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Crazy Horse Monument, a work in progress for many years, dominates the skyline in the Black Hills of South Dakota


Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse work in progress inevitably springs to mind at the mention of sculpture and South Dakota in a sentence. Both of these monumental works are certainly famous, everyone knows 'the faces on the mountain.' It is definitely worth a trip to see them. And while at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, don't miss the opportunity to spend time in the artist, Gutzon Borglum's, studio to see his study for the sculpture. It is quite different from the sculpture seen today and one wonders at the change of direction.


But there is much more to South Dakota than the faces on the mountain. As a state, they have embraced sculpture on a much wider scale. There are excellent public art displays in all corners of the beautiful, big and sparsely populated state and Ma Nature certainly set the standard high with extraordinary natural beauty.



The artist's study for his Mount Rushmore project is seen in his studio on site in Mount Rushmore National Memorial
The artist's study for his Mount Rushmore project is seen in his studio on site in Mount Rushmore National Memorial. It is quite different from the final sculpture.


Sioux Falls sits on the very eastern tip of state and it initiated the excellent SculptureWalk in 2004. Each year they display approximately 40-60 sculptures throughout the downtown area. All the sculptures are for sale during the year and the organization actively promotes them. In the first five years approximately 63 sculptures sold and 18 sculptures were leased. SculptureWalk is a non-profit volunteer organization and all money raised goes directly into the program.


The public vote throughout the year for their favorite and at the years end, the city buys the winner of the public vote, which is then placed in a permanent position in the park around the falls or downtown. It is truly uplifting to see a city support a project like this and to see the high level of work submitted. The prices reflect the high standard, ranging from a couple of thousand to $30,000+, and sculptors around the nation compete for the honor of showing - and winning the coveted people favorite. SculptureWalk publish a call to artists for the following year on their website, generally applications must be in by early October.


Who Rescued Who? by Lorri Acott sculpture of child and dog

One of the 2016 sculptures, Who Rescued Who? by Lorri Acott

placed on Phillips Ave in  downtown Sioux Falls, S.D.


There is an added incentive to artists. The sculptures are judged by their peers for artistic merit and creativity for the Best of Show, with nine runners up. If an artist wins 3 Best of Show awards they are honored as a SculptureWalk Virtuoso Sculptor. They receive honorariums of $1,500 per year from then on.


The city produces an excellent brochure featuring a walking tour of the sculptures each year and docent tours are available for groups of 6 or more. More information can be obtained online or from the visitors center at the Chamber of Commerce downtown. Sculptures can also be found in the lobbies of a couple of the banks, at the Sioux Falls regional airport, at the convention center and on 41st Street. In addition there is a USF Campus Sculpture Walk and another at Avera McKennan Hospital & Health Center.



 Maestro! by Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby a sculpture of a band leader in Souix Falls

Another of the 2016 sculptures, Maestro! by Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby,

placed outside the Sioux Falls State Theatre on Phillips Ave downtown Sioux Falls, SD.


Further to the West the vast natural wonder, Badlands National Park, easily classifies as a sculptural marvel. Spend a day or a week driving or hiking in this area and you will not be disappointed. Intricately woven canyons dig deep down in to earth revealing orange and yellow strata and the towering cliffs with a base of white sand and bright yellow bushes need no more adornment than the flash of green shrubs, perhaps a big horn sheep or a couple of pronghorns.



mule deer in Badlands National Park

The dramatic scenery in Badlands National Park rises high up or deep down with

pronghorns, buffalo, big horn sheep or mule deer as natural adornments.


On the very Western edge of the state the smaller Rapid City is not to be outdone. Their nickname, "the Presidents city,' is self explanatory - they have life size sculptures of all the American presidents placed downtown. You can stroll along and take your photo with every single one if you like, or just your favorites. The library has an evocative sculpture of a woman reading to children and a couple of fun Seuss characters placed around the pavement. One of the large galleries downtown, Prairie Edge, has an excellent sculpture of a Native American woman and child at the entrance to the gallery.



a Big horn sheep in Badlands National Park

A big horn sheep peers down from one of nature's sculpted heights in Badlands National Park.


Now the city has another innovative and unusual program, the remarkable Sculpture Project, in a central square downtown. In 2011 Destination Rapid City replaced an old parking lot in the center of downtown by turning it into the Main Street Square and launched the Sculpture Project. They put out a call to artists and received 88 applications. The following year they announced the selection of Masayuki Nagase out of Berkeley Calif., as the project artist.



3 sculptures by artist Masayuki Nagase

Three of the completed sculptures by artist Masayuki Nagase in place

on Main Street Square, Rapid City, S.D.


Nagase proposed a body of work entitled 'Passage of Wind and Water.' Each year he spends the summer working on the large sized pieces placed around the square. The public can watch his progress and he holds artist talks to explain his process and ideas. He keeps a blog on the process and he recently wrote,

'One of the significant meanings for my design concept for the Passage of Wind and Water is transformation, change and hope and the desire of all living beings to live in balance. These themes are explored visually throughout the entire composition in the two stone gardens, the Badlands along Main Street and the Black Hills, and in the spires, which mark their intersection.'



detail of sculpture, The Passage of Wind and Water, by artist Masayuki Nagase

Detail of one of the completed sculptures in Masayuki Nagase's

The Passage of Wind and Water in Main Street Square, Rapid City, S.D.


Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Crazy Horse monuments are located in the Black Hills area, one of nature's beautiful places. Custer State Park is lincluded in this area, it is large and needs time to explore and it shouldn't be missed. Natural sculptures abound around every breathtaking corner, especially along the Needles drive. Small towns like Hill City dot the area and they too have adorned their streets with sculptures, mostly made from found objects or scrap metal. Naturally, as it's a Western state, horses feature often.



Iron Star by Garry Underwood,  sculpture of a horse in The Black Hills of South Dakota
Iron Star by Garry Underwood, one of the sculptures in place
in Hill City in the Black Hills of South Dakota.


Plan on spending time in South Dakota, not just a day to see Mount Rushmore, the Badlands or the touristy Wall Drug, the state is so much more than this. Find the hidden gems tucked in it's vast prairie, take time to stroll their towns and city streets full of excellent sculptures, drive through Custer State Park and the Black Hills in awe of nature's art. You will certainly enjoy this state with it's natural and man made beauty.


Rock formations like sculptures in  Custer State Parkin Black Hills of South Dakota
Nature's jumble of rocks form huge sculptures in the Needles
in Custer State Park in the Black Hills area of South Dakota.