Downtown Rapid City, South Dakota has a project called “Art Alley” that’s set aside for graffiti artists to show their skills. The brick walls are covered with urban graffiti, as well as other mediums of art, for an entire block and every couple of months the display changes. It’s like walking through an art gallery except, instead of stuffy critics judging the merits of hopeful artists while sipping pretentious wines, pedestrians marvel at incredible works as vehicles cruise along the alleyway. City officials view this as a way to keep rattle-can jockeys away from the town statuary and creative geniuses get to display their work. It seems like a win-win and the exhibit has proven very popular.
While tripping along the brickwork I notice a studious looking young man with a big smile who wanders from wall-to-wall taking photos and saying “Wow” a lot. At each new discovery, his face brightens up like a kid finding hidden Easter eggs so I meander over to offer my observation. “You’re not from here, are you?”
His enthusiasm makes him easy to talk to. “No, I’m not, but I love this! I’m from Minnesota.” He shares that this is his first time to the alley and he’s absolutely blown away with the sight of seeing detailed, classic art such as the Indian chief painted near the roof exhibited next to cartoon paintings of Garfield and Odie. The quality of the work captivates him and we stand in the middle of the alley pointing out our favorite vignettes. He hadn’t noticed the wind chimes made of motorcycle parts, yet.
“Just look at all this,” he beams. “This really is incredible. And the rest of the city isn’t tagged at all, just here. Isn’t it cool? The whole program is really ingenious, don’t you think?” We chat a bit before I ask what he does, expecting to hear that he’s a student. Instead Kevin tells me he’s a reporter with Associated Press. I can’t help but laugh.
“Really? You look much too young for that kind of employment. What are you, like 12?” He cracks up, rolls his eyes and says he hears that all the time but no, he’s actually 24-years old. The whole scene blows me away. When I woke up today I had no idea I’d be standing in an alley discussing art with a cub AP journalist as rusting motorcycle pipes clang in the background.