August 2, 2021 |

Artists with Disabilities Find Their Voice at Black Hills Works

Here at Black Hills Works we encourage each of the 600 people we support to self-express their opinions, goals, and dreams.  Art, as the “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination,” can be a powerful communication tool that bridges communication barriers in ways that words cannot.

That’s why we offer a robust arts expression program! We know that for some, art expression is key to ensuring that their voices are heard, so they can live their best possible lives.

Through our arts expression programs we strive to provide a supportive, inspiring environment for artists of all abilities to explore their creativity, grow their skills, and share their talents through both visual and performing arts. Whether on stage, in a gallery, or in a classroom, art is an important way that the participants we support can communicate what is in their hearts and souls.

Sheryl Finch found her voice six years ago. She reluctantly visited the Suzie Cappa Art Center & Gallery (SCAC) at the urging of Black Hills Works staff. The creativity that was within bubbled out. She now owns her own arts and crafts business with her sister and was named the SCAC 2020-2021 Artist of the Year. “I was very nervous my first day at Suzie Cappa,” said Sheryl. “I was never very creative and didn’t know I could draw. But, then I thought ‘why not?’”

SCAC, located in beautiful downtown Rapid City, features 65 artists with disabilities, including 28 who are employed in the gallery. The gallery welcomes nearly 20,000 visitors in a typical year and provides them the opportunity to purchase art created by our artists. SCAC is proud to contribute to the estimated $114 million annual economic impact made by the arts in the Black Hills.

Flutter Productions, part of the Black Hills Works family and the first all-ability dance and theater company in South Dakota, produces original productions for the stage with individuals of all abilities. Even in 2020, 84 community volunteers were able to safely contribute their time and skills to virtual theater productions or classes dedicated to helping artists with disabilities learn to dance, play a musical instrument, write screenplays or poetry, or act on the virtual stage.

These community volunteers, representing 36% of all Black Hills Works’ volunteers, undoubtedly gained as much as the artists they were helping. In fact, Flutter Productions recently concluded a 3-year evaluation, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. “I witnessed people blossom, share their voices, and contribute creatively to a larger community on stage. This powerful experience is shared by every performer [disabled or not],” said Heather Pickering, Flutter’s founder and Artistic Director, who spearheaded the evaluation.

Sometimes, the people we support just what to enjoy the relaxation that comes from doing arts and crafts, and learning new techniques for their own enjoyment. In 2020, our day services programs offered 7,216 classes, including art expression instruction! Last year, many of these classes were offered virtually. Now classes are offered in homes, at one of our 2-day programming locations, or in the field.

If you have a talent you would like to share, or art supplies to donate, please visit our website at https://www.blackhillsworks.org/get-involved/, or contact Carrie Moser, Director of Engagement at 605-718-6207 or [email protected]. Because of you, the artists we support with disabilities will continue to share their gifts with our community. Thank you!

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