Hi! I’m Jane, Marketing Manager at Glensheen Mansion. As a disclaimer, I’m not your typical museum person. I did not come from a museum background, nor am I the type of person that would usually go to a museum on my own. I will admit, I started wearing glasses more frequently to feel like I fit in. But I’ve fallen in love with Glensheen and am happily drinking the Kool-aid. I find myself accidentally making other people (non-museum people) fall in love with Glensheen too. Never in a million years did I think I would be working for a historic house museum!

Quick and dirty Concert on the Pier facts:

  • 4,500 total attendance for 2016
  • 250% attendance growth from first concert in 2014 to last in 2016
  • 1,000+ crowd per 2016 concert
  • 30+ kayaks, boats, canoes per concert
  • 18 Minnesota artists performed
  • 2 local craft beer companies
  • 1 local food truck

Here are the reasons why more museums should be hosting events like this:

1. We’ve become a community space

Some museums have figured this out already and host rockin’ events with hundreds or even thousands in attendance. (We see you American Swedish Institute!) But this is my favorite part of what Concerts on the Pier has done. Glensheen become a gathering place for the surrounding community. We have gone from a usual 200–300 people in 2014 to 1,700 people at the last concert of 2016. My heart is so happy on concert nights. To see people enjoying Lake Superior, great music, local beer and oh yeah… Glensheen! All of my favorite things in one spot. But who doesn’t like live music, beer and Lake Superior on a summer night? So it wasn’t that hard to get people to come to Glensheen.

A section of the crowd on a 2016 Concert on the Pier night


Most house museums are in fantastic locations in their respective communities. So why not use your location! What does your community love about your town? Find it. Make it happen at your museum. It’s not selling out. It’s just a different way of getting people to the place you love.

2. People who never take tours have become fans

Glensheen’s target audience (aka who most frequently take our tours) is women, 35–45. They are less like your grandparents and more like the soccer mom that lives next door. 95% of Glensheen’s tour visitors are not from Duluth. Instead, the biggest chunk is from the Twin Cities. We intentionally host events like these on Wednesdays. Why, you may ask, if the bulk of our audience comes from afar? While Duluthains rarely take tours at Glensheen, they do come to Concerts on the Pier…in droves. As much as the locals don’t take tours, they do pay attention to what is going on in their own backyard.

Glensheen was once a private residence. Today, it is open to the public for all to enjoy. This was the intent when the Congdons gifted Glensheen to the University of Minnesota — for the public to learn about the silent legacy they left behind. Concerts on the Pier is the way for Duluthians to enjoy ‘their house’ in a truly Duluthian way.

Charlie Parr at the final Concert on the Pier of 2016


Most Duluthians have a magnetic pull to Lake Superior. The encouraged modes of transportation to Concerts on the Pier is by water; this plays into the Lake Superior love. Kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and boats all flock to the pier to enjoy tunes from the largest fresh water lake in the world.

We have seen Duluthians become fans of Glensheen again. Many, have even become ambassadors and in turn are telling their tourist friends about us!

Red Mountain performing on the pier surrounded by the crowd


3. Increasing the cool factor through connections

Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us like to be connected to the relevant things going on in the world and our communities. Concerts on the Pier at Glensheen has morphed into something quite extraordinary in two short years. But like anything of notable success, Glensheen didn’t do it alone. This year, we sprinkled some magic fairy dust over Concerts on the Pier. The magic fairy dust is connecting with those we knew our community already liked. We brought in super Duluth-esq local vendors like the food truck folks at Chow Haul and the hand-made ice cream queen, Love Creamery. Plus, the healthy juicers over at Juice Pharm. (Shout out to Emma Deaner for her hard work to make this whole thing happen!)

Of course, local craft beer was not forgotten, with favorites like Bent Paddle and Castle Danger selling out at each show.

Craft beer is cool! We’re holding craft beer. Therefore, Glensheen is cool. Okay, maybe not Dan & Jane. But we tried!


And the stars of the show… the artists! We booked Minnesota artists with buzz… artists like Southwire, Sarah Krueger, Lay Low & Bender, Big Wave Dave & the Ripples, Tin Can Gin, Red Mountain, Charlie Parr, Haley Bonar, and Glitteratti with members of Duluth favorite Trampled by Turtles. Each drawing large crowds of 1,000 plus concert goers this year.

The thing about Concerts on the Pier that not everyone realizes is Glensheen does not charge the vendors or take a cut of their profits. Plus, the concerts are free for all to attend. Why don’t we charge the vendors or take a cut? It is for the pure fact of enhancing the Glensheen experience and to showcase the incredible Minnesota businesses we have right in our back yard.

Concerts on the Pier goers anxiously awaiting their dinner from Chow Haul

For those of you who know Chester and Clara’s story, you know that they purposely chose Minnesota’s top craftsmen and women to build their magnificent home. We like to think of our Concerts on the Pier partners as a throwback to what Chester and Clara would have done. Now you can see the best musical artists of Minnesota today as well. Stay tuned for more Minnesota to come.

The moral of the story? Meet your people where they are. As all house museum professionals know, the industry is being forced to change. Think beyond the “Velvet Rope” change. Think more about what events…your friends might want to come to.