Bringing art and people together to strengthen community became more than a Rapid City Arts Council mission statement Friday, when a group of local graffiti artists and a motorcycle shop presented a check to Working Against Violence, Inc.
The graffiti artists, known collectively as the FAW Crew, along with Black Hills Harley-Davidson, presented a check for $2,000 to WAVI.
In March, Al Rieman, owner of Black Hills Harley-Davidson, approached arts council interim executive director Pepper Massey with the idea of dressing up his shop with art. A large blank wall in the Harley dealership's lower level presented a perfect canvas, and Rieman’s idea was to make it look interesting, like Art Ally.
Dahl Arts Center curator Mary Maxon had been working with Siamese, a spokesperson for the FAW Crew, who do much of their work in Art Alley, to see if they were interested in the Harley project. Siamese contacted colleagues Demo, 2Tone, Lanes and Close, who agreed to let their creative juices flow.
“We were pleased to work on a project like this for a company like Harley-Davidson,” Siamese said. “They are a true icon of the American dream. When forward-thinking businesses provide opportunities like this, they are supporting their local arts community and that's a very honorable thing.”
Once the project was completed, the FAW Crew requested that Rieman give their commission check to WAVI, rather than to the artists. By donating their commission, the FAW Crew hoped to accomplish two things: help dispel some of the preconceived notions that graffiti artists are vandals or thugs without consideration for their communities; and inspire people to find a way to use to use their skills and passions to enrich the communities they live in.
“We are people with a deep and rich culture. We love graffiti,” Siamese said. “It also happens to be very marketable. If people are willing to pay us to do what we love, why wouldn't we use that money to help others? When we heard about WAVI, it was a done deal. To support a service that helps women and their children get away from difficult, and often dangerous situations, is a great feeling. Thanks to WAVI for the work they do.”