Category Archives: Readers

Our Chautauqua Series Returns this September with Patrick Hicks

Chautauqua Series with Patrick Hicks

Tuesday, September 17th

7pm, The BrickHouse Community Arts Center


We’ll kick off our 50th Anniversary Celebration with the return of our storied Chautauqua Series with accomplished writer and researcher Patrick Hicks and his South Dakota Humanities Council Speakers Bureau presentation “At Auschwitz and the Other Camps: Doing Research & Writing About a Nazi Concentration Camp”

Patrick Hicks is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Finding the Gossamer and This London, both from Ireland’s acclaimed press, Salmon Poetry. His work has appeared in some of the most vital literary journals and magazines in America, including Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, Tar River Poetry, New Ohio Review, Natural Bridge, Salon, and many others. He has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize, been a finalist for the High Plains Book Award, the Dzanc Short Story Collection Competition, and the Gival Press Novel Award. He has won the Glimmer Train Fiction Award, been a notable mention in Best American Stories, and he is the recipient of a number of grants, including ones from the Bush Artist Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His work with PBS’s Over South Dakota was nominated for an Emmy in 2012.

Patrick Hicks will be joining us this September for our next Chautauqua Series presentation.

Patrick Hicks will be joining us this September for our next Chautauqua Series presentation.

A former Visiting Fellow at Oxford and a dual citizen of Ireland and the United States, he is now the Writer-in-Residence at Augustana College. For many years Patrick lived in Northern Ireland, England, Germany, and Spain, but he has returned to his Midwestern roots. When not writing, he enjoys watching thunderstorms roll across the prairie with his British wife and he is a sucker for playing in the backyard with his four-year-old son, who was adopted from Korea. His first novel, The Commandant of Lubizec, which is about the Holocaust, will be published by Steerforth/Random House in 2014. His next collection of poetry, Adoptable, is forthcoming with Salmon. For more about his work, visit

This program is made possible by the South Dakota Humanities Councill and is sponsored by the Madison Area Arts Council. This event is free and open to the public, refreshments will be served, and is held at The BrickHouse Community Arts Center, located in downtown Madison at 106 SE 2nd Street.

Alright, we’re going to be trying a few things, so breathe…

And you thought cats lived longer than arts councils?

Well, we’re going forward into 2013 with another kick, with even more great programs and yes, great food too. But, we need your support now more than ever before, so that means we need to hear more, and yes, see more, from our local creative friends and supporters of the arts.

This January 12th, we’re sponsoring acclaimed watercolor artist Jennifer Stone for a one day class and group show at The BrickHouse, and this looks to be by far the best deal of the year for a chance to work alongside such a noted and respected artist as Jennifer. We’re trying something new by offering these one-day classes for the community, and yes, there’s a very small charge (you won’t find a better deal around for classes of this quality) but we hope to continue to offer these classes in the coming year, so if you support it, they’ll be way more to look forward to right outside your back door.

Jen Stone Poster

We’re also scheduling the usual mix of great events you’ve come to love, from small concerts, to Double Header art showings, and a variety of speakers and writers from our Chautauqua Series – we’ll be calling on a few past friends for a surprise or two this year.

We’re thankful for all the support this past year, and if you haven’t made it to one of our fine events, be sure to come on out this January 12th, we’d love to see all of you (and way more often too!)

Just don’t go asking about cats.

Eve Fisher, our kind of ‘Cover Girl’…

Congrats to our own local writer Eve Fisher, well done!

A Preview of ‘Skeletons of the Prairie’…

Skeletons of the Prairie:

Abandoned Rural Codington County, South Dakota


“The true basis for any serious study of the art of architecture still lies in those indigenous, more humble buildings everywhere that are to architecture what folklore is to literature and folk song to music.”

–Frank Lloyd Wright

Drive down any road in South Dakota, or practically any road in the Midwest for that matter, and you will see abandoned buildings. You might come across an old house sitting in the middle of a pasture with cows grazing around it. Or it might be a barn that seems like it sprung up by itself in the middle of a soybean field. It could even be a lone abandoned silo keeping watch over a cornfield. Ever wonder about those old buildings? Who inhabited them at one time? Why are they abandoned? That was the inspiration for Skeletons of the Prairie: Abandoned Rural Codington County, South Dakota.

 The book, released by the Historical Society in 2000, began as a project by the Codington County Historic Preservation Commission to document and catalog, through photography, all the abandoned houses, barns, and other structures in Codington County, South Dakota, before they are all gone. Once the Historic Preservation Commission finished their work, taking photographs of more than 100 different buildings amounting to more than 1,000 photographs, Codington County Historical Society Director Tim Hoheisel thought a book would be a natural next step.

“Our mission at the Codington County Historical Society is to preserve, interpret, and disseminate the heritage of Codington County. The photographs preserve the buildings, the text interprets the history, and publishing a book disseminates the information to everybody. A project as important as this just had to be accessible to as many people as possible,” Hoheisel said. “The book is important to our local history because it documents something that will be gone in a few years; something that we will never see again.” The hardcover book is 160 pages long and contains more than 200 full color photographs.

Professional photographer S. Paul Tuszynski took all of the photographs. His photographs capture the light and shadow of each barn, house, silo, or other abandoned structure, to create a specific emotion for each picture. The beautiful and artistic photos are the focal point of the book. Watertown writer Ried Holien then wrote text to accompany the photos and really brought the buildings back to life. Part history, part poetry, part literature, and part art are what make the text so delightful to read. Ried’s words put flesh onto the skeleton frames of the abandoned buildings that Paul photographed. The book also has a wonderfully written forward by South Dakota State University English professor emeritus and poet laureate of South Dakota David Allan Evans.

You may ask yourself, like many people will when they see this book, why is it important to preserve these beautiful old, abandoned, nearly fallen down buildings? It is important because they are a tangible link to our past. South Dakota only became a state in 1889, but that does not mean that we have no history. South Dakota has historic relics comparable to Europe. They may not be 1,000-year-old castle ruins or cathedrals decorating the landscape like in Germany, France, or England, but what we do have are no less important. These abandoned buildings tell the tale of early pioneer settlement into Dakota Territory and later South Dakota. It is true that the reasons why these buildings are abandoned are not always pleasant. Many of the farmers or settlers were forced out of their homes because of droughts and depressions. Similarly, even the most beautiful and historic castles in Europe do not have happy stories within their walls.

Whether we want to remember it or not, the history of these abandoned buildings remains a part of our history. That history needs to be preserved and the stories need to be told. All of the abandoned buildings, schools, churches, and other relics tell a story; a story of who we were, where we came from, what we have done, and where we are going. The people who built and used these buildings may not have been from this country, but they sure helped build it. The people who grew up living in these now abandoned buildings are mostly gone. Just like the buildings themselves, fewer and fewer of each survive to see another year. Too many young people today, to their own disadvantage, do not know the history of these great buildings. They may not appear like much, but to the people who built them and lived in them, they were castles. They remain today as our prairie castles, standing proud among the corn and bean fields, watching over herds of cattle, telling us that we too were once small and poor. They tell us to remember where we came from, so we can remember where we are going. Bill Holm writes in Landscape of Ghosts very accurately:

There is a kind of essential truth in those old weathered boards, their condition of spiritual and actual paintlessness, their color stripped away by age, history, economics, nature. They show us part of ourselves not visible next to the new windowless, sheet-metal prefab life of the moment, a part not always cheerful and comfortable to think about. Sometimes they show us unexpected joy. Poets, like photographers, pass by the new subdivision without a single metaphorical quivering of their pencils, but an old board that has been battered and beautified by its history has probably got something valuable for human beings lying under it.

Perhaps it is impossible for this or any book to preserve the entire history of even one abandoned building. Still, this book tries to preserve what it can, even if it is just skeletons and memories. Every year, more of these buildings succumb to the elements and old age. All the pictures in this book were taken in a ten-month period between 1998 and 1999 in Codington County, South Dakota. During that time, more than ten buildings fell down or were destroyed. More will follow in years to come. Hopefully this book saves what little it can from each building, if only a picture to accompany an obituary.

Tim Hohesiel.

Tim will be presenting ‘Skeletons of the Prairie’ at White Night 2o11, June 17th at 6pm, in the historic Welk Opera House on the grounds of Prairie Village. This event is sponsored by the South Dakota Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is free and open to the public.

Headed for the village…

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Our White Night festival is looking forward to calling historic Prairie Village home for the night, and we’re looking forward to seeing all of you too!

Just a reminder, White Night is our annual arts festival whereabouts we welcome you to come on out for the night to share, explore, listen, and to be part of an incredible arts community. We’re eager to see how many plein air artists, writers, poets, and creative folks make the trip, and share with us all their talents.

White Night is featuring the music of Pasque, Wumpus, and More than Heroes, a speaker from the South Dakota Humanities Council, a White Night festival train-ride, and much more (stay tuned in the coming weeks) And best of all, it’s free for everyone, we like that part the best of all!

Garden & Art Walk partnership announced…

We’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered with the Great Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross for a special Garden & Art Walk on Saturday, June 25th. We’re looking for plein-air artists, sculptors, writers, poets, and musicians to place their work (and themselves) in these stand-out gardens, and for a fantastic cause too!

We’d love to see painters working, musicians playing, poets reading, writers writing, along with sculptures and artwork on display in each of the gardens.

There will be 6 Madison area gardens featured on the tour, and we’d like to have 6 diverse groups of artists (all kinds) to place at each garden. It’s just a great opportunity to connect and reach out with our community, and perhaps best of all for our participating artists, all sales are through each artist, with no commissions and no fees.

Interested artists must let us know they’d like to participate in this opportunity, so we can get organized! Please email, let us know the following: Your name, address, email, a little bit about you and what it is you do, and a few jpeg images or links. Easy, huh?

Garden & Art Walk

Saturday, June 25th, 8am-1pm

Great Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Madison Area Arts Council

Ticket proceeds to benefit the Great Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross

One Book South Dakota Announced!

From the ‘Bookworm Desk’ comes news from our friends at the South Dakota Humanities Council:

In keeping with our mission of “supporting and promoting the exchange of ideas to foster a thoughtful and engaged society,” each year at the South Dakota Humanities Council we will be highlighting one central theme through our events, programs, and grant-making activities. In 2011, that topic is American Indian Cultures.

The South Dakota Humanities Council is proud to announce the 2011 One Book South Dakota selection. Featured this year will be The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph Marshall III. The history of our state abounds with stories of struggles and perseverance, stories of impassioned individuals facing treacherous winters and impossible odds. Perhaps no person better epitomizes the struggles faced by so many in the early years of our territory than Oglala Lakota leader Crazy Horse. This iconic hero is best known for his prowess on the battlefield, yet a closer look at his life reveals a complex figure made up of much more than the war stories and heroic legends.

The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph Marshall III will serve communities throughout the state as a focal point for our American Indian Cultures programming.  It captures the life and times of one of our state’s most revered men, providing insight into the historical contexts that formed his character, beliefs, and later shaped him into a leader.

One Book South Dakota seeks to encourage regional conversations around a common text.  In doing so, our goal is to provide a bedrock of understanding and civility over cultural issues pertaining to our state and its history.  We hope your organization will take part in hosting one of these statewide discussions.  For a $35 application fee, we will provide reader’s guides and copies of the book for everyone in your discussion group, as well as a scholar to lead the discussion if you would like one.  What’s more, your discussion group can take advantage of our capstone One Book South Dakota lecture.  Joseph Marshall III will be featured at the South Dakota Festival of Books.


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