As I have said recently, I separate what happened to them compared to how Portz was able to create the mural. These artists were censored by the mayor;

“An open letter from the original artists of the 10th Street Mural

September 19, 2023

By Amber Hansen, Reyna Hernandez & Darcy Millette

The Sordid History of the 10th Street Parking Ramp Mural and What Became of the Project Steeped in Controversy.

Sioux Falls, SD

There are many aspects surrounding the state of the arts throughout South Dakota that should be a cause for concern, but for the sake of this article, we will speak specifically to the state of Public Art and the city of Sioux Falls.

Based on our experience as the original artists chosen to paint the 10th Street Parking Ramp Mural, we’ve reflected on the process and would like to highlight some of the structural transgressions that we encountered:

– There is no clear or transparent process that outlines how artists are selected to create art for public buildings in the city of Sioux Falls.Public art on city owned property in Sioux Falls is presided over and controlled by the mayor. The mayor’s office has complete authority to approve or deny what art is displayed in public spaces. Simply put: One person has the power to define the arts culture in a major part of Sioux Falls and to dictate the cultural value of art based on how “instagramable” and “non-controversial” he considers the art to be.

– The Visual Arts Commission (a commission created by the mayor’s office) has no real sway when it comes to the art decisions in Sioux Falls and is seemingly in place for the sake of optics.

– Artists should be fairly compensated for their work. Low wages set an unsustainable precedent for working artists.

Sioux Falls Art and the 10th Street Parking Ramp

The Plan:

In the fall of 2022, the Sioux Falls Arts Council (SFAC) in partnership with the City of Sioux Falls and the Visual Arts Commission (VAC) released a request for qualifications (RFQ) inviting artists to apply for an opportunity to create a new mural on the side of the 10th Street parking garage.

Three finalists would be selected and given an honorarium to create a design for the parking garage. Once the Sioux Falls Arts Council and the Visual Arts Commission reached a consensus and selected the design, it would be presented to the mayor for approval.

What Happened:

The Sioux Falls Arts Council and the Visual Arts Commission unanimously selected a design created by three local artists. The design was sent to the mayor for approval. After reviewing the design, the mayor dismissed the design chosen by the SFAC and the VAC and selected another artist from the group of finalists and began working towards approving the other design. At this point the mayor began an entirely new selection process without input from SFAC or the VAC (despite the fact that the Visual Arts Commission is a committee of people that his own office appointed). When we were notified by the Sioux Falls Arts Council that the mayor had rejected our design, we requested a meeting with the mayor’s office or a written explanation as to why they would not be moving forward with our design. We were denied any such correspondence.

Due to the violation of the previously set protocol of the selection process, the Sioux Falls Arts Council decided to halt participation on the mural project. The project funder, Marketbeat, also decided to withhold their donation. The city then released a statement that the project had simply “run out of time” and that there would be no new mural, citing that a consensus could not be reached on the design. In reality, the mural was stalled because the mayor didn’t agree with the Sioux Falls Arts Council and Visual Arts Commission’s design selection and thus attempted to override the process, in an effort that wasted time and resources.

What’s Happening Now:

In August of 2023, the mayor hand-picked an artist for the parking garage who used Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to create the design. The move required approval from the Sioux Falls Arts Council and the Visual Arts Commission. The new mural design was presented during a meeting without informing the attendants that they would be voting on this new design.

Our Perspective:

As A.I. generated content becomes a new threat to artists and their creative livelihoods (i.e. SAG-AFTRA strikes and amongst visual artists across the globe) the mayor has essentially organized a mural created using controversial A.I. generated imagery without input from the qualified artists and professionals on his team (the SFAC and VAC). Additionally, he has chosen an artist who agreed to paint the entirety of the nearly fourteen-thousand square foot wall for a lump sum of $30,000. That is $2.14 per square foot. We assume the artist is also responsible for covering the cost of materials. Considering that muralists are generally paid $20-$50 per square foot, it’s worth mentioning that the distribution of labor and wages for this project sets an unrealistic precedent that artists can work for extremely low wages.

In addition to undermining processes and promoting questionable, if not potentially unethical methods of designing art for public spaces, mayor Tenhaken is now in the process of dismantling the Visual Arts Commission by creating a new arts commission in his vision; a commission comprised of business owners, engineers, financers and fewer artists.

We do not know the mayor’s reasoning behind rejecting our design as he refused our request to discuss the project. We did not receive any correspondence from him or his office throughout the process. Due to this lack of communication we can only speculate on his subjective view of our design so, we would like to take this time to remain focused on sharing our experience concerning the violations of process carried out by the mayor’s office and the amount of control that he has over the arts & culture of the city of Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls should have a clear and transparent process for deciding public art on our city buildings and for selecting the new City Arts Coordinator. The Mayor should rely on the Sioux Falls Arts Council and Visual Arts Commission and likewise qualified people to make art based decisions that affect the public art landscape. The City should find ways to better support arts programs in Sioux Falls so they can help the arts and culture in our community thrive.”

8 Thoughts on “Censored and Rejected Mural Artists have response to the new Bunker Ramp Mural

  1. Very Stable Genius on September 25, 2023 at 4:46 pm said:

    The most tragic thing about the Taupeville-ization of the Visual Arts Commission is that they only know one shade.

    A course, they will claim 50 shades of taupe, but the storyline is always the same and we know who then gets what.

    AI art, does that really count? Because then can’t just about anyone enter the contest? AND, isn’t that akin to an ape doing modern art?

  2. D@ily Spin on September 25, 2023 at 5:42 pm said:

    An arrogant narcissist mayor proving to himself he has the unencumbered power to impose his will on the public. Once citizens recognize that the authoritarian charter makes the mayor an oligarch, there’s basis for a New Democratic charter. Blogs such as this one provide historic evidence for inevitable charter repeal.

    Using artificial intelligence for art! Then, is it art? If there’s a reason a politician should not come from tech, this is an example. It’s a distinct loss of creativity and job opportunity. Get thee out of the mayors office and back into your warehouse cubicle amidst hundreds of other hacker geeks.

  3. anominous on September 25, 2023 at 10:48 pm said:

    it’s better then pizza ranch

  4. It’s hard to get riled up without seeing the rejected design. Remember we are dealing with the same community that couldn’t figure out where to place Joe Foss at the airport and they’ve always had people complaining about things like the nakedness of David & the maintenance/security of pieces on sculpturewalk or the Commununity Youth Mosaic.

    Being the mayor of this fine town has some unique challenges for sure, if this was the latest iteration of a mid 90s CK ad I have no doubt it wasn’t rejected for any personal reasons against the artists or favoritism toward Walter, it was more like Paul simply didn’t want to deal with the Karen led pushback that was sure to follow. Artists, like stage performers need to be able to read the room.

  5. Sy, I agree with you partially. Remember when they couldn’t decide if Munson’s plaque was art or something else, or calling the mural on the horse barn a ‘large painting’ to circumvent the mural statutes and who can forget disappearing David and the missing marble mounts?

    I think PTH is using the naked native as an excuse. If you look at the work these fine artists do, it is chocked full of Hispanic and Native imagery and symbolism. I heard this is the real reason it was rejected.

    If you walk around Mexico City which has the largest public art display in the world, you would see hundreds of works just like these girls do.

    It’s unfortunate this blew up like it did, but when you don’t have open govmint, that is what happens.

    Also, Walter was not involved until after the Mayor censored the piece, he wasn’t planning some sneak attack to get this done after the ladies failed, it was after the fact.

  6. That makes sense & I agree this shouldn’t have blown up like it did. Hell we had a pregnant mommy image on a private business that was all the rage not long also.

    Walter shouldn’t be getting slagged in the process as he was simply batting clean up. Also I get the complaint on what he charged, but again..if he came in hot and wanted 8 x what he charged the project wouldn’t have happened at all & the complaint would’ve shifted to “why are we spending over $100K on something we are eventually tearing off the wall?” Sometimes there’s just no way to please all the stakeholders & couch based art critics/auditors that populate our area.

    I would advise the artists to keep their powder dry and keep grinding, there’s plenty of blank canvas space around town that could use a permanent install..maybe they could help beautify the airport ramp or one of the college campus’ with their work, I’d personally love to see it and see it installed. Art is like sex…no such thing as too much.

  7. My Mistake Mike on September 26, 2023 at 9:43 am said:

    The Visual Arts Commission, like pretty much every citizen board & commission, is an advisory board (not a governing one). Which means their opinion only matters when it lines up with what the administration wants. That’s how it worked in previous administrations, and how it will continue to work after PTH.

    That said, I’m with Sy. It’s hard to get riled up without seeing the rejected design.

    The new mural is certainly a bright improvement over the gray slab that stood before it. That’s about the only positive thing I can say about it. It’s a placeholder. Hopefully, it is covered up with new development in 3-5 years.

  8. Angry Guy on September 26, 2023 at 3:46 pm said:

    There is, once again, serious butt hurt amongst the public art community surrounding a mural. Imagine being so upset that your art was rejected and publicly called insufficient that decide to start a social media campaign to smear Walter’s image because he has generational wealth and has personal relationships with elected officials outside of the process. GASP!
    Maybe instead of crying over your spilled paint with the butthurt you’re trying to convey in this letter, and instead write a public letter of apology to Walter and his family. Why is it that artists are great until they get compared or critiqued against a peer’s work in the same setting.

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