The new South Dakota Governor’s Student Art Competition was announced by Gov. Kristi Noem during a press conference Feb. 12, in her Capitol reception area.

“South Dakota is a canvas that inspires creativity, and I’m thrilled to use this competition to encourage our students to pursue art right here in South Dakota,” said Noem. She said that the arts contribute millions of dollars to local revenues each year. South Dakota is home to more than 1,300 arts-related businesses that employ nearly 6,500 people.

Stealing the show at the announcement ceremony were guest speakers Emily Hughes and Bria Neff.

“Art benefits education and gives experiences that students may never (otherwise) get,” said Hughes, a junior at T.F. Riggs High School. Hughes won the 2019 Congressional Art Competition for South Dakota. Her acrylic-on-vinyl painting, “Koi,” a swimming koi fish painted on a vinyl record, hangs in the House of Representatives complex in Washington, D.C.

Bria Neff, a seventh grade student from Sioux Falls, has used her paintings to help raise over $75,000 for conservation centers, fish hatcheries and other organizations that help wildlife, especially endangered species. “I was only seven years old when I entered and won my first art contest,” said Neff.

“I know the feeling when a young person’s work is recognized,” said Dale Lamphere, South Dakota’s Artist Laureate. He is especially known for the nine-foot tall ‘Spirit of Dakota’ bronze sculpture on display in Huron and the 50-foot ‘Dignity’ sculpture near Chamberlain. Lamphere praised the Student Art Competition and its annual exhibition of the winners’ works in the state Capitol.

“This program appreciates students, and they will know their work is valued. It is elevating art to the state level and puts student artists in the spotlight. Early opportunity is such a big thing for young people. Students must not doubt that their talents can really propel them into their future. We have to catch them with early encouragement,” said Lamphere.

Referring to Hughes’ accomplishments, Noem said “With this program, we will have our students’ art hanging in the country’s capital and now in our South Dakota Capitol. This is a great chance for them to submit their work. One — or if I have my way, two or three — samples of such unique talent will hang here each year for all to see. This contest is more of painting, drawing and sketching. It could grow into something else, with different dynamics, that include other forms of art.”

“Art is what we see, and what we do,” said Representative Scyller Borglum (R — District 32 Pennington County).

“In creating his art, Dale Lamphere uses engineering and mathematics — the arts and science — as well. People see art and hear music in different ways,” said Noem.

Referring back to the South Dakota Department of Tourism partnering with this program, Noem added, “This program is beneficial for our students and can open the world’s eyes to South Dakota’s talent and history.”

This spring, the South Dakota Arts Council will distribute program information to schools throughout the state and submissions will be accepted in the fall. The program is in partnership with the South Dakota Department of Tourism. More information on logistics and criteria will be announced in the near future.

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