Black Hills State University students watch as sculptor Masayuki Nagase works on granite sculptures for the Main Street Sculpture project titled "Passage of Wind and Water."
Black Hills State University students recently had a chance to talk with internationally known sculptor Masayuki Nagase about his current project in downtown Rapid City.

The Humanities 100 students from the University Center-Rapid City listened and watched as Nagase explained his vision for the Main Street Square granite sculptures.  Nagase, who has worked on projects all over the world, began working on the 21-piece granite sculpture titled “Passage of Wind and Water” earlier this summer. The $2 million work is the largest privately funded public art commission underway in the United States.

During the students’ visit, Nagase shared how he protects some smooth surfaces among the mostly carved stone, said Dr. Bobbi Looney, BHSU assistant professor of communications. He also demonstrated his carving technique using his hammer and chisel as he explained the challenges and pleasures of his hands-on method. Looney said the visit was a great way for the students, many who currently live and plan to remain in Rapid City, to connect to their community.

“The Main Street Square Sculpture Project rests in a core location, right in the heart of Rapid, where these students and their families will be drawn to visit.  Thus, meeting the artist and watching him work on the project at its inception grows the students' appreciation for the project's imagery and scope and helps strengthen their pride and rootedness in their community,” she said.

Nagase’s work is inspired by the essence of nature and natural forms. His design for the Main Street Square project is based on his experience of the beauty and power of nature in the Black Hills and Badlands.

“After seeing Nagase actually work on the pieces, it is sort of magical how he creates the different surfaces, shiny, glittery, and dull.  The pieces put me back in the Badlands with the beautiful scenery and the wind blowing in my hair,” said BHSU student Jerilynn Wesley, business administration-management major from Box Elder.

The students enjoyed the ability to get an up close and personal view of the sculpture and the sculptor.

“Being able to look at the sculptures up close while the artist is still working on them makes the whole experience more real and exciting,” said Hannah Armstrong, music education major from Box Elder.

Nagase has returned to his home in Berkley, Calif., but will resume work on the sculpture next spring.