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Sculptor Returns To Main Street Square

Photo by Jim Kent

The country’s largest privately-funded public art project - “Passage of Wind and Water” - has resumed at Rapid City’s Main Street Square. We  spent some time with the artist to discuss his plans for the second year of work on a sculpture that’s scheduled for completion in 2017.

It’s a lot cooler in Rapid City than its been and it’s a perfect day for the gathering planned to welcome back Masayuki Nagase for his second year of work on the “Passage of Wind and Water” sculpture project.

Yuki’s “welcome back” celebration includes speeches, photos and the reading of a choral poem inspired by the sculptor’s work. And Yuki brought along a friend to share in the festivities.

“My name is Tadao Arimoto,” the man says. “I’m a woodworker. I design furniture, I make furniture.” 

Credit Photo by Jim Kent
Woodworker Tadao Arimoto helps 3-year old Rheanna Whiteman make a traditional Japanese toy called a “yajirobei”.

Although he does bring elements of his Japanese culture to his woodworking, Arimoto says he’s here for another purpose. 

“Making old Japanese toy called “yajirobei”,” Arimoto explains. “It’s a balance toy for children and adults. You can say for children from five to eighty-five.”

The reason for inviting Arimoto to Main Street Square is to further educate the community about Japanese culture. Twelve-year old Sarah Curry took part in the workshop. Sarah thinks attaching two bamboo shoots with weights on their ends to a center piece of wood is pretty cool.

“It really wasn’t that difficult,” Sarah comments. “Pretty easy to make. All the things that you use are pretty simple to use.”

Will she make another one at home?

“Maybe,” smiles Sarah.

Credit Photo by Jim Kent
Three-year old Rheanna Whiteman shows off her “yajirobei”,

Sitting outside an Italian restaurant that recently opened at “The Square”, Yuki and I take refuge from the midday sun under a large red-and-white patio umbrella to catch up on the sculptor’s work – both here and around the country.

“I already started two different projects some years ago,” comments Yuki. “And that was going on. So, when I went back for here last October…I immediately had to start. And one is for Philadelphia…and another one is San Francisco.”

Those projects saw Yuki working non-stop through the winter and into the Spring. And they’re not done yet. Yuki personally transported all the pieces for his Philadelphia art project, which he believes are now installed. But his sculpture on the West coast remains incomplete.  

“San Francisco,” says Yuki. “I have to take some pieces to the site to install. That happens sometime next week. So, I have to go back there for one week…then come back here for one week to keep my work here. Then again I have to go back sometime in September probably…for short period.

Apparently, Yuki doesn’t just belong to Rapid City.

The demand for Yuki’s art in big cities keeps him busy but he remains dedicated to the project in Rapid City.  Yuki says he finds the community supportive and he’s happy that some of his growing fan base turned out to see him.

“I enjoy seeing the same people who visited here last year,” Yuli explains. “That is really nice. You know, the same people come and give me a ‘nice to see you again’. And being welcomed. That’s a nice thing.”

Credit Photo by Jim Kent
Masayuki Nagase has begun work on the next section of stones in the "Badlands Garden" focusing on the Wounded Knee Massacre.

The “Passage of Wind and Water” sculpture project is divided into two sections: one focuses on the Badlands, the other on the Black Hills. Yuki completed sculpting 5 stones of what he’s calling the “Badlands Garden” last year, carving images that reflect the history, culture and animals of the area. But Yuki has other plans for the next 3 stones in “the Garden” – their theme is the sculptor’s impressions after visiting the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre

“I’m deeply impressed with the incident…what happened,” says Yuki. “My main theme of this whole sculpture project is how to express the beauty of nature…of this region. But…beauty sometimes has some other elements in it. And I’d like to really use this metaphor of nature with my impression of this incident…what happened with Native people in this region.”

Masayuki Nagase has already begun work on the Wounded Knee Massacre stones. But the sculpture remains a community project in the making until the final swing of the hammer makes the last mark on the last stone. Because of this, Yuki invites the community to continue offering comments on what the “Passage of Wind and Water” should look like, since the project ultimately belongs to the people.

Songs in this story: 

"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" - Buffy Sainte-Marie