2021 Arts Grant

South Dakota Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts

Grant period July 1 2021 – June 30 2022

I plan to use this grant to go from being a Brookings area artist to a South Dakota artist!

6/8/2022 – the year is coming to an end, and so my online exhibition of this project opens 6/10/2022!!!

May 31, 2022 I drove over to Badlands National Park in South Dakota pretty early, so I could pull over for photos as often as I wanted on the way (which was pretty often) and still get to the badlands in time to look around. 

The north half of the park had the bighorns and deer and the teeth-like rocky structures that the park is known for, and the south half of the park had bison and emense rolling rocky grasslands, cut away with rocky ravines.

I got to the park early enough to drive all the way through before heading over to the town of Interior (population 94) to check in at my airb&b sleeping arrangements, and still get back to see if the sunset would be visible through the clouds. It wasn’t, but it was magical anyways. Don’t these bighorns look beautiful in the last light? 

I stayed overnight in a very rustic cabin without electricity or wifi, way off the beaten path. The kid (maybe 10 years old) who gave me directions from the main house out to the cabin was adorably professional.

I slept sparsely and restlessly, and got up at 4:30 am to get back to the park in time for the sunrise. I’d planned ahead with some much needed gas station coffee in the car. 

I only saw a few humans out and about, mostly professional looking photographers. But the park was full of singing birds, some fluffy beautiful deer, molting bighorn sheep and bison… 
I have about 500 photos – many of which I can’t wait to paint from! 

miles 036327-037136


1/5/22 – Finished (I think)!

Custer Longhorn, 12×16″, oil on panel.

I haven’t spent much time looking at longhorns before. I worked on this painting all week, and the more I look at this animal, the more beautiful he looks… 

1/4/22 – This morning I replied to an email question about this project, and enjoyed the opportunity to really think about the purpose of the project, both for the body of work and for my art in general. Thanks for the question, John! Here’s what I came up with.

The project is exciting. The working title is “Painting South Dakota.” 

Up until now I have been painting the prairie of South Dakota, and working to discover and capture what is unique and beautiful about the prairie. 

This project, assisted by a 2021-22 career development grant from the SD Arts Council, is to travel to several locations around South Dakota with the purpose of capturing the range of landscapes of this diverse state in source photos and studies, and to bring those into the studio for a series of paintings celebrating the diverse beauty of the state! 

The first source photo collection trip was out to Custer State Park in the Fall, where I took almost 200 photos. I’m not a photographer, so I try to take as many photos as possible in order to have enough inspiring source photos when I get back to the studio. 

The landscape of the Custer area  is so different from the prairie I’ve been painting that it’s taking some time and work to see how to paint that landscape, and the first painting of Custer took a very long time, working through the different colors and shapes of the land over there. But that is part of what is exciting about this project! I just finished my first painting of Custer, and am working on a second smaller one right now. 

The second source photo collection trip was up to Big Stone Lake State Park, in NE South Dakota. There I took 371 source photos, and you saw the first painting based on that landscape. The colors in December are gorgeous and subtle, and while the difference between that landscape and the one around Brookings is obvious, it feels much more familiar than the West side of the state, and the first painting came together very smoothly. 

I’m planning to make at least 2 more trips to different South Dakota locations in the next several months, for more source photo collection and studio painting. I have a couple ideas of where to go, but as it gets closer I’ll be asking my SD friends for suggestions of where to find good examples of the natural diversity of this state (suggestions welcome). 
I’ll complete a dozen paintings investigating and celebrating South Dakota by July of 2022. As I finish more work I’ll be looking for a good place to exhibit the collection. 

While this project will be completed in the next 6 months, I think it will impact the subject of my paintings for years to come. 

12/30/21 – I think the first large painting of the Big Stone Lake State Park area is done. I am so excited about it. I think it might be my best painting so far, which has actually made me a little nervous in the studio in the few days since it finished – but that will pass.

big stone lake state park south dakota art
Near Big Stone Lake State Park, 30×40 inches, oil on canvas.

12/12/2021 – If you can think of a better name than “Painting South Dakota” for this project, I’d love to hear it. This morning we woke up at 5am to drive up to Big Stone Lake State Park, a couple hours North of us. It was beautiful and we got there before sunrise so I could get photos in and close to the park with beautiful lighting.

dive -36555 – 36,765

8/25/21 – Here are some more of the source photos from the Custer trip. The first large painting is under way… We named this guy Bob. He was having such a good time scratching on that tiny tree… It’s wonderful how such a huge animal can be so cute and joyous.

8/10/21 – We just got back yesterday from visiting Custer State Park. This photo is of a buffalo ranch outside the park. I love the tall trees and mountains behind.

Custer, SD, 8/2021 © Jessie Rasche.


6/28/2021 – I just received the acceptance letter! I’m excited and very nervous. I’m going to start making a schedule and plans as soon as I finish up what I’m working on.

“On behalf of the South Dakota Arts Council staff and board members, I am pleased to inform you that your Artist Career Development proposal has been awarded”

Thank you South Dakota Arts Council!!!

3/1/2020 – My proposal is submitted, and they sent a confirmation of receipt.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to decide between two ideas, and finally decided on one that scares me but I think would push my art and my career foreward the most: Painting and getting source photos all around the state. I’ve wanted to be a confident plein air painter for about a decade, and I’ve also wanted for years to paint the landscape and wildlife of other parts of the state, but traveling specifically for my art has seemed extravagant.

Fingers crossed!