducting vegetation surveys within the coastal wetlands of the St. Louis River Estuary inspired her collection of ballpoint pen drawings on display in the Merrill Lynch Fine Arts Gallery from June 2 to September 6, 2021.

“I was amazed at the decaying remnants of industry still present in the estuary—wooden pilings, sawmill debris, and abandoned ore docks with vegetation pushing through the cracks in the cement foundations,” Beaster said. “Those examples told a story of how much humans have done to the estuary in the past. But I also wanted to showcase the resiliency of this region through drawings depicting the nature we still have.”

Beaster says Great Lakes Aquarium’s emphasis on natural science and proximity to the St. Louis River Estuary make it a perfect location for this show.

Images from the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

by Kyle Krohn

January 31 – March 7, 2021

An annual tradition at Great Lakes Aquarium kicked off with the start of the longest sled dog race in the lower 48.   Images from the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, featuring dozens of photos and paintings from the trail, is in its 11th year in the Aquarium’s Merrill Lynch Fine Arts gallery.

While many fans could not get up close and personal with the dogs this year, the photo exhibit offers an opportunity to experience the excitement and energy of the race through the artists who captured these images in 2020.

Lake Superior Watershed

by Margaret Holmes

November 9, 2020 – January 10, 2021

Ships, fish, lighthouses and even The Witch Tree are among images you’ll find in Lake Superior Watershed. Holmes is an active artist who teaches art at Hibbing Community College. This collection features altered photographs that incorporate cyanotype, digital manipulation and facts about Lake Superior’s geology, geography and history. Holmes calls it a “non-traditional landscape of Lake Superior that highlights the many uses of the lake and the necessity of keeping it available to everyone.”

Faces of Our Wetlands

by Alexa Carson

September 3 – November 8, 2020

Painter Alexa Carson has been fascinated and inspired by nature since childhood. Her new art exhibit, Faces of Our Wetlands, features acrylic paintings that showcase diverse wildlife species that depend on wetland ecosystems.

“I incorporate an additional layer of history and context through application of papers and imagery, including historical maps, antique bird guides, type-written DNR reports and wetland management plans,” says Carson, describing featured pieces. “I hope that individuals who view this show will discover new connections – both in heart and mind – to wetlands and their bounty of wildlife.”

The Mirrors

by Adam Swanson

July – August 2020

Paintings about the federally listed threatened and endangered animals of Minnesota. Explore images, audio descriptions, artist commentary and conservation information.

artwork focused on a shorebird at the rocky water’s edge, several hot air balloons fill the open sky, a child walks among the rocks and treed shoreline.