First Meeting of the Sioux Falls Arts Task Force

I attended the first meeting today of the task force that was appointed by Mayor TenHaken. For full disclosure, I did’t stay for the whole meeting (I left before the presentations of different arts orgs). It likely was NOT recorded and held at the City Center.

I was there for the initial discussion though. The chair and co-chair (Janet Brown & Tom Dempster) did do a fabulous job of presenting the task of the task force, though I don’t entirely agree, you can tell they have a lot of experience with these kind of things. Janet used to run the SD Arts Council and Tom was instrumental in bringing Levitt to Sioux Falls. They have both earned their chops, and I do respect both of them.

There seemed to be this push for the city to hire a full-time arts facilitator (paid) and and an arts commission (likely volunteer). The city currently has a Visual Arts Commission Board (since 2000) but they deal mainly with visual arts projects with the city. This facilitator and commission would deal with ALL the arts and it’s impact on the city.

While I am certainly NOT opposed to some of the things suggested, it just seemed to me as a top down approach by the movers and shakers of the city. I do however agree with one premise, arts brings in economic impact and tourism revenue to the city and it’s businesses. In a national study done in 2015, it showed that the city (region) brought in $84 Million in economic impact from the arts. This is a very good thing. What always seems to be left out is the ‘artists’. It seems like sometimes that is the ‘after thought’. I’m a bottom up kind of guy and have never been sold on ‘trickle down’ philosophies, especially when it comes to art. A bunch of mucky-mucks telling artists what to do goes against the whole mentality of what it means to be an artist.

I co-founded MAC (Midwest Artist Collective) several years ago which has also disbanded, and it was quite an experience. It was a club that was entirely made up of artists, and we had some interesting meetings and engagements, we also had several collaborative exhibits. I joked once that it was like herding cats, and I learned a lot about what it means to be an artist, and engagement with other artists.

I have often said that this could all be simplified by just funding local artists to create, perform and execute local art projects, they will create if they are being compensated, and ‘dictating’ to them what to do only harms the creative process. Once ‘free funding’ occurs, you will see a striving art community, and when you have that, you will see economic impact – big time.

Artists are not like line workers at a packing plant, they don’t like to follow instructions or rules. Give them a broad scope to work with, and let them create the artistic community. Everything else will fall in place.

I’m afraid the only thing that will come of this is another recommendation to put together more commissions and facilitators while ignoring the gorilla in the room – funding the arts – which means funding local artists, artisans, contractors, designers, performers, musicians, etc. The mucky mucks should concentrate on raising the money, and the artists will concentrate on creating the art, and tourism will follow. It really is that simple.


Mayor Selfie noticed me as he came in late, and the co-chair, Tom Dempster asked everyone to stand for him (trust me, I wasn’t the only one hesitant, and it seemed kind of bizarre – I almost screamed out ‘God Save the Queen’!) As everyone was standing (including myself) the mayor decided to call me out, and said ‘That means you to Scott.’ I think I was hiding my one finger salute in my pocket 🙂

Also, on the agenda, there was NO public input listed (they may have done it after I left, but it was NOT on the agenda) I told a city official before I left that it needs to be on the agenda for the next meeting. It is state law now that all public meetings of public boards and commissions have public input at some point in the meeting, and it has been pointed out to me by several people that this administration has been skirting this law at board meetings at the city center, and have been warned about it.

Below is a chart of the money we have spent on public art facilities form the entertainment tax fund (3rd penny). This of course does NOT include the bond payments which comes out of our road funds (2nd penny) which WAS clarified in the meeting.

Overall I am hopeful things will become more organized, but I think at the end it will be more of the same, crumbs to the artists and T-Bones for the facilitators. I read a FB post the other day from a local artist that summed it up nicely, ‘To create art means to be crazy alone forever’. How true it is. How true it is. Artists are not followers, they are doers. Let them ‘DO’ good things, and you will be pleasantly surprised.


#1 N Cruz on 02.07.20 at 7:47 pm

Thank you so much for going and writing this up, I really wanted to be there, but I had a sick kid. Much appreciated!

#2 D@ily Spin on 02.08.20 at 11:02 am

It’s obligatory for a mayor to show interest. What happens after the political hype is lack of interest and lapse of support. City government favors sculptures on Phillips Avenue. It’s something for citizens to run into and wheelchairs to navigate around. They’ve proven that art is something that gets in their way more than be appreciated.

#3 scott on 02.08.20 at 12:34 pm

what etiquette rule says that you must stand when a politician enters a room?