Here's one more reason to put Rapid City on your list of places to visit in the Black Hills, Art Alley. Always growing, changing, evolving, and always spreading messages. A stroll through downtown Rapid City can lead you through this alley full of talent. It is located in between Main Street and St. Joseph (east and west) as well as 6th and 7th streets (north and south). The alley began in 2005 as a community project that quickly turned into a living tribute to freedom of expression for all artists in the area.
Even though now a lot of the work is done by individuals, there are several opportunities for youth and community involvement. Rapid Health opened up a sponsorship for artists in the month of October. Artists entered a design into competition that revolved around Breast Cancer Awareness since the month of October pays tribute to that. In 2019, Delaena Uses Knife was the winning artist. Her artwork not only honored the theme but tied into local culture. "Lakota Sioux woman (with) 'strength' to continue and pursue life. The white buffalo (is) symbolic for prayer and cloud of witnesses," she describes. You can still see her art today at the entrance on 6th street, but it is quickly evolving into a new work of art.
Earlier in 2019, the Rapid City Police Department teamed up with the youth in the community to paint an anti-domestic violence mural. According to the Rapid City Journal, "The idea to create a mural with the Rapid City police came from Derek Smith, the community engagement coordinator at the Rapid City Arts Council who works with Youth VIP." The mission of the project was to create trust between the people of the community and law enforcement.
In other artworks on the walls, viewers can discover new worlds in a flash of brightly-colored ingenious creativity. In light of the new Star Wars spin off The Mandalorian, one artist designed a landscape that resembles one of the planets in the Star Wars universe with character "baby Yoda" as the center. (Is it really baby Yoda tho?)
I have always been fascinated with the art that goes up in the alley. While some of it is aesthetically pleasing and stunningly beautiful with bright colors and patterns of local culture and wildlife, other pieces are meant to scream a message.
Rapid City is a beautiful, culture-rich, adventurous place to live. That doesn't mean that it goes without any issues. The city saw one of their largest increases in the homeless demographic; according to the Housing and Urban Development's most recent homeless assessment report, South Dakota as a whole had the largest percent increase in homelessness in the nation at 23 percent.
The homeless population isn't the only increase in Pennington County. On the rise, sexual assault crimes are increasing as well. The numbers have almost doubled from 197 reports in 2016 to 334 in early December of 2019. The piece below reflects and reaches out to victims with "#SILENCEIsNotConsent" and "YOU'RE NOT ALONE."
Accompanying the image about sexual assault is a piece that I photographed on my Canon AE-1. The black and white, 35mm film photograph was shot during my first stroll through art alley in 2017. Today, it is still there, but it begins to fade, others have begun to make their mark and paint over portions of the message creating the next generation of graffiti in the alley.
Art Alley is a sight to be seen. Artists with all experiences and talent find ways to contribute to the ever-changing walls. On your next trip to Rapid City, be sure to take a walk through the alley. Share your experience, document the change, and remember the messages and art.