Entries Tagged 'Art' ↓

New Mural at Levitt

Sioux Falls artist Walter Portz is painting this mural on a wall of an old warehouse next to the Sioux Steel project. It faces the grounds of the Levitt Pavilion.

Looks like a girl about to eat an orange (just as long as it is NOT a shirtless Native we are good 🙁 I wouldn’t want the Mayor’s Art Police to deem it inappropriate.)

What happened to David’s Granite Pedestal?

As I have pointed out several times over the years, I am still wondering where the original pedestal for The Statue of David went in Fawick Park, Downtown Sioux Falls?

In this article I wrote in 2002 for Etc. magazine, I mention the removal of David in 1997 and how the city fought to bring him back because they needed a new pedestal. My question all along is where did the original pedestal go?

No doubt that the structure of the original pedestal probably needed to go away, but it had granite inlays.

Over the years I have pressured current and former city staff where the inlays went. Nobody has said a peep. The closest I got to an admission they were taken was a person said to me, “Let’s just say some VIP in town has quite the treasure.”

I have also heard the granite placards were returned to the Fawick Family.

Either way, it would be nice to know where they went. Probably the same place the images to the Bunker Ramp mural went.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls City Council Consent Agenda includes expenditures for the Zoo and Indian Mound retaining wall

Sometimes you have to peruse the city council’s consent agenda a few times before you catch stuff (Item #6).

Sub-Item #14, Great Plains Zoo Master Plan; Agreement for professional services, CLR Design, $80K (as pointed out to me, non-profit’s subsidized by the city usually pay for their own master plans, at least the Washington Pavilion Management Company has in the past for theirs. What is even more troubling about asking city coffers to pay for this is the new the partnership the Zoo has with the Butterfly house. Is the city gearing up to becoming a bigger owner in the Zoo’s capital? I’m all for long range masterplans, but instead of a study on penguins and butterflies maybe the city council needs to have a masterplan for the long term growth of the city.)

Sub-Item #22, Indian Mound Retaining Wall Rehabilitation – Bank Stabilization – Evaluation and Preliminary Design; Agreement for professional services, Infrastructure Design Group, Inc., $52K

UPDATE: This is a different retaining wall closer to the bike trail by the Country Club.

Sioux Falls City Hall still pushing for a Full-Time Arts coordinator

At the informational meeting this Tuesday the mayor’s office is still pushing for this position after the council has already denied the position last year;

A. Arts Task Force Update on Arts Coordinator Position by Jeff Eckhoff, Director of Planning and Development Services; and, Janet Brown, Arts Task Force

If you read the attached documents you will see the position would work with the VAC (Visual Arts Commission).

After watching the Bunker Ramp mural debacle, I am even more confident that this position would give the administration the upper hand in making final public art decisions and as a position in the Mayor’s office they would do the bidding of the mayor making the VAC almost obsolete.

While I agree with most of what is being said when it comes to public art coordination I believe it takes an effort from multiple non-profits, artists and other stakeholders. An actual public art commission or committee would make more sense helping guide these organizations.

I’m not sure the council has changed their mind on the position, but with this renewed vigor, even after the failure of the mural, it makes you wonder what kind of deal is being cut with council leadership (Council Chair Soehl was the biggest opponent when first introduced).

I’m sure an argument will be made that the failure of the mural process is a reason we need a person making these decisions.

The mural didn’t fail because of the process, in fact I fully commend the artists, VAC and the SFAC for their due diligence and incredible work they did to bring forth a candidate. It was their first go around at doing this, and they checked all the boxes. The mural ultimately failed because ONE person was offended and that is NO way to institute public art.

Should the city be mitigating risk when it comes to public art?

This is a rendering I did of what I was told the Bunker Ramp mural would have looked like. A Native American taking a nap next to a river dreaming of buffalos frolicking in a rainbow sky. I still have NOT seen the image.

Mr. Lalley is suggesting that is what the mayor exactly did when rejecting the selected mural choice and cancelling the project all together, mitigating risk;

This wasn’t a commissioned piece, as Boice had to explain to me, which could include parameters on the theme or content.

In this case, the intent was to allow the chosen artist “control the narrative,” as Boice put it.

That’s new.

It’s a great idea when you’re fostering and supporting artistic endeavors in your community.

For a government, for people who want other people to approve of what they do, it’s risky.

But you have to know that going in.

Rejection from the wider public is always a possibility. In my experience uncertainty is the artist’s constant companion, whether they are painters, musicians, sculptors, writers or quilters.

There’s always risk in art.

City government is inherently about mitigating risk.

We may never know the content of what was intended as a short-term mural, that was recommended by the Visual Arts Commission and rejected by the mayor.

Which highlights a more perplexing theme.

We may never know if the mural in question was patently offensive to one or more groups of people in the community.

We may never know if the mayor was reacting to some real or perceived public consequence if he approved it.

With public art comes public scrutiny.

Artists usually want that.

Government usually does not.

While I still struggle with this supposed offensive mural, you can only look a block away to a naked dude that has been standing there for 50 years (with a short stint in a parks and rec boneyard).

While it appears that the mayor was mitigating risk, it also suggests to me he was more worried about what Taupeville would think of the mural and not everyday folks.

Just another shirtless Native American in front of the Bunker Ramp of Democracy.

Which brings us to Ben Black Elk;

As the unofficial greeter at Mount Rushmore, Black Elk spent 27 years welcoming guests and promoting Native American culture. A Huron Daily Plainsman article noted that he posed for an estimated 5,000 photos daily during peak tourist season, earning Black Elk the distinction of being the most photographed Native American in the world. In addition to his photo record, the Sioux City Journal reported that Black Elk was the first person to have a live image broadcast over the Atlantic — via the Telstar satellite that launched in 1962.

It seems the state did a fine job of mitigating the risk of having a shirtless Native American pose for pictures in front of Mt. Rushmore now if we could just figure it out in Sioux Falls.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls Visual Arts Commission to meet Tuesday morning

UPDATE: As I suspected, the artists involved with this fiasco were not happy about the lack of transparency and appreciation for their time commitments and work;

Amber Hansen, Reyna Hernandez and Darcy Millette sent the statement to Sioux Falls Live in advance of a meeting of the Visual Arts Commission, which meets at 9 a.m.

“We are grateful to the Sioux Falls Arts Council, the Visual Arts Commission, and MarketBeat for their support during the city’s selection process for the 10th Street parking garage mural. As of now, we do not know the reason behind the Mayor’s decision to override the VAC’s unanimous selection of our design, ‘Buffalo Dreamer.’

As local artists and community focused muralists, we are disappointed by the exploitation of time, energy, and resources that the city’s process demanded from those it claims to serve. Despite our disappointment in what has transpired, we are hopeful that this experience ignites a conversation surrounding issues of transparency and systemic power plays concerning who determines and shapes the arts and culture in the city of Sioux Falls and throughout the state of South Dakota.”

I was glad to see they acknowledged their disappointment in the process. What has NOT surfaced is the actual rejected image. I doubt we will ever see it.

This is why I have pushed back on the mayor having a full-time arts coordinator in his office. Decisions about public art should take a village, not a dictator.


The VAC will be meeting at 9 AM at the City Center Admin building downtown in City Center Conference Room 110. There isn’t really anything special about the agenda except for public input could get interesting.

There has been a lot of hoopla surrounding the rejected Bunker Ramp mural project. But without knowing what the rejected mural looks like (there have been several accusations that it was insensitive towards Native Americans and the LGBTQ+ community) it is hard to make a judgement call as to if this all to do about nothing.

Some have said that the image cannot be released due to artist permissions and copyright infringement, but my experience with being in a juried exhibit or competition those rights can be waived. I have not seen the image but I encourage the artists to release the image to the public so that the public can make that call.

Transparency goes a long ways, and in the case of rejected art, showing the image to the public would bring a greater understanding of what the artists intended and what the jurors and mayor perceived.

I doubt these three artists worked this hard to win the selection only to dupe the public into a secret plan to offend them with controversial art. If you think that you truly are ignorant to how the process of creating art works. It’s not like they suggested putting a statue of a naked dude in DTSF for 50 years.

I struggle with the notion that 6 members of the VAC who unanimously approved the initial concept would be so naive to move forward with a piece of art that would offend a certain group of people.

Me thinks the only people offended by the concept are not really affected by it’s message just butt hurt they were NOT honored and obeyed.

*for the record, I found out about this when a friend of mine casually said, ‘Have you heard what is going on with the parking ramp mural?’ I said no. So I decided to go read the agenda minutes from the VAC meetings and found a missing narrative in the January meeting. Not only were the minutes initially missing as to what the planning director discussed about the mural, the agenda page incorrectly listed it as a Jan 11 meeting instead of Jan 17. I contacted someone who may have been in attendance and they confirmed to me that the planning director came to the meeting and told the VAC the mayor had selected the other mural concept. This is another reason I have suggested that ALL city board/commission meetings be recorded and live streamed on YouTube.

The Mayor has the right to reject the recommendation, just like the city council has the right to reject zoning proposals from the planning commission. What he cannot do is bully all of the participants that were involved in this long and complicated process.

Bunker Ramp mural project becomes controversial

Just ask Mikey A. after he reluctantly accepted the Sistine Chapel ‘ceiling’ project. His ideas and timeline for the project got him into a lot of trouble with the Pope. It has been a mis-understood piece of art for centuries.

Fast forward to an attempt to put lipstick on a concrete pig downtown and all of a sudden a temporary mural (to only last about 18 months) has been blown way out of proportion.

The Sioux Falls Arts Council in coordination with the Visual Arts Commission and City Planning Staff put in motion a plan to have an opportunity to decorate the Bunker Ramp. As far as I can tell the planning was going smoothly. the SFAC had private funding in place and the VAC had a jurying process.

Where it hit a snag was the mayor’s office or representatives from the planning office made the decision to pull the selected winner and recommend 2nd place.

Two pieces of the puzzle that I am missing is a supposed letter sent from the VAC/SFAC to the mayor’s office offering their dissatisfaction and the image of the rejected mural concept. I doubt I will get either, especially the image which is on complete lockdown.

From what was described to me, the image was chocked full of Native American symbolism and some shirtless males. Let’s just say certain folks were worried certain folks would be offended by such imagery.

It is still hard for me to make a judgement call without seeing the image, but my guess is there is absolutely nothing offensive about it.

Just think you can walk less then a block from this location and see a statue of a dude with his shmeckel hanging out.

After the pissing match went back and forth the mural seemed to be in jeopardy, but now, the rumor is, a temporary painting will be installed at the location. Not sure what that will be or who will be paying for it.

As I said from the beginning, all this could have been avoided by simply selling advertising to DTSF businesses to advertise on a building wrap to cover the wall. It would have been paid for and we would have avoided all the controversy over shirtless native men.

As a local journalist said to me today, “This all could have been avoided with transparency.”

I think we have a winner! Maybe that is what we should paint on the side of the ramp?

UPDATE: Did Mayor TenHaken overrule the Visual Arts Commission?

UPDATE: Mural Gate is getting interesting. While I am still waiting for more details it seems the funding source for the mural may be in jeopardy. I am assuming that NO announcements will be made until this is smoothed out. The mural was to be privately funded.

Not only is PTH busy forcing the city council to do his dirty work, but apparently he also has been throwing his weight around with the VAC (Visual Arts Commission).

The commission is tasked with making recommendations to the city council and mayor when it comes to public art. They probably haven’t had this much drama since they had to determine if the Munson plaque at Phillips to the Falls was art (I wish I still had audio from that city council meeting, I think the Quen Be started crying).

At their December 20, 2022 meeting the commission picked a winner for the Bunker Ramp mural. There were 3 entries and they voted on two of them;

Jurying for the 10th Street Parking Ramp
Commissioner Boice presented the numeric rankings for the three submittals. The Commission reviewed and discussed the rankings and Commissioner Schaeffer made a motion for the Commission to select between Amber Hansen/Reyna Hernandez/Darcy Millette and Eric Vozzola. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Dickson. The motion passed unanimously. Commissioners Jamison and Hoesing voted in favor of Eric Vozzola. Commissioners Schaeffer, Lum, Dickson, and Zaijcek voted in favor of Amber Hansen/Reyna Hernandez/Darcy Millette.
Commissioner Jamison made a motion that all members of the Commission are in unanimous support of Amber Hansen/Reyna Hernandez/Darcy Millette. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Hoesing. The motion passed unanimously. Commissioner Boice will update the Commission once a final decision after consultation with the donor and the City.

The VAC handled the selection process the way they are supposed to by making sure the entries qualify for the criteria set forth and having an open and transparent vote on the selection. They even went a step further by taking a 2nd vote for unanimous consent (heck, they run their meetings tighter then the council).

Fast forward to the January 17th VAC meeting (that is posted wrong on the agenda as a Jan 11 meeting) and you will notice they had a special guest to talk about the mural selection;

• 10th Street Parking Ramp Mural, Jeff Eckhoff

What is missing from the minutes is exactly what Mr. Eckhoff told the VAC. According to my sources at the meeting the VAC was informed that the Mayor was not a fan of the VAC mural selection and the mayor instructed that they use the 2nd entry. Not sure why because I am getting conflicting accounts.

While all the artists involved are very talented, they do differ in styles. The winner(s) the VAC chose do the mural are more culturally diverse and present a lot of symbolism when it comes to Hispanic and Native American culture, while the 2nd place entry that the mayor prefers does more nature/abstract/modern commercialized work.

I don’t know what the entries look like, but as an artist I will admit all the artists involved do great work and I can understand how it would have been a difficult decision to make. But if I was voting, I would have picked what the VAC picked purely based on the complexity of their work. While Eric’s work is good, it lacks substance and doesn’t tell a story. Art should always have a message, or NOT, but there is a clear dividing line.

Now there are a lot of rumors swirling around about how this all came down (I’m working on getting more details) but I do know that the VAC leadership was not happy about how it came down and there was some blow back.

The one thing an experienced leader can do is get out of the way especially when you have a talented and capable committee to make a decision for you. But authoritarians struggle with delegation because they want to micro-manage everything. It seems the artists that were in the running were all very capable of creating a great mural, so why did a color blind graphic designer have to have a pity party?

I get it if the mayor was NOT happy about the selection, but to piss in the VAC’s cereal is not a good way to start a day.

Sioux Falls Arts Council still pushing for Full-Time City Art Director

You can sign the petition here.

I did NOT sign the petition.

I personally think that each city department should have a mid-manager as an arts liaison and meet monthly with other department liaisons and the Visual Arts Commission on how to make each department more arts driven. I think a collaborated effort would be a better way to go instead of a central figure working out of the planning office;

We Need Your Help!

Recently Mayor Paul Ten Haken recommended a full-time arts specialist position be added to the 2023 Budget. If approved this position will work with multiple city departments, community organizations, neighborhood associations and individuals to create arts and culture policies, manage city art investments, implement procedures, and develop partnerships and financial resources to meet the diverse needs of Sioux Falls residents and visitors.

Although this effort stalled at the last budget hearing, leaders in the arts community are actively developing supporting documents to reapproach City Council in December in hopes that the position will be added within the Planning and Development Services department in 2023.

Please consider joining this effort. 

Approaching the City Council with a unified voice is a powerful endorsement of the Mayor’s proposal by either signing on to this petition and/or sending a letter of support for this initiative to kboice@artssiouxfalls.org by Monday, November 14. 

Still have more questions? We invite you for your input Wednesday, November 16 from 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Downtown Public Library Meeting Room A. If you would like to learn more about this effort, please contact a member of the arts advocacy group whose names and contact information are listed below.


Kellen Boice
Executive Director
Sioux Falls Arts Council

Found on Facebook

The Bunker Ramp got its first mural submission. Not sure it lasted long 🙂