Native Sun News: Earth Day symposium recognizes artists

The following story was written and reported by Aly Duncan Neely. All content © Native Sun News.

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA — Tuesday night, April 19 at Skullets, a young musician’s venue, proved to be an evening to remember.

It was the site where performers, ranging from high school age to their early twenties, competed for top recognition in the categories of Artistic Expression, Presentation and Content related to Earth Day. The second part of this contest for Fine Arts followed on Wednesday evening at the Staging Grounds in the basement of the historic Buell Building. Judges for the contests were, or are currently, professional performers or artists.

The First Place winners of the performing arts contest, JC and Zac Conger; two members of a four-man band called Parasites, were invited to play their edgy vocals, thrash guitar licks and complex drum rhythms for the entertainment portion of the Clean Water Alliance fundraiser and Film Festival at the Elks Theatre on the evening of April 20.

This Earth Day event, intended to raise environmental awareness, also gave young artists a chance to perform to a live audience in a style similar to an audition. What transpired Tuesday night was a true learning experience for the budding entertainers as musical groups and solo acts received valuable insights from seasoned performers.

The second place winners were a duet consisting of the raspy, intense vocals and impassioned guitar scores of Hayden Wheeler blended with the powerful drumming of JC (just JC).

Alex Meyer won Third Place for his improvised, bluesy guitar performance with an Honorable Mention for an original monologue consistent with the Earth Day theme.

It was an eye-opening experience for the brave judges who had no idea what they would encounter.

“I was genuinely impressed with what I saw here,” said Colista Lich, a professionally trained vocalist, former New York actress and theatrical dancer and local artist and jewelry designer.

Ms. Lich was excited about judging the competition from the beginning because she firmly believes that this type of competition is healthy for those in the performance and fine arts. She stated that competition not only gives those who have worked at their craft and developed their talent an avenue to express themselves and be rewarded for their efforts but it also encourages beginners to keep growing as artists and to continue in their development.

“I’d like to hear more from these performers in the future,” said J. Paul Kohler, a local American Idol contestant and recording artist. Mr. Kohler expressed his gratitude at being invited to judge the event and offered to market any future Mother Earth Symposium contests.

Bryan Iverson, the guru of Skullets, said, “I’d like to do a contest like this every couple of months.”

One of the musical groups, a trio made up of twin Saxophones played by Martin Jackson and Seth Eisenbraun, complimented with drums played by Michael French wowed the spectators with their truly original sound of jazz-infused funk-punk.

The Black Hills region has some outstanding talent, often hidden from the mainstream and usually unrecognized. To fail to reward those who have overcome obstacles of time, financial burdens and, in some cases, stage fright, would truly be a travesty against these young artists.

Loren Lintz, a volunteer firefighter was torn away from his role as one of the music judges to fight a house fire. As a long-time performer who moonlights as a studio artist and soundboard operator, Mr. Lintz was impressed with the enthusiasm of the young musicians.

One of the judges commented that it was a refreshing, positive experience to participate in an event that focuses on encouraging artists to develop their own unique form and to express their ideas about social consciousness and environmental awareness through their art.

“It was extremely gratifying to witness the way in which the hard-earned, technical and artistic insight of the judges was sensitively conveyed to these talented, young performers. Even the most old-school relic would have to agree that the contemporary flair and raw talent or the contestants was priceless,” she said.

On Wednesday evening, April 20, local fine artists of high school and college age competed at the Staging Grounds, a Rapid City gallery and open stage for youth. The theme was Environmental awareness in honor of Earth Day. The entries were judged based on content related to Mother Earth, artistic expression and originality, plus overall display.

Mark S. White Bull, walked away with First Place for his use of natural materials to produce brilliant quillwork patterns. White Bull has been doing quillwork for ten years, having started when he was very young. His main influence is a Hunka family member who is featured in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

White Bull uses natural materials in his creations to teach others about nature and about the environment. He also loves to talk to those who view his work about the meaning behind the Lakota symbols in his patterns.

Second Place in the competition went to Alex Meyer for a beautifully penned work of original prose surrounded by an ink drawing of an old tree with lots of character. Alex is a nineteen year old native of Texas who has recently moved to the Rapid City area with his family. Alex is currently pursuing various musical avenues as a talented guitarist.

An award of Honorable Mention goes out to Jason Kimmer for a four piece work of Oil on Canvas depicting the four seasons. Each of the paintings, displayed at the Staging Grounds, shows a different season in the personification of a human face.

The four faces are reminiscent of green man symbolism but with vivid splashes of seasonal color and unique flair. Jason also is an accomplished musician and can be heard at the Staging Grounds on open mic nights, the last Sunday of each month.

The young artists also show their artwork at other venues so look for their names in future events and come show your support by attending their shows. It is so important to our youth that adults support their talents. We are proud of their accomplishments and encourage them to participate in further competitions where they can be rewarded for their endeavors.

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