As an artist, relationships with galleries, patrons, collectors, and the many other varieties of art enthusiasts become just as important, if not more so, than the created work itself. Creating art and showing it in a gallery space is not, in the least, simply about making money. Exhibiting works of art creates communication with the world outside of the studio. The artist and the gallerist share a certain level of involvement and appreciation with the art. –Jordan Thornton
A few weeks ago, I bought a stunning pair of turquoise earrings. The compliments have flowed every time I’ve worn them. When asked where I found them, I had the pleasure of steering each fashion frenzied female far away from the mall and straight to Prairie Star Gallery, a locally owned and operated Native American art gallery in Downtown Sioux Falls. These beautiful stones were turned into jewelry by one of the many talented artists represented by this local business.
One of the most important subjects I address when talking with local galleries is to inquire about their main goal as a gallery. The atmosphere and aesthetics of Prairie Star seem to answer that question the moment you walk through the door. If the sign outside the door and the smell of sage didn’t give away the Native cultures represented by this gallery, a first glance at the interior will confirm that Prairie Star aims to represent as many Native South Dakota artists as possible. The walls, shelves, and even the tables and chairs are covered in colorful, skillfully crafted, indigenous artwork. Prairie Star Gallery represents roughly 1,600 different Native American artists and has sent their works to over ninety different countries world-wide! The abundance of beauty on the walls of this downtown gem will cause any viewer to get lost for more than a few hours of their afternoon.
While speaking with Linda and gallery employees, it became obvious that, in addition to the artwork, the focus of the gallery was to support Native culture. Unlike most galleries, Prairie Star does not sell the artwork on consignment. The artwork is purchased outright from the artists that the gallery supports. Linda Boyd thinks beyond the gallery; her focus is on the culture and history, fighting prejudice, and supporting diversity.
“Every artist spends thousands of hours putting their heart and soul into their art… and every gallery owner also puts their heart and soul into selling the heart and soul of the artist they represent. That’s what I wish.”
The conceptual aspect of the art in Prairie Star Gallery, more often than not, tells the stories, history, and oral traditions of Native American cultures. Part of our conversation that stuck with me after my visit to the gallery, was to learn that there had been no word for “art” in Dakota, Lakota, and almost all Native cultures in America. These intricately detailed creations were simply a part of their everyday life. The staff of Prairie Star makes it a point to know and share the stories and meaning behind the aesthetic.
Though my heart was warmed by the passion of the gallerists that I spoke with, there is an unfortunate elephant currently looming in the walls of this local supporter of the arts: Prairie Star Gallery may be closing late summer or fall. The gallery has graced downtown Sioux Falls for ten years, six at another location, sharing Native American culture’s past and present with Sioux Falls and many other places throughout the world.
The concern for the closing of the gallery goes beyond the loss of a local business. Prairie Star reaches beyond gallery and creates a cultural learning experience. The question becomes: what will happen to the artists that Prairie Star supports? Art is part of their livelihood. Part of the hope behind this article is that, perhaps, there is a solution within our community that can answer this call. Whether through a buyer, a foundation, or other forms of representation, Linda and the gallerists of Prairie Star are doing everything they can to find continuous support for the artists and communities they represent.
So, take a trip to 207 S. Phillips in Sioux Falls, SD, buy yourself something as splendid as these earrings I’m wearing, and show some love for the local culture.
There will be a discussion of a possible foundation to continue the native art gallery at Prairie Star on Sunday February 22nd from 3 pm to 5 pm at the gallery. Please call ahead if you plan on attending.