SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The COVID-19 pandemic is making it hard for local artists to make financial ends meet. But a new, upcoming gallery is looking to give them some financial backing to create something truly unique in a unique time.

Busses in the Sioux Area Metro take many roads to get to their destination. Similar to how life takes us down many paths of our own and, for local artist Erik Ritter, there’s only been one.

“I’ve been the art guy since I was four years old. I’ve been drawing since before I can remember,” Ritter said.

Today, he teaches drawing at South Dakota State University in Brookings. In his spare time, he works on what he calls ‘Found Object Assembly.’

Courtesy: Erik Ritter

“I’m always collecting stuff that speaks to me. Some of these have more importance than others,” Ritter said.

Over the next few months, he and other local artists are assembling their talents to create pieces for a transit-themed art show put on by the South Dakota Design Center. It’s called ‘Going Metro.’

“It started about two years ago, they started writing a grant for it, they received a grant for it, and they’re rolling out the project and programming this year,” Executive Director of the Sioux Falls Area Arts Council Kellen Boice said.

“Transportation has been a topic for quite a while and – at that time, the city was beginning their initiative to innovate the public transportation system,” Program and Marketing Manager for the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship Sara Lum said.

“My art actually fell right into that aesthetically,” Ritter said.

Courtesy: Erik Ritter

Through January, South Dakota artists are asked to submit proposals to the Design Center for a chance to have their work displayed at the Washington Pavilion. Ritter’s proposal was the idea of using his found objects to recreate the Sioux Metro bus routes.

“I’m also going to be taking found objects from the actual route. So, I’m going to go around Sioux Falls and I’m going to find whatever – you know, whatever happens, happens and I’ll use those objects and incorporate them into the piece,” Ritter said.

“I want to work with someone in the city who gets transportation data, and I will take that data and I will plug it in and it will dictate where a line will fall,” Cross said.

Artist Nichole Cross’ proposal involves taking that data and bringing it to the physical art medium.

“(Holding up her proposal pieces) I used a random number generator to create where these fall as opposed to dictating it myself,” Cross said.

When proposing an idea for a show, typically galleries like to see a finished piece before hand. What’s unique about Going Metro, is that all you need is a solid idea. Once they pick it, they’ll even cover cost for artist’s materials and even compensate them for their work if a piece sells.

“Artists will be paid through some of the grant funds we have available. The amount will range from 100 to 500 based on the cost of their materials and, hopefully, we’ll be able to compensate them for some of their time,” Lum said.

Lum and Boice hopes that this show can bring more attention and appreciation for the Sioux Area Metro.

“The vast majority of people that use a public transit system don’t have additional options; they don’t have have the option to get in a vehicle. That is their sole of getting around. In the summertime, it’s quite nice, but really, the public transit is such a staple for so many people,” Boice said.

And give artists a chance to not only earn some income during the COVID-19 pandemic but offer them a unique challenge.

“Which I think probably scares off a lot of artists, to be Frank, like, they want to do their own thing and they don’t want to go outside of their comfort zone, so to speak,” Ritter said.

“I know that a lot of artists have their ‘style,’ but it’s always good to be challenged to take your style and adapt it to a particular theme,” Cross said.

“Just with the proposals I’ve seen so far, I’m continuously amazed by how creative the artists in our community are, and just the different perspectives that they bring – they’re bringing to transportation,” Lum said.

Lum is hoping more proposals roll in before the month is up. When the exhibit opens in May, they hope it’ll be a place for many people to stop and check out.

Proposals for ‘Going Metro’ are due by January 31st.