Downtown art in Brookings

Murals intended to liven up the area

The original Brookings’ masterpieces can be found on the back wall of NAPA Auto Parts, the first wall to have murals in the downtown area.

The mural at NAPA Auto Parts is part of the “Urban Canvas,” a project created by Downtown Brookings Inc. to help liven up the community by adding art on the walls of main street.

Downtown Brookings Inc. officially started the project last year after the National Main Street Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Downtown Brookings Inc. is a non-profit corporation working to promote downtown Brookings as a center of engagement for the community. The project is a way to help celebrate and display local Artist’s originality and creativeness. This project is one of the ways the organization is trying to liven up Brookings’ downtown.

For the past two years, Downtown Brookings Inc. has been contacting artists of all styles to come paint their masterpieces on the walls of Main Street. A Brookings-themed mural was the first painting to appear on the alley of NAPA Auto Parts.

Elliot Johnson, executive director of Downtown Brookings Inc. reflected on how the project all started. He said the project took flight after NAPA Auto Parts volunteered to be the first building to have a mural.

“I appreciate artwork and I think it adds a great touch to what this building was missing before,” said Eric Weatherly, manager of NAPA Auto Parts.

The mural located on NAPA Auto Parts was a trial run to see how the community would react to the artwork.

One student Taylor Tschetter, a senior biology major, liked the murals.

“I think it is an asset to the community. It adds character to downtown,” Tschetter said.

According to Johnson, the organization has heard nothing but positive feedback from the community. Ever since the project started, the downtown property owners have been persistent about having a mural put on their building.

Twelve businesses are on the waitlist for a mural.

“The dream was to put up a couple of murals, but it has been in such a demand, and I would love the whole downtown to be painted,” Johnson said.

There are different types of art expressed on Main Street. Some types of art are graffiti, canvas art, murals and an interactive wall. The interactive wall is titled, “Before I Die…” and community members come up and write what they would like to accomplish before they die.

Another piece of artwork is a graffiti-like mural created by the artist Robbie Jelsma. It is graffiti-like because Jelsma doesn’t use spray paint when painting. Instead, he uses an airbrush technique. Airbrush can last longer and looks more professional than just spray painting. His artwork is displayed on the building of Downtown Laundry located in the alley. This is just one of many murals displayed throughout downtown Brookings by artists.

Artists are prohibited to start randomly painting a mural on a building because that would be considered vandalism. There is a process that people have to go through to be able to participate in this project.

Usually the organization finds an artist by references from the community or they will contact students from South Dakota State University. If people are interested, they can go to the Downtown Brookings website and message them about painting and then the members of the organization would contact them.

According to Johnson, Downtown Brookings Inc. has high expectations that this project will continue in the future as people become more interested with the project.