Putting Letters on the Boards — A Rapid City Chalk Art Scene is Born

Posted by Michael Zimny on

A few local artists are etching their mark on the Rapid City art scene — in chalk.  

Chalk art is an integral part of the mise en scène of today's American metropolis. At least in certain neighborhoods, chalkboards are one of the many types of space where the interests of local businesses and local artists converge — where artists take something fairly mundane, like the price of a cup of coffee, and make it into something beautiful. 

For some residents of Minneapolis or Denver, chalk art may begin to fade — among the crush of symbols — into visual ambience. Not so much in Rapid City where the medium still feels new.  

Christie Harris works on a chalk mural for Essence of Coffee.Christie Harris works on a chalk mural for Essence of Coffee.

Rapid City native Christie Harris does chalk gigs for local businesses — like Klinkeltown and Essence of Coffee — when she's not working as the studio manager at community arts workshop and studio Canvas 2 Paint. 

She free hands her drawings with a pencil outline, then emboldens them with chalk. She enjoys creating something unique to a particular place. "It's a completely custom — to that business — piece of art," says Harris. You could order some kind of vinyl sticker or something, but it's not handmade. You don't see those little quirks."

Laurel Antonmarchi is a freelance graphic designer. Chalk art is part of her toolkit for making it as an artist. SDPB recently caught up with her as she was touching up, and making permanent, a chalk mural at Cranky's Bike Shop. A native of Armor South Dakota who studied art at Black Hills State, Antonmarchi has also hosted a chalk art workshop for kids in Main Street Square.

Laurel Antonmarchi at work at Cranky's Bike Shop.Laurel Antonmarchi at work at Cranky's Bike Shop.

"I like chalk because I can get my hands dirty with it," says Antonmarchi, "It really gives a human element to the atmosphere." 

The quirkiness can be refreshing in a town dominated — outside downtown — by the familiar iconography of big box stores and chain restaurants. Chalk art's origins can be traced back to the madonnari of 16th century Italy — artists-for-hire who often paid tribute to a famous personage in Christian circles. Sacred motifs are steadily losing ground to the gods of commerce.  Today's apple is symbolic only of Applebee's. But chalk artists still manage to inject a little humanity into our transactional day-to-day. 

"I love all the little imperfections," says Antonmarchi. "It shows that a real person made it."  

subscribe to sdpb email updates food blog link image learning blog link image living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

Related content from SDPB Radio - Art

Students Make Art Real Through Poetry Out Loud

Shakespeare isn’t boring to Kassondra Gooley. The West Central High School senior talks about poetry the way some...

Photographer Paul Horsted

In the Moment ... March 12, 2018 Show 294 Hour 1 Photographer Paul Horstead discusses Custer's expedition, the...

Keith Knight, Gentleman Cartoonist

In The Moment ... February 26, 2018 Show 284 Keith Knight joins In the Moment host Lori Walsh for a conversation...

"Glorious Fourth Of July" By Mary Gibson Sprague

In The Moment ... February 7, 2018 Show 272 Hour 1 Mary Gibson Sprague has a new book featuring the artwork and...

Books

Lisa Mosconi Discusses Her New Book "Brain Food"

The Alzheimer's Association reports 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer's, one of our most feared disease...

"The World Is Awake" With Joseph Bottum & Linsey Davis

In The Moment ... February 27, 2018 Show 285 Hour 2 Linsey Davis is an award-winning journalist and correspondent...

Celebrating "Frankenstein" With Joel Pace

In the Moment ... February 26, 2018 Show 284 Hour 1 The University of South Dakota honors 200 years of Mary Shelly's...

Executive Nancy Dahl On Corporate Leadership

In The Moment ... February 21, 2018 Show 281 Hour 1 Nancy Dahl joins In the Moment host Lori Walsh for a...

Music

Moment In Sound With Paul Larson

In The Moment ... April 13, 2018 Show 315 Hour 1 Cowboy musician Paul Larson drove through the blizzard this morning...

Moment In Sound With Chris Holm

In The Moment ... April 6, 2018 Show 310 Hour 1 Minneapolis-based artist Chris "Heatwave" Holm plays Crow Peak...

South Dakota Symphony Orchestra Preview: Delta David Gier, Martin Kuuskmann, and Paul Moravec

In The Moment ... April 6, 2018 Show 310 Hour 1 The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra is in concert this weekend in...

Moment In Sound: Darin Kaihoi

In The Moment ... March 23, 2018 Show 303 Hour 1 Sioux Falls musician Darin Kaihoi joins us for this week's Moment...

Theater

Broadway Choreographer Chet Walker

In the Moment ... April 9, 2018 Show 311 Hour 1 The University of South Dakota Theater Department presents "Cabaret"...

Images of the Past: Stage To Screen

In The Moment ... November 27, 2017 Show 227 Hour 2 A new exhibit at the Old Courthouse Museum tells the story of...

Personalities: From Huron High to Broadway

Singer, actor, and teacher Joseph Mahowald graduated from Huron High School in 1977. He went on to study music and...

In The Moment ... Alex Meyer's Scenic Design

In The Moment ... May 10, 2017 Show 090 Hour 2 Alex Meyer. He's a junior art and theater major at Augustana College...