Sculptor chosen for Main Street Square Project - KOTA Territory News

Sculptor chosen for Main Street Square Project


Following a year-long international selection process, granite sculptor Masayuki Nagase has been chosen to carve low-relief impressions of the region's natural and cultural past, present and future on the 21 granite pieces at Main Street Square, Destination Rapid City announced Tuesday.


The $2 million commission is entirely privately funded through Destination Rapid City and the John T. Vucurevich Foundation and ranks the Rapid City sculpture project among the biggest public art works underway in the U.S. Work on the project will span three to five years.


"We are excited to introduce Yuki to the Rapid City community," said Destination Rapid City President Dan Senftner. "He has a subtle but powerful vision for the granite sculpture project that is inclusive of the entire community. Everyone will be able to find their story in Yuki's work and the sculpture will become part of Rapid City's legacy for years to come."


Nagase brings more than 30 years' experience as a granite sculptor and public artist to the project. Originally from Japan, Nagase trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tokyo and completed a traditional stone carving apprenticeship in the granite quarries there. He lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife, Michele Ku, and their nine-year-old daughter.


The artist said his proposal for the project is based in his appreciation for the natural beauty of the Black Hills and Badlands.


"My plan includes two of nature's most forceful elements: wind and water," Nagase said. "The carvings will be metaphors for their energy that changes the land and sustains life at the same time. The story is about optimism in the face of constant change."


The granite stones Nagase will carve vary in size and shape and are arranged in two series in Main Street Square. Those along Main Street reference the Badlands, the Sixth Street stones refer to the Black Hills. The intersection of the two series is punctuated by two 35-foot-high spires. The stones were part of the square's original design, as was the plan for an artist to carve them on site.


"I see the stones as a sort of folding screen that loosely separates the inside of the square from the outside," Nagase said. "The interior and exterior of the stones will reflect different stories and patterns, but together they will tell one overarching story about the power of nature to both erode and restore the land and those who live there."


Nagase will carve on-site at Main Street Square, using hand tools and small machinery, through the summer months beginning in 2013 until the project is complete. He plans to set up an open studio at the Dahl Arts Center this spring and will hire local apprentices to assist him.


Anna Huntington, community arts coordinator for the project, will work closely with the artist to engage the public in his work.


"Yuki will hold community workshops in Rapid City and nearby towns beginning next month to help select motifs and elements to incorporate in the project," Huntington said.


Workshops will be ongoing through the span of Nagase's work. The artist also has plans for educational programming, including developing a pilot for an artists-in-the-schools initiative in collaboration with the education department at the Dahl Arts Center, Huntington said.


The public will be able to interact with the artist as he works on site and also at an open studio he plans to set up at the Dahl Arts Center.


The artist called the interactive process of public art, "a channel for reclaiming connection and communication for communities. It is the contact and dialogue between diverse fields that creates new expression and deeper understanding for all involved."


A broad-based committee of civic and arts leaders that was facilitated by Destination Rapid City, Rapid City Arts Council and project manager Wyss Associates Inc. selected Nagase through a year-long process that drew nearly 100 artists from around the world.


Five internationally distinguished and award-winning finalists presented their proposals for the Main Street Square project to the selection committee at the end of October. The committee's recommendation was adopted by the Rapid City Arts Council and approved by the Destination Rapid City board of directors.


Committee members said they were persuaded by Nagase's universal and timeless design and by his commitment to community engagement.


"The decision to select Yuki was made with a great deal of effort and care by a hardworking committee of people who value both art and the success of Rapid City," said Pepper Massey, executive director of the Rapid City Arts Council. "He and his work will be a terrific addition to our community."


An exhibit of Nagase's previous work and a draft of some of his plans for the sculpture project at Main Street Square will be on display at the Dahl Arts Center. The public is invited to an opening reception January 11, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.


The artist's most recent public sculptures are at Portland State University in Oregon, Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Charlotte, NC, and Centralia College in Washington. He also has public art on display in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Arizona, New Mexico and California. His international artwork is located in Japan and Slovenia.


A website for the project will be available later this month.


For additional information contact Anna Huntington, Community Arts Coordinator with Destination Rapid City, at 605-716-7979 or


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