Native POP Makes Economic Impact

Jul 19, 2019

The Black Hill’s largest Native American art event is this weekend. The Native People of the Plains Art Market, or Native POP as it’s called, features work from about 50 artists. There are also classes, live music events, a film screening and fashion show to highlight local talent. 

Native POP has brought local residents and tourists from across the country to the heart of Downtown Rapid City for seven years. The opportunity to showcase work before such a large crowd is rare for artists in the area. 

John Paul Rangel runs marketing and public relations for the event. He says the sales are usually strong and can play an important role in supplementing artist’s income. “It’s their employment for the year. So what they do is they create work and then these art markets are created specifically so that somebody can go and purchase art directly from the artists rather than a middle man or a gallery.”  Rangel works with other Native American art markets, including the Santa Fe Indian Market- which is the largest in the country. He says markets are an opportunity for artists to represent their culture to a cross section of the population.  “The impact is opportunity. It’s opportunity and visibility for these artists. And this helps them because there aren’t as many opportunities where they’re living wither on the reservation or in rural situations.”  Rangel says the market helps local artists support themselves without having to spend the money to travel to art fairs and shows in larger cities. He says it’s a large market for Rapid City, but he hopes to see it grow in coming years.  “I really think that we’re not quite on the radar yet to be honest with you because it is a small show. It’s not hundreds of artists-it’s under 50. But it’s a quality show and it does have a big draw. The numbers keep increasing year by year. So I think eventually people will start to take notice. Probably sooner than later.”  Rangel says there’s an economic benefit for artists and many build a following from customers who visit Rapid City from other states. Native POP also awards 17 thousand dollars in prize money. The Best of Show artist is also featured in the national publication-Native American Art magazine. Although it’s the largest Native American art event in western South Dakota, there isn’t an official study on Native POP’s economic impact to the community. Local leaders and event organizers couldn’t point to any hard numbers on attendance, sales, or a ripple effect for other downtown businesses.  However, they can point to just such data on the financial effect from many other large events like the Lakota Nation Invitational, other art shows and concerts. The information on those events is gathered through headcounts and interviews with business owners, hotels and restaurants to review their earnings during events.  The funding for those studies comes from private entities and national nonprofits while others are through local tourism groups like Visit Rapid City- that receives money  from local government.  Visit Rapid City manages Main Street Square-the downtown space where Native POP takes place. President and CEO, Julie Schmitz Jensen, says the tourism group helps support Native POP. “Weather it’s helping the artists become aware of it so we bring more artists into town or weather it’s just people that are interested in the Northern Plains Lakota art-to let them know that it’s happening in Rapid City. So we do some blogs, we do some digital advertising just on our own. But we want to help them out because we think it’s a great event.”  In the past, Jensen says they’ve given upwards of two thousand dollars in grants to support  marketing for the art event.  She says the tourism season has been down this year because of weather, but events in the downtown area help bring people out to spend money...and that benefits the local economy. “I call Main Street Square our living room. And if we can keep people coming downtown and spending time at whatever event is going on in the square. But then they need to, we hope, stop and shop and go to some of our restaurants and have a cocktail somewhere. Maybe go to a store and buy some things.”  There are nearly 140 events planned at Main Street Square throughout the year. Jensen says anytime there’s an event there, it’s good for the entire city.  “And I think as a community becoming more and more aware of how important it is that we share that beautiful culture with not only our visitors but with our local people to understand 20 percent of our population is Native American in Rapid City. So it’s time that we pay attention to this beautiful culture.”  Native POP organizers hope to see more studies and community interest in the market as the show grows.