March 26, 2021
Written By: Andy Greenman
As you meander through downtown Rapid City, it’s hard to miss the work of Aaron Pearcy.
Firehouse Brewing, the city’s original firehouse, has a two-story firefighter painted on the outside. A glimpse of the Badlands rises out of downtown while passing Main Street Square. And there’s a good chance you’ve taken a selfie next to the Rapid City greeting in Art Alley.
Many are familiar with these paintings by Aaron Pearcy, better known as AMP, but most cannot put a face to his name. His online presence strictly advertises his work, rather than himself. He’s one that would rather go unnoticed in a crowded room. Pearcy prefers to “hide in the shadows and paint stuff.”
Love For Art (Alley)
Pearcy’s education did not begin in South Dakota. His family traveled frequently while his father served in the military. At age 7, while living in Germany, he began to express himself by coloring. Aaron put his touch on church pamphlets, canvases, and items he was not supposed to be coloring.
Three years later, his father was transferred to Ellsworth Air Force Base, bringing Aaron Pearcy to the Rapid City area.
Continuing his arts education at Douglas High School, Pearcy received the guidance needed to follow his dreams. Fine Arts Instructor David Horan introduced his class to airbrushing and the art of graffiti. Horan took his class on a field trip to learn about street art at none-other than Art Alley.
“I want students to know that art has a place at the center of our lives, not just in history books and museums,” said Horan. “We should express ourselves where we are.”
The Alley was a new project for Rapid City at this time. It was a public platform for artists to practice their work without breaking the law. Artists painted brick walls, pipes, garbage cans, stairwells and practically anything in sight to brighten the heart of downtown. Art Alley continues to bring droves of tourists and locals through the alley to take selfies and admire.
The street art of local artists inspired Pearcy and he ran with it.
Pearcy continued to hone-in on large format paintings in Art Alley as people were taking notice. In 2014, Firehouse Brewing Company building owner, Bob Fuchs was impressed by his work and asked Pearcy to give the exterior of brewery a new look. Without a doubt, Pearcy accepted the offer and was eager to paint his ‘first wall outside the alley.’
He spent roughly 50 hours painting a firefighter two-stories tall with flames at his back. This mural became a statement piece for the artist at one of downtown’s busiest restaurants. A year later he was hired to paint a set of firefighters opposite of the original mural.
The demand for Pearcy’s work was heating up.
Destination Rapid City, who’s mission is to create, sustain, and maintain a vibrant city center, offered Pearcy the opportunity to use Elks Theatre as his canvas. Well-known Rapid City photographer Steve Babbitt provided a picturesque photo of the Badlands to face Main Street Square. Pearcy spent weeks preparing and painting the towering theater while dangling from a crane lift.
Pearcy now has work scattered throughout Rapid City. Just look for his signature AMP, simply referring to his initials. Other projects include a mine shaft design in the South Dakota Mines gym area, a slick looking Mt. Rushmore at Black Hills Barbershop, and farmers picking beans on the side of Dark Canyon Coffee. Pearcy most recently completed a Marvel themed indoor basketball court on a resident’s property.
Family And Full-Time Employment
There is so much more to AMP than the paint on the wall.
The artist is a husband and father of three. He works full-time as a tattoo artist at Good Dominion Tattoo Company. Family and work come before his mural work, but his passion for murals can keep him up through the night. “I’ll sacrifice a little bit of sleep to get a nice painting done,” says Pearcy.
Pearcy can thank his kids for his first mural work of 2021. He and his family were looking to get out of the house over the winter when they took a trip to Run Wild in Summerset. As their kids ran wild at the new indoor playground filled with slides, obstacles and climbing towers, Pearcy noticed something was missing. “It has huge, blank, open walls so why not have it be something that’s captivating?”
He reached out and asked them if he could paint the back wall with a fantasy forest scene so kids could “run around and have their imaginations run wild too.”
As he’s putting the finishing touches on his latest mural, kids will now imagine they are playing in the wilderness when they visit Run Wild.
From Germany to the Black Hills, Pearcy has persevered.
As artists often struggle with internal emotions, his case is no different. Pearcy has heard the voices in his head telling him the work is not up to standards. Self-doubt crept in while seeing tiny imperfections in his work. While an onlooker may see a great piece, Pearcy is his own worst critic.
“There are days where you know you did an awesome job, and there are days where you could’ve been a little bit better. That’s all a part of growing,” Pearcy said.
With every piece Pearcy tries to improve upon the last because he believes he is only as good as his last work.
The Wow Factor
While Pearcy inches closer to his next mural at a physical therapist office, he dreams of painting on the biggest stage. He continuously prefers the next project to be bigger than the last. He’d paint Jupiter if he could.
“It may be tiring, but it’s the wow factor for me,” Pearcy states.
What type of wow factor is he talking about?
“Painting the side of the Rushmore Hotel... I think that would be epic,” Pearcy said. “Doing a side profile of Lincoln or a shot of Mt. Rushmore would be perfect.
Another idea that energizes Pearcy is slapping some color on the Dakota Mill & Grain silos. He describes the current state of the Rapid City landmark as “the big white grain silo that paint is peeling off of it.”
Whatever comes Aaron Pearcy’s way, he’s up for the challenge and is sure to continue leaving his mark on Rapid City.
“I’ve gotten great satisfaction from what I do and seeing other people enjoy what I’m doing.”