Bright, vivid murals have been popping up around downtown Vermillion. The Vermillion Community Mural Project (VCMP), a project dedicated to creating murals to beautify the city, is working to finish a two-part mural located behind the Coyote Twin Theater.
Amber Hansen, Assistant Professor at USD, is the main developer of the VCMP, a subsidiary part of the Vermillion Cultural Association. Artists creating the mural are Reyna Hernandez, Liz Skye and Inkpa Mani.
The Vermillion Community Mural Project created its first mural in 2017, located on the side of the Coyote Twin Theater in Vermillion’s Pocket Park.
In the summer of 2019, the first part of the two-part mural, titled “Eúŋkičhetupi,” a Lakota word meaning, ‘we come back to life,’ was completed. The second part of the mural will wrap around the wall adjacent to the first part.
Part one of the mural features indigenous women with a mother breastfeeding as the central image. Hernandez said the three artists wanted to tell a modern story about indigenous women through the mural.
“We all knew we wanted the design to be about honoring indigenous women to tell a contemporary indigenous female story,” Hernandez said.
Skye said the experience of being included in the mural project unified her with her connection to the community.
“We wanted to make a super-strong mural about Native women regardless of what was happening. At the end of the day, the community agreed,” Skye said.
The design for the second part of the mural to be completed is titled, “Wanáȟča,” a Lakota word for ‘flower that blooms.’ The painting will begin this coming May and both parts will be visible from City Hall.
Art continues to make a big impact around Vermillion and the world, historically and presently. Skye said this particular piece of art helps tell a story.
“We wouldn’t know anything about ourselves as a species if we didn’t have art to tell stories. That’s why in our culture, we don’t have a word for art because art was what we did. Art is our stories and our songs,” Skye said. “We didn’t need a word for it because it was not a separate thing from life, it was life itself.”
Funding for the VCMP comes from the Bush Foundation’s Change Network, Vermillion Area Community Foundation and donations from community members. Additionally, the VCMP will be selling stickers for five dollars at the Coyote Twin Theater. Donations will be doubled throughout February and accepted through may.
The process of developing a design for the mural required the three artists to bring their perspectives and ideas to life. After conversing with each other, community members and the administrators, Skye, Hernandez and Mani were able to conceptualize a design.
The development of the color scheme was the next part of the process.
“Inkpa’s strengths were in hearing what we wanted and then drawing them out,” Henandez said. “He was able to illustrate our thoughts and compositionally place them together.”
Once the artistic process was complete for the design, definite themes and images were made apparent. Hernandez said the image of water and femininity is central to the theme, creating meaning.
“I think it really started by understanding that there is this universal thread that connects us,” Hernandez said. “Water really came into the design to represent the sacredness of water, community and our connection.”
Unity and connection are central to the theme of the mural.
“The year we decided to move forward, the town was really affected by water with all of the flooding going on,” Hernandez said. “Throughout history, the town has been affected by flooding. Everyone can relate to the importance of water and connect with the image of water, on a community level and on a personal level.”
Along with the image of water and femininity, the Monarch butterfly appears as a symbol in the mural. The butterfly signifies change, Skye said.
The goals of the VCMP are rooted in connecting and inspiring all community members, Hansen said. The entire community will have the opportunity to get involved.
“We have a community paint day where we invite members of the community to come to help us lay down like larger portions of the areas of the mural,” Hernandez said.“So many people showed up for the first session. The first Community Paint Day was a success.”
Hernandez said although the project is created by the artists, it belongs to everyone in the community.
“The mural is not just ours, it’s everyone’s, and there are pieces in this story everyone can relate to, no matter what walk of life you come from.”