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Faculty and staff lead initiative to place mural in downtown Spearfish

Author: BHSU Communications/Wednesday, September 25, 2019/Categories: Events, Students, Academic Affairs, Campus Currents, College of Liberal Arts, Community, Donations, Events, Faculty, Home News, 2019

Black Hills State University spearheaded the creation of the new public art mural on Jackson and 5th Streets in Spearfish. The vibrant mural, which was a true community project, was completed last week.

BHSU students and assistant professor of art, Desy Schoenewies, collaborated with K-12 schools and community organizations to create mural pieces for installation.

“The Matthews Opera House held community painting sessions where anyone could come by and participate in this huge paint-by-number,” said Schoenewies.

The team of artists also took mural pieces to Spearfish Canyon Healthcare and the Spearfish and Belle Fourche schools, where residents and students were able to paint and contribute to the community project.

“We want to express a big thank you to the students and teachers of the Spearfish K-12 and Belle Fourche K-12 art programs and the residents and employees of Spearfish Canyon Healthcare,” said Schoenewies. “Their painting contributions and hard work were essential to finishing this unique project.”

BHSU student Gina Soriano, bachelor of fine arts (BFA) and K-12 art education major from Rapid City, said the entire process was an exceptional learning experience.

“The importance of public art in bringing the community together around something like the visual arts is exciting for someone who is an artist and wants to be an art educator,” said Soriano. “Working on a big project with a bunch of people, there’s something transformative about that process. Art can bring people together.”

According to the Mural Artist Statement, the BHSU student artists wanted to design a mural that utilized the diverse natural beauty of Spearfish.

The mural is officially titled “Layers of Spearfish” and includes icy caves, blooming Echinacea, changing seasons, and the rigid peaks in canyon cliffs.

The artists consulted the American Indian Studies Department at BHSU for a symbol “to represent the humanity in us all.” The result was the white buffalo in the top right of the mural.

From the Artist Statement:
According to legend, the White Buffalo Calf Woman brought the Seven Sacred Rites to the Lakota, which focus on the health and healing of individuals and the community. The values include: respect, compassion, honesty, generosity, caring, humility, and wisdom. The White Buffalo Calf Woman explained that we are all connected and important to the universe.

The process to create the mural started in 2018 when visiting artist Paul LaJeunesse was on campus. He taught the students his mural process which allows community members to take part in mural development.

“We used big sheets of parachute fabric, special primer and special paint, and drew out and painted the mural. We laid everything out in the hallways of the third floor of Woodburn Hall and after it dried we took it out and adhered it to the wall,” said Soriano.

Soriano says she looks forward to taking the collaborative art process into her own classroom as a teacher in the near future.

The students began working on their next public art project just days after the mural was completed. They were commissioned by the City of Spearfish to use their creativity in painting the tunnel on Nevada Street leading to the Lookout Mountain hiking and biking trails.

Soriano said other businesses in Spearfish have contacted the Art Department about additional murals in the city after seeing the completed project.
Funding for the mural project and special support was given by the BHSU College of Liberal Arts, Matthews Opera House, South Dakota Arts Council, and the Bush Foundation.

Student contributors:
Main contributors:  Hope Christofferson, Stephanie Denoma, KadyJo Dufloth, Kaylee Linn, Bre McMahon, Taylor Rowell, Gina Soriano, Therese Wilhelmi, Katie Wolff, Katie Young.

Other BHSU students involved: Rachel Bloomquist, Sequoyah Chavez, Vanessa Clark, McKenna Colburn, Tiffany Concha, Bailie Dill, Petyin Fleming, Nick Gainey, Sadie Kinslow, Kyra Klapperrich, Adrienne Kline, Tori Lauer, Will Lopez, Tina Meek, Kyle Nelles, Aaron Nieman, Sam O'Neal, Parker Schlenker, Anna Skaug, Charlie Stickland, Amanda Thompson.

About BHSU Art Programs:
BHSU offers a wide variety of degrees in the arts and recently added a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) program for photography, studio art, and graphic design. A BFA is the industry standard for degree-seeking studio artists. Other degrees that BHSU offers in the art and humanities field include: art education, corporate communications, mass communication, music/music education, and more. For more information about the BHSU art programs visit

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