“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe
Rapid City’s art scene presents a mixture of modern, contemporary, abstract, and so much more. Get to know a few of the passionate people behind the art in our city so you can take in the full experience during your visit. Keep in mind this is a short list of the talented artists that are creating marvelous things in Rapid City, but it’s a great starting point for your artistic stops. Each artist listed has a physical location to visit and everyone, besides Aaron, has an online store you can purchase from.
Del Iron Cloud at Prairie Edge Trading Company & Galleries
Meet Del Iron Cloud. Del is a talented acrylic and watercolor artist who creates vivid Native American scenes from historic books or from inspiration he finds at a location where he can envision a camp site or horses. Del’s love for painting started at a young age. At five or six years old, he was so inspired he created his first mural. However, it wasn’t on the piece of paper his grandmother gave him. It was drawn on the backside of her door while she was out getting water. Using crayons, he created a large race car scene that he proudly showed his grandmother…who insisted he scrub it all off.
Del was inspired throughout school by his peers and had an encouraging art teacher who told him he could be an artist. This teacher told Del about the Institute of American Arts in Santa Fe, which is where Del began his official art education. After two years Del decided the contemporary focus of the school wasn’t really in line with his passion for realism, a style he had loved since his early school years when he can remember studying the work of artists like Michelangelo and Da Vinci. So he went into the American Academy of Art in Chicago. During his time in Chicago, Del enlisted into the United States Air Force to join the war in Vietnam.
While in the Air Force, Del worked in Law Enforcement and then the Graphics Department. “Being in the Air Force, wherever I went they found out I could draw or paint,” Del told us. He was asked to create murals in offices and hallways, he even painted a few vans back in the day outside of the military art he was creating. It wasn’t until after his retirement in 1991 that he got back to creating his own art – teaching himself all the things he wasn’t able to finish learning at the Academy.
Today, Del has a small studio set up inside Prairie Edge Trading Co. & Galleries. During the summer months visitors can meet him in the store and occasionally even watch him work. His artwork is on display around him with the larger pieces showcased on the second floor.
Aaron Pearcy Local Mural Artist
Meet Aaron Pearcy. Aaron is a talented mural artist whose work catches the eyes of many around Rapid City. You might recognize his artwork and iconic Amp symbol at locations like Firehouse Brewing Company, on the side of the Elks Theatre, or even inside the new Summit Arena at The Monument. Aaron adds a little bit of himself into each of his pieces reflecting his abilities and how he sees things, while also creating the scene his clients envision.
Aaron’s love for creating murals started when he was about 13 years old. Over the years he has worked to refine his skills. As a local tattoo artist, he continues to learn how to listen to what his clients want, and this helps him in his mural work, too. In high school, Aaron fell in love with the concept of using spray paint to create large scale murals after his art teacher showed him Art Alley in Downtown Rapid City. Art Alley is where it all really started for him. Now he considers this art form a very freeing thing to do. Aaron explained, “You use your whole body to paint the wall, you don’t just use your hands or use your arm because it’s such a massive piece to do.”
Aaron’s inspiration for his work comes from all around, but he says one thing he always tries to do is check out new murals and things happening in other cities to see if he can bring any of that creative influence back with him to Rapid. With each piece he creates he fuels that passion and hopes to spark emotion in those who see his art. A big thing he loves about mural work is that it brings art to everyone – even those who might not have the interest in visiting a gallery. You won’t have to look hard to witness the work of Amp Murals as you explore Rapid City, they are sprinkled throughout our downtown area and he has a few more in the works at some iconic area attractions. If you want to take a piece of Aaron’s work home with you, see if you can get an appointment with him at his tattoo shop.
Joe Pulliam at Tusweca Gallery
Meet Joe Pulliam. Joe is a creator of the fine Native American art form called Ledger Art. These captivating pieces of work pay homage to his culture and preserve history while sharing meaningful messages relevant today.
Ledger art began in the early 1860s and represents a transformative art form that developed out of older traditions like pictographs on hides. These artworks were used to document personal and cultural stories of Native people. The name ledger art came from the material in which this art is drawn on, ledger paper, which typically came from account books. Joe studies each piece of paper for small details to inspire his art. For example, if the paper has a doctor’s name on it, Joe will create a scene incorporating a medicine man. The result is always a beautifully layered and colorful piece that truly transforms this old ledger paper.
Joe has always had a love for art. From drawing in his childhood to being a graffiti artist when he was in high school. After his time in the army, Joe attended school for Graphic Design. He then became an entrepreneur on the Pine Ridge reservation creating t-shirts, logos and other designs. After that he also attended the Institute of American Arts in Santa Fe for a year. Joe has started other co-ops in the past to promote Native American artwork on the reservation, but Tusweca Gallery is his first in Rapid City. He says, “It’s just about remembering where you came from and staying humble." With this space he hopes to do just that, and feature more of the talented work from artists on the Pine Ridge reservation.
For those who don’t know, Tusweca is the Lakota word for Dragonfly. The dragonfly is a spiritual symbol for the Lakota people and represents transformation and change. A very meaningful thing to Joe himself, who is five years sober and has undergone a huge transformation to get to where he is today. Joe also thinks the dragonfly represents the Lakota people in Rapid City and how they are becoming a part of the community. Joe, along with another local artist Billy Janis, opened the gallery in Downtown Rapid City as a collaborative and creative space showcasing the work of Native American artists from the reservation and have big plans to build it into so much more.
Bob Lew at Suzie Cappa Art Center
Meet Bob Lew. Bob has been an artist at the Suzie Cappa Art Center since 2019. While he has a passion for creating all art and is always willing to try out new techniques and projects, he really likes working with acrylic and painting animals. After a trampoline accident years ago, Bob worked with physical therapists to regain muscle function and learn how to walk with a walking aid. Last month, he led us through a tour of the gallery and explained why creating art is work he likes to do. “It takes practice,” Bob said. “Nothing’s real easy. You’ve just got to focus.” It’s his eye for detail and use of bright colors that makes each piece he creates come alive with so much character. He pulls a lot of his inspiration for his pieces from photos but tells us that the end painting doesn’t have to look like the photo. Bob encourages visitors to go to a gallery and start anywhere, looking for quality and whatever art inspires them.
The Suzie Cappa Art Center is a gallery and art studio in Downtown Rapid City that provides a place for artists of all abilities to create and sell their art. They believe that disability is not a boundary, and that everyone can be creative in a supportive environment. The gallery currently has over 20 full and part-time artists working in the studio with artwork on display.
Hester Prouty at Prouty Pottery
Meet Hester Prouty. Hester is a local potter who owns Prouty Pottery in Rapid. The most surprising thing you’ll learn about Hester is that she has no professional art training. A real shock when you see her stunning clay creations. She learned all her pottery skills from YouTube. Hester laughs as she tells us, “You can learn everything from YouTube!” It all started out as a hobby in her garage and eventually it grew to where she was selling her handmade pottery in local stores and even traveling around to host painting events for businesses and private parties. After a few years of success, they decided it was time to move everything out of their home and into a studio location.
Prouty Pottery is located inside the historic Landstrom building called The Gap in Rapid which was built in 1923. Hester said they fell in love with the location and the exposed brick walls. It’s hard to not feel the home-like vibe they created in this space, making it easy to melt into the artwork and have a relaxing time. Today their visitors can paint their own pottery, purchase the highly desired handmade pieces created by Hester, or even attend one of the many classes! The excellent location also allows you to explore some of the other local businesses within the building like the coffee shop or brewery and they encourage you to bring a drink with you when you come to Prouty.
Hester’s handmade pottery comes in many forms, but she really loves her mugs. She swears that there is nothing better to drink your coffee from than a handmade piece of pottery (hers or someone else’s) because of the love that went into it. All the handmade pottery from Prouty is made with local South Dakota clay so it makes the perfect souvenir. No worries if your suitcase is a little too full either, they can ship anywhere in the United States. You can also shop their great selection of pottery on their website if you need the perfect gift for that special someone.