Downtown art center adapts through pandemic

March 28, 2021

Written By: Main Street Square

Posted In: Elevate Magazine

The Suzie Cappa Art Center (SCAC) was founded in memory of artist Suzie Cappa, a local artist who independently selected her own brushes, her own colors, and her own subjects of interest. Suzie’s mother, Juanita, recognized her talent and provided her instruction with local artist, Ida Jansen. Suzie studied a variety of art forms from 1985 until her passing in 1997. 

The Suzie Cappa Art Center, a program of Black Hills Works, moved to their downtown location in 2013, thanks in part to a large donation. Since moving downtown, the SCAC has seen progressive expansion and growth.  The staff at the SCAC work alongside the artists, helping them expand their skill set, build confidence, and become fixtures in the community. 

“We have a vibrant art community downtown and the partnerships we have developed over the years is a testament to that,” stated Tammie Quinn, Day Services Supervisor for Black Hills Works. “The South Dakota Arts Council is a big supporter. Through a grant, they partner with us to bring in local artists through the Artists in Residency program. These artists assist in teaching and guiding the artists at SCAC to develop and hone additional skills,” added Quinn. 

Like many businesses, 2020 was a very tough year for the Suzie Cappa Art Center and they continue to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with limited hours for patrons and the artists. The SCAC is different from a typical business, they are in the business of people. Over 20 full and part-time artists create, exhibit, and sell their art at the center.  Unfortunately, due to the restrictions on gatherings, the exhibiting and selling portion was put on hold, but the creation continued. 

“We had to adjust like everyone, because we couldn’t have artists here, so we had to go to the artists,” stated Quinn. “We had to adjust our classes for the artists online. We dropped off art supplies on the doorsteps to try to limit the contact with our artists. Our number one priority through all of this was protecting the artists,” added Quinn.

The artists have different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses but each artist has their own vision. “The artists learn about local, regional and national artists; and our artists can implement those influences into their own art,” mentioned Carla Julius, Studio Manager. 

Art enthusiasts supported by Black Hills Works apply to work at the SCAC and have an opportunity to display their masterpieces while creating what art is to them. “For a lot of the artists, this is their outlet, they are passionate about art, learning new skills, and then creating. Each artist has their own style and their own niche, their own interpretation of the same item and that’s what makes it great,” added Julius.

Although the Suzie Cappa Art Center is still limiting the number of people they can have in the gallery, they have big plans for when the pandemic is behind them. “Like most businesses we have to adapt. We are looking at different ways to use the gallery space. We have incorporated the creation of virtual tours and online purchasing while we are closed, and we have plans to change how we host events and receptions moving forward. If we have learned anything over the past year, it is that we can adapt, and it’s all to keep our artists safe and happy,” said Quinn.