By Jim Speirs, Executive Director, Arts South Dakota

Recently one of the people helping to bring arts funding to South Dakota toured our state and was blown away by the diversity and quality of our cultural environment.

Michael Orlove directs National Endowment for the Arts funding and other assistance to 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies, six regional arts agencies and local arts agencies across the country. For seven years, he was the NEA’s director of Artist Communities and Presenting and Multidisciplinary Works.

With Patrick Baker, executive director of the South Dakota Arts Council, Orlove visited a number of very different South Dakota cities, towns and tribal communities, making stops in Sioux Falls, Brookings, Faulkton, Eagle Butte, Pierre, Porcupine, Pine Ridge and Rapid City. In every location, Orlove took the time to meet and talk with community arts leaders, artists and South Dakota citizens who care about the arts in our state.

The impressions he carried back to Washington, DC, are important for so many reasons. In a state with a small population like ours, ensuring that the National Endowment for the Arts understands the vitality of our creative community can lead to program expansion and new arts opportunities. Further, I believe that Michael Orlove is now our friend in Washington and that South Dakota is more than a place on a map to him—it’s a memory of people who feel as strongly about the arts as he does. 

Orlove experienced the natural beauty of our state that inspires us, traveled to small towns where the flame of creative enterprise burns brightly and saw our monumental works of art, from mountainsides to the soaring sculptures of Artist Laureate Dale Lamphere. In a remarkably short time, Orlove was able to discover that, as he said, “The arts are omnipresent in South Dakota and…there are endless possibilities for the arts in South Dakota.”

Learn more about the arts in South Dakota and the programming that keeps our cultural ecosystem strong by visiting