HCAC to hold cherished and captivating event

By Jeff Smith

Travis Sorenson of Sorenson Metalworks in Belle Fourche poses with his "11 Feathers" sculpture, which won him the first place People's Choice Award at the 2016 Sculpture in the Hills.

A perfect storm of circumstances brought together Sculpture in the Hills 10 years ago. Black Hills Bronze Foundry had started up and the Hill City Arts Council was growing, Kristin Donnan Standard, who helped create Sculpture in the Hills said.

Standard and her husband Grant Standard owned the Black Hills Bronze Foundry which was in Hill City. Kristin  said her husband knew what good shows were like and could impart some of his advice to the Hill City Arts Council committee members at that time.

Kristin said a lot of the shows had a good experience for the buyers but not necessarily the artists.

“We wanted to treat them well and make sure they felt important, too” she said.

They knew that would bring in quality artists.

The goal has been to create a good environment for all those involved. Standard knew they were hitting the mark when someone said it was a show that could be seen in New York.

It is the only juried sculpture show and sale in the Black Hills and the event has always been accessible to everyone. The organizers have always purposefully made the event small.

“We wanted audiences to see it all in one tent,” Standard said.

Another reason is with the small population of Hill City there are only so many people available to volunteer for events.

“There’s a small troop of really dedicated volunteers,” Standard said.

The event is definitely on the map now and Standard said people might plan their vacations around the event. As well as tourists, people from all over the state come out to see the sculptures.

Around 3,000 people come out to support it every year.

There is a maximum of 25 artists per year. They will all be in one tent on Main street between Alpine Inn and Granite Sports.

Cheryl Whetham, executive director of the Hill City Arts Council, said the event gives sculptors a venue and a chance to interact with the community.

“They can get feedback and find out what people like,” Whetham said.

Whetham said Hill City is considered an underserved area for the arts because it lacks the access other places have.

Sculpture in the Hills is sure to be a weekend of excitement and provides multiple opportunities to meet the artists. There are five artist-themed events on Saturday and three on Sunday.

It’s not only for adults either. On Saturday afternoon, children are invited to create innovative sculptures out of bike parts.

The artists at Sculpture in the Hills sculpt using a variety of methods. There are stone sculptures, but also ones from welded materials, bronze and wood. Becky Grismer of Spearfish creates sculptures with tree bark, clay, and other materials. Grant Standard, who has been involved in the event for all 10 years, is inspired by his spiritual experiences and his heritage. Celtic and Native American themes are evident in many of his pieces.

Around 80 percent of artists will sell their artwork at Sculpture in the Hills. Whetham said they work hard to bring in people to buy the art and not just view it.   

Whetham said a big part of the Hill City Arts Council is supporting local artists.

“There are several components to it. The accessebility to local artists adds to a creative community,” Whetham said.

Dale Lamphere, who has received some fame from working as a sculptor for over 45 years, will hold a free public reception at Sculpture in the Hills this year. 

Lamphere will also be explaining  “Dignity” which is a 50-foot high stainless steel statue in Chamberlain, S.D. People will be able to see the 1/8th-scale working model of “Dignity” at the scuptures tent.

Whetham said Lamphere has always been a supporter of the show and will often bring by some of his work to draw people into the tent.

“It’s absolutely fabulous Dale is coming. He’s also one of the judges for the show,” Whetham said.

The other judge is Rapid City artist James Van Nuys. 

Another fun aspect of the event is the food sculptures businesses create.

“The reason for implemenmting it is we needed a way to get people to walk through town and go through the different shops, visit the merchants,” Whetham said.

This is also the second year for the food sculptures portion of Sculpture in the Hills. Twelve stores are participating in making the food sculptures and those visiting the shops can also judge the creations.

Whetham hopes it is something that helps merchants and creates an impact on the community.

Sculpture in the Hills runs on June 24 and 25. There is no entry fee for those who plan on attending the event.