SIOUX FALLS (AP) – First it was the Washington Pavilion. Then came SculptureWalk, Levitt at the Falls and, most recently, the Arc of Dreams.
Downtown Sioux Falls has experienced what Mayor Paul TenHaken and other community advocates have called an art renaissance in recent years. And art murals on exterior building walls could be the next step.
Sioux Falls already has a few them. Artist and muralist Shaine Schroeder in 2017 created a mural on the side of the Common Sense building at 12th Street and Second Avenue. And a large art piece, also Schroeder's, has graced the patio wall of M.B. Haskett on Phillips Avenue for years.
But now there's a concerted effort being spearheaded by the mayor's office and Downtown Sioux Falls, Inc. (DTSF) to transform blank walls into large pieces of art.
"We want to bring people to all areas of downtown and activate them through art, and murals are a great way to do that," DTSF President Joe Batcheller told the Argus Leader last month.
A mural is essentially any piece of artwork that's placed directly on a wall, ceiling or permanent surface. It could be painted or applied similarly to wallpaper.
Erica Beck, chief of staff in the mayor's office, said the TenHaken administration is taking "more intentional focus" on culture and arts through all of downtown, including murals.
The south side of the city's new parking ramp, which faces one of the busiest thoroughfares downtown and sits on the busiest corner in the neighborhood, is an ideal candidate for a mural, she said. She also sees the north side of the 10th Street viaduct bridge as a future mural site.
"That kind of art leads to additional people wanting to visit our community and experience our community," Beck said.
She said she also sees murals and other art works as a way to connect downtown to other core Sioux Falls neighborhoods that surround it through what's known as "place making." That's taking a static, underused space and creating vibrancy, often time through art.
When it comes to the rules around murals, city ordinance is generally permissive. However, in 2016, a mural on the side of the Elegant Mommy retail store location near 37th Street and Minnesota Avenue prompted administrative action from City Hall.
The mural featured four renderings of mothers with their children along with the store name and a description of the type of goods and services offered. City zoning officials ruled that was in violation of ordinance, which says murals can't double as advertisement. Eventually, the store removed the text to get into compliance with city rules.
Zach DeBoer, vice president of the Sioux Falls Visual Arts Commission, said that was an unfortunate situation that had a cooling effect on others' aspirations to create murals on their places of business.
"A lot of people think the city has either been stopping or preventing it, and instances like the Elegant Mommy doesn't help," he said. "But nothing that I've ever read in our ordinance stops anyone from painting or creating a mural . . . as long as it's not advertising what's sold inside."
And with a City Hall now embracing murals, there's real optimism that more will start showing up downtown. Batcheller said DTSF is working with building owners to garner interest in murals and has an arts fund in its budget to aid in paying for the creation of more art downtown.
In 2017, DTSF supplied about 30% of the funding for the mural on the side of the Common Sense retail store at 12th Street and Dakota Avenue. Today, it's become a place where people take selfies and group photos.
"That was meant really as a pilot project to see what sort of response we'd get from it," Batcheller said. "We can all say that's been very successful. ... It's become a destination."