Art in Rural South Dakota

Posted on August 29, 2018

Paula Jensen
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If you attended ruralX this summer, you were part of a presentation from South Dakota artist Amber Hansen, who taught us about the value of communal creativity and how art can bring people together. Coincidence or not, we are seeing a flurry of artistic endeavors taking place across South Dakota.

Catching up with Amber

Amber Hansen, keynote speaker at ruralX and producer of the film “Called to Walls” has had a busy summer. Just two days after her visit to ruralX, she flew to Paraguay where she helped create a large mural in a neighborhood that had recently lost its hospital. The purpose of the mural was to pay tribute to the hospital and to try to help people re-imagine the potential of the space.

The Meridian District Art Project in Yankton

It’s all coming together.

In 2017, Design:SD (facilitated by Joe Bartmann, President of Dakota Resources) met with the community of Yankton to discuss new ways to boost their downtown area, which has been branded as The Meridian District. One of the ideas that emerged from the experience was an art project created to represent Yankton and showcase local talent.

The Meridian District’s Art Project is now coming to life, thanks in part to Cat Evans, a young Yankton artist who is finishing a mural on one of the downtown brick buildings. Plans are to officially unveil the completed mural in September.

In addition to painted artwork in the downtown alley, a new tile mural created by the Yankton community was completed in early August. The large mural features 256 tiles, each hand-painted by community members of all ages. The mural is currently displayed on a local bridge, but plans are to re-locate the mural to the Meridian District next year.

“The project was free to anyone although we were asking for free-will donations,” says Meridian District Art Project committee member Tara Leonard. “Each person took a piece of paper that was already designed and then painted that same design on their tile. None of the tiles are perfect, but when it all comes together it just works.”

The project committee plans to hang this mural in the Meridian District after it is done being displayed on the Yankton bridge. A tile mural created by the community in 2017 will also be hung.

“We have some great old buildings and our downtown is really flourishing,” explains committee member Ashli Danilko. “We have some great ideas for the future, including seating areas, a place for music and an interactive community art wall.”

Artistic Collaboration in Centerville

Centerville is working hard to create a more welcoming, colorful and engaging downtown atmosphere.

“We are wrapping up a mural project that was sparked by our involvement in the South Dakota Change Network,” explains Jared Hybertson, Community and Economic Development Director. “The mural welcomes people to town and is symbol of Centerville’s history and work ethic.”

The mural is being partially funded through grant dollars received through Centerville’s involvement as a South Dakota Change Network Cohort. The community wanted the project to be a multi-cultural collaboration that celebrates the growing Hispanic and Mexican population in town. The project combines the talents of local artist Stephen Hinrich, his wife Nikki and new resident Maria Purez. Together they are mixing their styles to create a beautiful piece of art.

In addition to the mural, Centerville is also exploring other ways to use art to better their community. Through the Dakota Resources Empower Community Coaching program, one of the Innovations Teams is working on concepts for a downtown beautification project that involves updating the downtown streetscape with building facade improvements, landscaping, decorative street lamps, sidewalk bump outs and additional art projects.

Some of the improvement ideas were tested during the annual Arts in The Garden Sidewalk Arts Festival held on August 26 in downtown Centerville, where the community attempted their rendition of a temporary “Build A Better Block” concept—which was inspired by 2017 ruralX keynote speaker Jason Roberts.

Colorful Castlewood

A beautiful new mural in Castlewood was hand-painted on the side of the Castlewood Corner Market this summer by local artist and Castlewood resident Wayne “Ziggy” Rasmussen. The mural urges people to “shop local” and support Castlewood, which is a vital component to the survival of any small town—and especially important to Castlewood, located about 15 miles from big box shopping in Watertown.

The project was funded by the Castlewood Historical Society as part of their commitment to preserve and renovate historical buildings in the rural community.

“The Castlewood Historical Society received a large bequest from former resident Gaylord Hoftiezer after he passed away 25 years ago, and that money was put into an endowment to be used for projects like this,” explains Castlewood Historical Society board member Lois Wiarda. “His legacy lives on through the preservation and beautification of Castlewood. The mural is fabulous and has hopefully paved the way for more projects like this—we have a few in mind!”

Artist Ziggy Rasmussen painted the mural onto the brick building after his designs were approved by the building owners, Dan and Vicki Plagman, and the Castlewood Historical Society.

“Ziggy is a very talented artist and he really captured the spirit of our town in his mural,” says Lois. “There have been a flood of positive comments about it. People are inspired by it.”

*Sidenote: Ziggy also created the wooden sculpture of a Steelhead in Delmont after the small town was ravaged by a tornado.

Off to the Races in Vermillion

Sandra Mollman was part of the team of artists attending ruralX to help create an event mural along with keynote speaker and South Dakota artist Amber Hansen. Back at home in Vermillion, Sandra also headed up a creative community event that involved kids, volunteers and lots of creativity. The “Cardboard Boat Regatta” took place on August 18 and featured 18 boats that were built by local kids. The Vermillion Public Library opened its doors as a place for creating the boats and approximately 100 people attended the event, which was held at Prentis Plunge swimming pool. Prizes were awarded in several categories and many of the cardboard boats actually floated!

Progress in Faulkton

The gorgeous progress by Australian artist Guido van Helton, who is creating the large mural on the side of the Faulkton grain elevator, can be viewed on the community live cam at Upon completion, the mural will be the third largest form of art in South Dakota, right behind Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse.

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