SDSU Art Club adds color to downtown with mural

What once was a dirty, peeling and faded cinderblock wall is now a splash of color in downtown Brookings. 

The South Dakota State University Art Club is revitalizing a wall on the west side of the Brookings Register Building, bringing vibrancy to the building with a mural of their own design.

The gradient, pixel design includes red and black that fades into yellow and blue. The club chose the color scheme to support the two schools in the community. Katie Lee is an Art Club officer and one of the students in charge of the project.

“We picked this design because it’s simplistic and engages our knowledge of color theory,” Lee said. “When the colors are finished we’ll put the Brookings logo over top on the corner closest to the street.”

Molly Wicks, Art Club adviser, was impressed by the difference made with a little paint.

“It’s 10,000 times better than it was,” Wicks said. “We actually love it with the raw wall. So even if we don’t get it finished before winter, it still looks great.”

The Art Club members were excited to see their unfinished mural featured as a background in community members’ pictures on Instagram. Michael Aasness, senior art education major, said the mural is about adding something downtown the community can enjoy.

“The painting program here at SDSU has been amazing,” Aasness said. “… Helping out and doing my part in painting the mural has been a great experience, and to be able to share our creative abilities with the people of Brookings is an honor.”

The Art Club’s canvas is 17.5 feet high and 48 feet long. Because of the wall’s height, they used a lift to complete the project. 

The lift is 20 to 30 feet up in the air and a “little rickety,” Lee said. The instability of the lift had some art club members fearing for their lives.

“We all joke that we’ve verbally given each other our wills because it freaks us out,” Lee said. “For example one girl requested we take care of her cat, my friend claimed my clothes and purses.”

Painting for the mural began on Sept. 26 and will continue until it’s completed. Throughout the project, 25 to 30 volunteers have assisted the Art Club.

“We had a ton of people right off the bat, but everyone is busy,” Wicks said. “So I had to make it an assignment … so we could get a little bit further”

Wicks said the club had a quick turnaround date in September to get the mural painted so their club could be featured on an MSNBC “Your Business” documentary about small towns. The club gathered quickly to start its mural.

While the club received a grant from the city, Wicks wanted to raise money to support a trip to the Minneapolis Art Institute next spring.

“Some of us maybe, me included, lost steam when a GoFundMe campaign went out and only 11 people donated,” Wicks said. “It would be great if the community and the people at SDSU realized that this is something that takes time, effort, love and care. Sometimes the arts are slightly forgotten in that regard.”

The Art Club members are still having fun painting until the wall is covered with a bright paint job, but they welcome any interested painter, regardless of experience, to help finish the mural.

The club members hope to have the mural completed by fall.

“They saw this as an opportunity to do something really cool in the community and they are doing it,” Wicks said. “I’m super thrilled that all the painting students wanted to do this.”