The emerging subculture, described by words such as artsy, organic, funky, adventurous, earthy, eclectic, creative, in Spearfish is increasingly being noticed. A group of youthful residents recently explored the subculture and have some thought-provoking ideas they believe will create additional opportunities for the entire region.
The city’s location, in the scenic adventurous Black Hills coupled with a growing vibrant arts, music, and cultural scene creates an ideal setting for an alternative subculture.
The Spearfish Subculture Development Task Force, initiated by Dana Boke, Spearfish mayor, and Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr., BHSU president, examined the areas of retail and food, music, arts, culture, outdoor adventure, communication and collaborative activities between Black Hills State University and the community of Spearfish.
The group was challenged to identify key focus areas intended to stimulate future, strategic cultural growth in Spearfish that could develop the community into a destination which undeniably captures an up-and-coming brand of adventure, lifestyle, campus, and culture.
Moving forward with the findings and adopting some of the recommendations could have a huge impact on the region by not only attracting additional tourists, but also helping Spearfish become an even more desirable location for new college students and active community members to live and stay.
“When I moved here a year ago I discovered an undercurrent of vibrancy in the community,” Jackson said. “Spearfish is already recognized for diverse outdoor activities, music, and entertainment as well as food and retail options. Bringing this group together to discuss ideas stimulated some very interesting conversations about the subculture. Spearfish, because we are right in the Hills, is a cultural phenomenon with unique possibilities for the future.”
Jackson noted that BHSU students and their parents often comment that they love Spearfish and appreciate its college-town atmosphere. Spearfish Mayor Boke said that she thinks the synergy created with the University enhances the community and noted that many BHSU graduates, including herself, appreciate the opportunity to live in Spearfish and be a part of the community.
“This is already an awesome college town. Ever since BHSU was founded in 1883, it has had a positive effect on the town’s development and how it continues to evolve,” Boke said. “With enhanced collaboration and communication throughout the community, Spearfish has the potential to become an even more interesting and dynamic place that will draw residents and visitors. We appreciate the work of this task force and look forward to finding ways to move the recommendations forward. ”
Mayor Boke believes that Spearfish, which has received national attention recently in rankings by Outdoor Magazine, Livability, and others, is poised to unfold as a destination with an outdoor, college-town culture. The group has ideas to build on that momentum and further propel Spearfish into the national limelight.
The task force found that in Spearfish’s young population, there seems to be a general trend toward health-consciousness, adventure-seeking, creative affordable living, funky arts and music, interest in local foods and environmental sustainability, and use of social media.
The task force group outlined the items they believe already exist and the new ideas that would further put Spearfish on the map of regional, and possibly national, subcultures.
“We have come together to identify what we, representatives of Spearfish’s subcultures and BHSU’s campus engagement, think will help Spearfish become branded as a mindful community of arts, entertainment, dining, and outdoor adventuring,” according to the group’s written report.
Using examples like Austin, Texas, and Bozeman, Mont., the group discussed ideas for Spearfish’s future. In Austin and Bozeman the downtown areas and specific cultures have been nurtured by the businesses and patrons who live there, creating distinctive experiences which invite tourists and new community members.
The task force noted that Spearfish’s location within the Black Hills gives it uniqueness and exceptional potential. Recognizing and enhancing the diverse population, the growing emphasis on a variety of arts and cultural events, and the unparalleled adventure options will attract future students, faculty, and residents year round.
The report notes the diverse events and activities available in the area including the wide range of cutting-edge cultural events (black box theatre, visual art exhibits, American Indian art, concerts, recitals, international food festival, improv skits), fun intellectual events (Geek Speak, Poetry Slam, visiting scholar presentations), sustainability related activities (local food workshops, alternative energy presentations, campus community garden) that emanate from BHSU. The campus presence is coupled with the incredible variety of live music, (jazz night, open mic nights, regional and national acts) theatre (Theatre on the Run, plays written by a local citizen, community theatre) and local art (pottery, painting, sculpture, and photography) supported and presented by the Matthews Opera House along with niche performances at other businesses and organizations (local bands, professional bands, jam sessions).
Suggestions for improvement include a public space for amateur no-cost performances somewhere downtown or near pedestrian traffic to spontaneously encourage street performances. Other suggestions include additional off-campus space for art and photography exhibits.
In the retail and food area, the group noted the excellent variety of current establishments that “feel” distinctively Spearfish and expressed a desire for additional options including more outfitting (providing outdoor gear for healthy active lifestyles), restaurants and/or food truck with extended hours, a waffle house type of restaurant, an artisanal sweet shop, used retail for adults, and weird local niche retail. The group noted the popularity of the local Crow Peak Brewery and noted that additional craft breweries would enhance visitors’ experiences.
The group discussed strategies to improve awareness and communication about events held throughout the community. As a result of the suggestions, BHSU has already changed its posting policy to encourage more community interaction and raise awareness of on and off-campus events. Plans are being made for kiosks or display boards at other locations to encourage more spontaneous communication options. Other suggestions included a comprehensive BHSU/Spearfish app, website and online calendar.
Adventure activities noted include the excellent climbing, hiking, fishing, hunting, skiing, snowshoeing, camping, geocaching, snowmobiling, mountain biking, and off‐roading. Spearfish has been progressive in protecting its outdoor infrastructure and mountain biking events have put Spearfish in the forefront of the adventure audience. Task force members commented that they believe outdoor and adventure sports are the reason for the city’s recent growth and encouraged the University and City to market these assets and provide the infrastructure necessary for continued growth.
Task force co-directors Angie Black and Nick Caton and the other members noted the areas’ many successes and encourage community members to provide additional feedback and ideas.
In closing the report noted, “We are a group of local individuals brainstorming ideas we hope can express key ideas to other players in the community. Spearfish has cultivated passionate people who want to live and work here. The future will be determined by those who seek out and develop the opportunities which define their own style of City, University, and natural setting.”
To see the full report visit the BHSU website www.BHSU.edu/subculture or the City of Spearfish website.