South Dakota Art Museum celebrates 50 years with 50 works


Megan Bertsch, Copy Editor (She/her)

To honor their 50th anniversary taking place May 31, 2020, the South Dakota Art Museum launched an exhibition from their own archives titled 50 Works for 50 Years: Collections Retrospective with a variety of pieces representing the museum in different ways.

The exhibition features 50 pieces for each year the museum has operated, from a Thomas Hart Benton piece representing 1970 to an Andy Warhol print for 2019. Each piece was hand-selected from the thousands of works the museum has collected over the years and serves a specific significance to the museum and South Dakota State University.

“I think we have just over 7000 objects in our collection,” Taylor McKeown, collections curator, said. “Jodi [the exhibition’s curator] was ultimately the one who selected the works for the show, but she certainly talked to us because there is a lot to pick from.”

Jodi Lundgren, Interim Director and Exhibitions Curator, described picking the pieces like putting together a puzzle. The works represent many local artists with close ties to SDSU as well as those from across the state and country. Some are traditional historical works from the founding of the state while others are modern and contemporary.

“It really is piece to piece what we feel is the most significant thing,” Lundgren said. “Sometimes it’s the artists, sometimes it’s the collector or somebody who helped us to acquire the piece or the subject matter of the piece. Sometimes it’s all of them.”

Lundgren also explained how the exhibition fell at the right time in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic as it would have been difficult to do an exhibition from outside sources.

“Borrowing shows or borrowing works from artists is tricky right now, so it works with the pandemic situation,” Lundgren said. “We’ve kind of adjusted schedules and extended things, but it’s definitely a good time to reflect on what we have, what we’ve done and what we are.”

The museum is also utilizing new ways to come and view the artwork. Each piece has a QR code guests can scan to learn more about the work and how it is connected with the museum. They are sharing information about more years of artwork every week, so there is always something new to discover. Pictures of all the works are available to view online too, for those who don’t want to leave home to experience the exhibit.

“People can engage both in the gallery and then take that [experience] home with them … We’re all kind of stuck at home and essentially forced to explore what’s around us. This is such rich material for people to explore,” Lundgren said.

The curators also recommend visiting the museum in person as a break from the stresses of the unique semester. Because the classes usually held there are online, they’ve noticed a dramatic decrease in foot traffic and students exposed to their artwork. There are many procedures put in place to keep the museum a safe space, and all students are invited to spend time there and soak up everything they have to offer.

“Our traffic is quite down, which is standard for most museums right now,” Lundgren said, “but there’s a lot of space here. There’s a lot of room to properly social distance yourself. So we want people to know they can come here and spend a lot of time very comfortably and very safely.”