Main Street Square

Report date
July 2015

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

We front-loaded a heavy investment in outreach meetings.
We met with hundreds of stakeholders through workshops, small-group meetings, and informal one-on-ones during the first four months of our work. Early on, we set out to simultaneously gather input about artists’ and arts organizations’ marketing needs, to familiarize them with the coming website,, and to build trust in the team behind Arts Rapid City.
Through these meetings, we developed good relationships with the people who would be populating the site, “content providers,” and worked to build an understanding that the site is a “more is more” tool: The more information people upload to the site about themselves, their events, businesses and organizations, the more value the site has to everyone.
A beta version of the site was built and ready to populate by June. Because we had laid the groundwork, many people were eager and ready to upload their information and comfortable enough to reach out to us when they needed help. 1 month after launching the site in September, we were listing: 133 events, 58 artists, 53 arts organizations, 42 arts venues, 25 arts businesses, 5 arts education providers.
We kept our eye on the ball — our website! Our workplan encompasses events, marketing, capacity building, outreach and educational components, but we always make the website our top priority. We did a lot of planning to ensure that we launched the website on time and that it was a product people would trust and return to.
One of our first steps was to develop a brand identity for Arts Rapid City that reflects our mission and values and then, working with the site developer and a graphic designer, we infused the website design with our brand. We developed a friendly, fresh voice and made sure our identity was consistent across all of the marketing that coincided with the launch of our site.
We update our website daily and continue to make design improvements. Through daily social media, a weekly events blast, and a monthly newsletter, we expand our reach to the community and nurture our relationships with content providers, recruit new artists, organizations and businesses to participate.
We promised the Rapid City arts and culture community a useful, relevant website that would help them connect to each other and to the community as a whole, and we delivered.
We connected with people through events and workshops. We collaborated with a broad range of artists, organizations and businesses to create arts events that helped connect a diverse audience to Arts Rapid City at a public, outdoor venue — Main Street Square.
• We worked with an all-volunteer committee of Native and non-Native arts and community leaders to coordinate the Gathering of People, Wind and Water, a Native art market and cultural celebration. The Gathering drew 38 visual artists, 12 performing artists and 1,500-plus attendees.
• Working the Rapid City Downtown Association, we developed Art Night Downtown, a second-Fridays summertime art walk involving nearly 30 businesses.
• We invited artists, schools and organizations to participate in Culture Shock, young artists festival. The event included dance, poetry, graffiti art, blacksmithing, photography, music and more. Culture Shock involved dozens of young artists and their mentors and drew 1,500-plus people.
• We organized monthly Art Drinks, informal gatherings “with artsy friends and no agenda.”

Key lessons learned

Collaboration is hard work. We have not failed at collaboration by any means, I believe we’ve successfully collaborated with just about everyone we could think of! But, it takes patience and flexibility and listening, and sometimes that means more work when you’re often hoping for less work through collaboration. Also, while collaboration is generally a win-win proposition loaded with unforeseen benefits, sometimes it leads to much greater efficiencies and that can mean someone loses or feels threatened.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

Collaborative. We set out to build a website that would be an online hub for information about arts and culture in Rapid City and, in the process, cultivate a new culture of collaboration in the local arts community. Rapid City has an exceptionally rich creative sector, with more artists, arts businesses and artistic enterprise than any nearby similar community. A fractious history among arts leaders, though, has left a landscape of “siloed” thinking and in some cases distrust and suspicion. This insular posture has prevented the broader community from fully connecting to and benefiting from everything the art and culture community has to offer. has created an opportunity for the arts and culture community to come together under one virtual roof and realize the benefits of collaboration. The website is free, simple to use, and content on is guaranteed to reach a deeper, broader range of people. As more people use the site and see the benefits in terms of views, visits to their websites, and tickets sold, the concept that “a rising tide lifts all ships” become evident.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

Destination Rapid City, a privately funded downtown economic development organization, has “incubated” Arts Rapid City providing us with in-kind office space, supplies, invaluable leadership and, critically, access to their signature project, Main Street Square, an extremely popular downtown public gathering area. We are a “start-up” organization, and a helping hand from an established organization whose goals align with our own has given us instant credibility in the business community, allowed us to focus solely on our work and our mission rather than office logistics, and has helped us connect meaningfully with many people well outside the arts and culture sector. We likely would not be half as far along in our progress toward our goals without the support of DRC.

Understanding the problem

Our work bringing together the local arts community to create has deepened our understanding that Rapid City’s arts and culture community is loaded with talent and enterprise and potential for community and economic development, but also that it suffers and falls short of its potential due to a lack of unity, partnerships and leadership.
When we began, we knew of at least 42 local entities creating arts programming and rarely sharing information with each other’s audiences or with the community beyond their proven followers. Through meetings, research, surveys and an open call to content providers to use our site, we have come to understand that Rapid City’s arts and entertainment landscape is likely at least double the size we originally thought. Crucially, we’ve realized that that rich landscape is created and sustained by hundreds of people who identify themselves as professional artists. We have also found that the habits of insularity are deeply ingrained among many arts leaders and that those habits present obstacles to rapidly bringing unity to this rich landscape and leveraging it for all its community and economic value.

If you could do it all over again...

Focus on supporting local artists. We’re still learning this lesson every day here. It’s the artists who make things happen. They are the people who bring meaning to our work and who truly understand the value, purpose and potential of creativity. Partnerships with other organizations, administrators and decision-makers are critical, but helping artists feel welcomed and appreciated is the key to Arts Rapid City’s success.

One last thought

The Bush Foundation has been fantastic to work with and we are so grateful for the many possibilities you have given our community!
When we met with Rachel Orville last spring, she asked us about the absence of Native American leadership on our Arts Rapid City board. We welcomed this input. We are committed to being inclusive and diverse. We are looking forward to bringing two young Native people on to our board in March.