It's hard to encapsulate all the memories I have of RedCan Jam into a tidy, condensed blog post, but I will try my best.
I arrived in Eagle Butt,e SD. on the mighty Cheyenne River Reservation on Wednesday night. I was greeted at the door by the staff of Cheyenne River Youth Project, and directed to proceed to the art room for a meeting. I walked in and looked around the room at a bunch of people that I considered to be heroes in graffiti culture. Four days later, I was proud to call them friends..
We discussed the plans for the next day (the first day of the 4 day event) and selected our supplies from a table with HUNDREDS of cans of spray paint. Afterwards, we walked to the center of Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Park, and sat around a bonfire amidst walls of graffiti, Tipi's, and an endless night sky..
The next morning our team of six internationally recognized artists (and myself representing the locals) broke into two teams. One half painted murals within the park, while the others began murals in pre-approved walls throughout downtown Eagle Butte. On the second day, we switched places.
The experiences of painting in the park, and painting downtown were vastly different and incredibly moving for the artists involved. In the park, we created work and mentored the local youth as grass dancers and jingle dancers performed amidst our paintings. Drum groups shared traditional songs of prayer, and people took their pictures with us. It was a festival of epic proportion.
Downtown, we were challenged to create one masterpiece in one day. Something that would pay homage to Lakota Culture and invoke pride in the community who lived day to day amongst them. We pressed ourselves hard, and were rewarded with honking, thanks, and gifts. People brought us food and drink, cheered us on, and shared stories of their community with us. An older man spent the entire day with me, telling me the history of the building I painted on -a closed down bowling alley and rec center that he worked at for many years. Kids would come by with amazed faces and shout at us.
Wundr, an artist from Minneapolis told me about his encounter with a young man, about 11 or 12, who he visited with. He walked up seemingly exhausted, and described his route through town. The young man had a wiener dog in a Christmas sweater named "Hector".
The young man explained that he used to do the graffiti, but gave it up a "long time ago". Wundr was puzzled at just how long ago an 11 year old could've quit, but relished in the mental image of the boy and his sweatered accomplice roaming the streets looking for a canvas. Wundr encouraged him to visit the art park at Cheyenne River Youth Project, and offered to give him some pointers..
So many stories, so many memories. The town was so alive and so filled with pride. The experiences brought some of the artists to tears on more than one occasion.
We finished the event off with a day of painting in Art Alley, Rapid City. It was an awesome time with many local artists joining in, and performances by Scott Means, DJ Micah, and Delaena Rae Uses Knife. The out of state artists were amazed that something like Art Alley existed, and look forward to coming back again. All of the artists involved have come from a long line of success and opportunity. Many have travelled the world creating pieces, and done work for major shows and companies. All of them said they had never experienced anything like RedCan. It seemed like fate how the group gathered together under this unified vision, each bringing their own distinct magic to the event. They came here curious, and left with full hearts.. This isn't the last we'll see of them.
I want to give thanks to Cheyenne River Youth Project, the backbone of this event for their incredible efforts and vision, and their commitment to the youth of their community, the Rapid City Arts Council and the Art Alley Artists Guild for helping put it all together, The Hotel Alex Johnson for their sponsorship, and Destination Rapid City for their generous donation and sponsorship, and a heart-felt thanks to the building and business owners of Art Alley for their support. This is the kind of thing that changes lives and communities.
-Tyler "SIAMESE" Read
Photo credits: Richard Steinberger and Mo Hollis
Art Alley Guild
The Art Alley Guild is committed to being a positive creative outlet, dedicated to the sustainability and accessibility of Art Alley through innovation and community engagement.