Eye On KELOLAND: The Art Of Science

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This week, the Washington Pavilion is launching a membership promotion by urging visitors to take selfies with the new dinosaur out front and post the pictures on social media.  The Spinosaurus is the latest addition to a growing menagerie that also includes ants and even Martians!

The popular fiberglass Spinosaurus, flashing a toothy sneer in front of the Washington Pavilion is provding a Jurassic jolt to downtown Sioux Falls.

“Yeah, we just saw that the other day, it was great, it’s great,” Amy Kimber of Sioux Falls said.

The dinosaur was the idea of Jason Folkerts, who was hired a year ago as the director of the Visual Arts Center.  But it wasn’t long before his job title changed.

“I was fairly new to the job, I had only been on the job for a month or so, like, okay, what have I got to lose, I mean, I’m not going to say no,” Folkerts said.

Folkert’s Visual Arts Center position was eliminated.  He’s now in charge of all of the Pavilion’s exhibits and collections for both the Visual Arts Center and the Kirby Science Discovery Center.

“We’re trying to push the boundary a little bit yet keep it culturally relevant to people so they’ll know what we are doing,” Folkerts said.

Drawing upon his cartooning background, Folkerts oversaw the remodeling of the Raven Children’s Studio.

“We want to come in so students could come in and follow a process of learning how to create maybe cartoon animals, design their own characters and so we kind of created a stage up front for artists to come in and be able to show live and showcase what they’re doing and you can blow it up on the monitor,” Folkers said.

Folkerts also converted dozens of boxes into a cardboard ant colony for kids to crawl through.

“And we didn’t even know we could call it an ant maze, we just started creating it, putting it together a couple of us, on the weekend, and before we knew it, this is kind of like an ant maze and the Ant-Man movie was coming out and everybody’s talking ants,”  Folkerts said.

From an ant colony, to a colony on Mars.  Folkerts created this extra-terrestrial exhibit out of Tupperware and Dollar Store plates and cups; proving you don’t have to spend a lot to promote the value of science.

“Sometimes talk about space exploration is beyond what I can understand or maybe kids can understand.  This exhibit really helps make it more tangible,”  Christi Stonecipher of Bismark, ND said.

Dinosaurs went extinct 65-million years ago.  But the Pavilion is going through its own form of evolution, merging science and art into a business model to take it far into the future.

“I think we were probably behind the curve in seeing how these two, what appear to be very different areas on the surface, can actually tie-in very closely and support one another, Pavilion President & CEO Darrin Smith said.

The Pavilion now charges a single admission to the visual arts and science centers.  Pavilion regular Amy Kimber and her future TV reporter 5-year-old daughter Annika like the constant turnover in exhibits.

“It’s something new every week.  Kids love that.  It’s nice for the parent to have something that constantly evolves and isn’t stagnant and keeps moving in the right direction,” Kimber said.

“The key term is new and fresh.  Young people especially, it’s harder and harder to keep them focused and stimulated,” Smith said.

That fresh approach is paying off in visitor numbers.  2017 was the first time in five years attendance increased at the Pavilion.   And attendance is running even higher this year.  The blending of science and art, along with continually changing exhibits, are positioning the Pavilion to see an even better 2019, when the Pavilion celebrates its 20th anniversary. 

“We’re really hitting on all the cylinders right now and we’re pretty excited by that. People in Sioux Falls are excited by downtown and we’re down here and we’re trying to take advantage of the fact that Sioux Falls is really alive,” Folkerts said.

Another new exhibit coming soon to the Washington PavIlion: a South Dakota-themed gallery in the Visual Arts Center.

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