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Brookings, South Dakota has Big Ideas About Art

Brookings, South Dakota, is making art a priority, and inviting other towns to be just as bold

Brookings, South Dakota, is a small town at just fewer than 25,000 residents. However, it is quickly gaining a reputation for its commitment to the arts and South Dakota’s growing community of artists.

College Town – City Arts

The town, a 45-minute drive from the state’s largest city, Sioux Falls, is a bustling agricultural hub. It’s also home to several large manufacturing companies. But most people know Brookings as the hometown of South Dakota State University.

South Dakota State has an impressive arts program. The program includes world-class facilities for its students. For example, in 2019, the university nearly tripled the size of its Performing Arts Center with a $49 million expansion that was lauded as a “game-changer for the regional arts scene.”

SDSU Performing Arts Center - Brookings South Dakota
South Dakota State University recently tripled its performing arts center, saying the new facility puts Brookings “on the map.” [Courtesy of South Dakota State University]

Jim Speirs, executive director of Arts South Dakota, says the expanded facility “will become an anchor performing arts destination in Eastern South Dakota.” He adds, that it is “bound to bring audiences from far and wide.” In addition, he believes that an investment in the Performing Arts Center is also an investment in Brookings, saying, “Essentially, the Performing Arts Center puts Brookings ‘on the map’ in terms of top-rated touring ensembles.”

While the university is undoubtedly attracting its share of interest in the art world, Brookings is holding its own as a growing hub for artists, independent of the university.

Brookings Area Art Council

The Brookings Area Art Council (BAAC) held its first meeting in January of 1969. Subsequently, the council moved into the Carnegie Library and formed a board of directors. The council formed to fulfill a mission of “encouraging community connections through the arts by providing a supportive environment for awareness, appreciation, and participation.”

For over 40 years, it has done just that. The Brookings Art Council, most importantly, believes that art exists to both educate and entertain. With a host of classes to encourage community involvement, the council encourages the residents of Brookings and its surrounding area to experience art for themselves.

Council members believe it is equally important to offer a platform for emerging artists. The aim? To show their work and gain recognition for their contributions to the art community. For instance, each year, events like the Juried Art and Photography Exhibition put the work of South Dakotan artists on display, with the opportunity to sell prints.

The council holds true to its mission of nurturing participation in the arts through its open calls for art submissions. The hope is to invite any artist in the community to submit their work to be displayed on the gallery’s walls.

In a town that is anchored by an esteemed university with a premier art program, the Brookings Art Council reminds the community that art exists for everyone to enjoy—no experience or formal education necessary.

Related: Sioux Falls Sculpturewalk

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