Eye on KELOLAND: Artists behind the utility boxes

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls’ art scene continues to expand, especially downtown where works of art are popping up on every street corner.

Downtown Sioux Falls and the Sioux Falls Arts Council recently wrapped 26 utility boxes in artwork created by local artists.

Utility boxes are catching the eye of passersby in downtown Sioux Falls.

“It’s just a really great way to take something that is sort of this overlooked piece of the urban environment and add some life to it, make it something beautiful,” DTSF President Joe Batcheller said.

26 boxes wrapped in vibrant designs and colors, artwork created at the local level.

“All the different artwork, from all abilities, from people of all different backgrounds and it’s just a great way to engage the community and bring some beauty to downtown,” Batcheller said.

“A lot of the artists that you’re seeing on these boxes aren’t professional artists they’re people like you and I that wanted to create something and submitted it and ended up on one of these boxes,” Sioux Falls Arts Council Executive Director Kellen Boice said.

The project is funded through a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York, with the winning artists earning up to $600. The Sioux Falls Arts Council received 176 submissions and an eight-person committee selected the winners.

“It wasn’t just based on the artwork, the visual, it was a lot to do with the story as well because we had so many submissions so how do we sort through them, so it wasn’t just based on aesthetics it had a lot to do with the entirety of the work and the story,” Boice said.

One of the 26 art boxes belongs to Hannah Van Steenwyk. She started Hannah V Fine Arts in 2010 and spent the early portion of her career attempting to master charcoal drawing.

“I actually thought I wasn’t a painter and then I touched oil paint for the first time and I loved it, so I do a lot of acrylic oil painting for the last five years I would say,” Van Steenwyk said.

The paintings are popular among customers. She also had the public in mind when creating her entry for the Art Box competition.

“The art box behind me actually is not my style at all, it was something that I was like I’m going to do this for fun to show a little bit more, I guess just a fun style and something people can walk by and say, oh that’s kind of cute,” Van Steenwyk said.

It’s her take on the One Sioux Falls initiative.

“No matter what your political views, everyone can get along and you can have a good, solid conversation together, including about your craft. If you’re a sculpture, painter, poet or whatever you are,” Van Steenwyk said.

The public can be part of the conversation by downloading the DTSF Digital Passport and scanning the QR code on every Art Box.

“They can scan the markers that you’ll find on all the art boxes and there will be some information about the artist, about the name of the art, their bio and a little bit of a recording as well,” Batcheller said.

“Looking at these pieces is great but there’s a lot of story behind it too, so if you have the time to check those out it’s really interesting and engaging and it tells a story and it can resonate more than just looking at a piece while you’re driving by or walking by,” Boice said.

A short walk from Van Steenwyk’s art box, her latest collection is on display at the downtown library.

“It’s weird (laughs), it’s weird to walk down, I went and installed it over at the library and I was like, wait that’s mine (art box) over here (laugh),” Van Steenwyk said.

The library exhibit features acrylic paintings of women who are inspirational to Van Steenwyk, portraying them with little to no makeup.

“Just trying to show for men and women that you don’t need to put on a fake mask and you can fully love who you are and appreciate what God’s given you,” Van Steenwyk said.

The exhibit is another reason why the arts are thriving downtown.

“I’d say even the entire Sioux Falls area has really grown a lot as far as art projects, and I use art loosely because there are all sorts of forms of art, so yeah it’s pretty interesting, it’s awesome to see it grow,” Van Steenwyk said.

“We have really seen that art has a great return on investment but it’s also just a great way to make downtown special, make Sioux Falls special and Art Box is just the next chapter in that book,” Batcheller said.

If you’re planning to visit the 26 art boxes and want to learn more about each piece, click HERE to download the DTSF Digital Passport.

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