Local artists are banding together to get exposure beyond South Dakota’s borders. Artists of the Black Hills is an organization designed to promote art and artists from the Black Hills to potential clients across the nation.
The Artists of the Black Hills organization began back in 2005 and today, eight years later, still serves its original purposes. The organization is designed to put Black Hills artists in touch with potential clients nationwide, namely collectors, and to also put the Black Hills on the map as an art-friendly destination for tourists from out-of state.
Mick Harrison is a professional fine-artist and lives in Belle Fourche where he has his studio. He came up with the idea for Artists of the Black Hills after seeing the potential of a group advertising effort. He says he realized that artists could save money and have a bigger impact on their audience if they formed a group that pooled their money and resources. He says up until he proposed the potential benefits of a collaborative effort, professional artists had for the most part been doing advertising on their own.
“There wasn’t a concerted effort within the Black Hills to promote the art here, I didn’t feel anyway at the time. So I just put out a call to whoever was interested as far as artists and that first meeting we had up in Spearfish we had probably fifty plus people show up. The excitement was pretty high so I thought well maybe we’re on to something,” says Harrison.
Harrison says there were local artists such as photographers, painters, jewelers, and sculptors in attendance. He says they were there expressing interest in joining forces with each other to accomplish their common goal of increasing the number of people that are exposed to high-quality artwork from the Black Hills.
“It struck a chord there with a lot of artists around here that evidently felt the same need. So we got together and it just seemed to kind of click,” says Harrison.
Harrison says Artists of the Black Hills reaches its potential clientele through advertisements in national magazines and by promoting local artist members on his organization’s website.
Black Hills State University Photography Professor and Artist Steve Babbitt is a long-time member. He says the organization is having a much anticipated event at the Dahl Arts Center in downtown Rapid City, and encourages the public to stop in and view the more than seventy pieces of locally-produced art – all of which are available for purchase.
“A lot of great artists, crafts people, a lot of very talented people are involved. Coming up this month is our annual exhibit, something that everyone plans for for the whole year, so it’s a big event for us,” says Babbitt.
Babbitt says the organization provides an opportunity for artists of all ages and genres to rub elbows.
“Artists of the Black Hills is really a wonderful organization for well-established artists as well as new and up-and-coming artists to work together to promote their work and promote art from the Black Hills region. New artists are able to learn from older artists. Older artists that have been doing this for a while no doubt always take something away from dealing with young up-and-coming artists that are full of energy,” says Babbitt.
The Dahl Arts Center has been a venue for the annual exhibit in years past but with expanded gallery space, organizers say the Dahl is a fitting location now more than ever.
Denise Dubroy is the Exhibit and Collection Curator at the Dahl. She says the Arts Center is happy to host the annual exhibit and says this year’s event is off to a good start.
“The very first day that the show opened we sold two pieces so that’s very encouraging, even without having a reception – not that that’s the goal – but it’s always nice for artists to be able to sell their work in a museum environment,” says Dubroy.
Dubroy says the event has a history of being well-attended and organizers are considering expanding the exhibit and keeping it open for up to three months during the summer when tourist traffic is up.
Founder Mick Harrison says communities across Western South Dakota benefit from Artists of the Black Hills’ advertising because it draws interested people from across the nation.
“We aren’t really just an organization that promotes just us. Basically we want to advertise the region’s art in general and try to get people to start thinking of the Black Hills as kind of an artist’s community,” says Harrison.
There are currently four local galleries and more than thirty artist members in Artists of the Black Hills. The organization has been invited to show their goods in galleries outside of South Dakota. An exhibit in the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City, Nebraska is scheduled in the fall.
The Artists of the Black Hills current annual exhibit is at the Dahl Arts Center through the end of June.