“The Light is Different in Duluth”

by Mary-Margaret Zindren, EVP/Executive Director

“The light is different in Duluth.” When Cheryl Fosdick, Assoc. AIA – owner of CF Design and LUM Studio – said this to me, she was speaking literally. And I immediately agreed. There’s something about how The Big Lake uniquely interacts with the sky, whether sunlit or overcast. The Lake seems to generate its own special light.

This statement is even more true metaphorically – especially in the context of the Lake Superior Design Retreat (LSDR). At least this was the case for me this year. Light as brilliance. And warmth. And inspiration.

A special sort of alchemy happened among this year’s particular mix of people and ideas.  

A full third of the attendees were there for the first time, a number of them students or within their first few years of architectural practice. They connected easily and often with people twice or three times their ages.

The setting (new this year at Zeitgeist, just down the road from Fitger’s) shifted between my favorite kind of dark – cinema dark – where the presentations were held; a light-filled lobby where everyone gathered after each speaker to share their favorite moments and to get to know each other (conversations so animated that people passing by on the street stopped by to ask what was going on; it was exciting to welcome them in); and the warm glow of LUM’s lighting studio, filled with people for the after party.

The speakers were a wonderful amalgamation of artists, makers, designers, doctors, architects, agronomists, leaders of cultural organizations – they all wore at least two of these hats.

I’ve never heard so many people say, “I can’t wait to come back next year. And to tell my friends.” Speakers said the same.

Now, the people who have been coming to LSDR for 30 years are saying, “Of course! That’s what LSDR is!” They had their LSDR moment a long time ago.

For me, this was the year I had my LSDR moment. Keep a look out for a “Save the Date” for the next LSDR. Next year could be your year.

View the March 2024 edition of Matrix.