Work has begun at Main Street Square on the country’s largest privately-funded public art project.
Called “The Passage of Wind and Water”, the massive sculpture is slated to take three to five years to complete and brings a world class artist and his talent to downtown Rapid City – in the next installment of our continuing series on the project.
It’s a beautiful summer morning in Rapid City. People are on their way to work…here and there a tourist walks along the still-shaded sidewalks…while most businesses are just preparing to start their day.
Over in the corner of Main Street Square, a sharp resonate sound echoes across what has become the community’s primary gathering place over the past two years.
Nestled within a small wooden shelter constructed to offer privacy to the artist and protection to the public, sculptor Masayuki Nagase has begun work on the most significant art project in South Dakota in many years.
“It’s so exciting that it’s finally underway, say Anna Huntington. “It’s so cool to see him working…and it looks like just a beautiful meditative process in a way.”
Huntington is spokesperson for the Main Street Square sculpture project that “Yuki” Nagase has just begun. It’s been a few years since the first artistic seeds were planted among the city’s art community to have someone sculpt the 21 large pieces of granite that border Main Street Square.
After a worldwide call for interested artists and a detailed review process, the field of 88 was narrowed down to three and, finally, to Yuki.
The California-based sculptor spent two weeks in South Dakota earlier this year meeting with area residents from Rapid City to Pine Ridge. Input gleaned from those community meetings helped Yuki determine how he would approach the sculpture project as he prepared to begin his work.
“I’ve been reading all the material I got…and looking at…and also reading other books,” says Yuki. “And getting in contact with some of the people who are specialists for geology, paleontology and some plant specialists. So…I’m learning a lot.”
Since the focus of the Passage of Wind and Water sculpture is the cultural and scientific history of the Black Hills and Badlands, Yuki has sought assistance in acquiring knowledge in those areas.
In fact, Yuki arrived in South Dakota a week early in order to give him time for further research on the Badlands – which the first portion of the sculpture represents.
“I went down to see the Badlands because I haven’t been since last August,” explains Yuki. “And I wanted to take time to…feel this nature. And also I saw a couple of people who work in the Badlands as rangers, and they are also paleontologists and ecologists. So, I could hear interesting stories.”
Yuki says he’s learning a lot about natural sciences as a result of the Main Street Square sculpture project.
“Yes,” says Yuki. “Yeah, well for me it’s important…I learn and I grow. So, through the prototype…not just to carve stone.”
As massive as the Passage of Wind and Water project is, Yuki isn’t working alone. He’s brought along a younger artist to assist him in his work.
Like his mentor. Martin Richert is a California-based artist. But he’s spent a good portion of his young life overseas.
“I spent eleven years in Germany, and went through two different apprenticeships as a wood and stone sculptor,” explains Martin. “And then I worked for an artist as an assistant…Professor Tony Cragg.”
At 30 years-old, Martin says the opportunity to work with someone of Yuki Nagase’s caliber doesn’t come along every day.
“It’s hard to find projects like these, first of all,” says Martin. “And someone at my age to start off somewhere…this is a great opportunity.“
And though Martin’s job involve helping Yuki with all aspects of the project, he won’t be just a go-for. Martin will also assist with the actual carving of the sculpture.
“I’m there for that, too,” laughs Martin. “That is my main job here. That is what he’s paying me for, that’s what he wants me to do. That’s what he sees…that this person is qualified to do.”
The first stone Yuki Nagase is carving will show imagery of marine creatures as part of what he’s calling the Badlands Garden portion of the sculpture.
Yuki’s goal at this stage of the sculpture project is to bring images associated with the shallow sea that once covered the Badlands to the heart of Rapid City - where anyone with a mind to can then touch South Dakota’s past.