Be the Change: Linking Fences

Published: Jul. 30, 2017 at 6:51 PM MDT
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They're all around our yards to keep things in or out. Now members of the Spearfish community are adding some pizazz to fences in their area, in hopes to bring people together.

Elizabeth Freer, Art Central Project Manager with the Matthews Opera House said, "It really struck us that these chain link fences could be so ugly. Sometimes, there's screens put up on them to block a view."

That's what prompted Art Central at the Matthews Opera House to take a look at these fences, and find an 'out of the box' way to break down the barrier.

The Linking Fences project came about as a result of a grant from the Bush Foundation, getting local schools and artists involved to create a work of art out of a plain, chain link fence.

Freer said, "It gives everyone a sense of ownership of that project. They can say 'hey I was a part of that.'"

One of the decorative fences in town is here at the Spearfish Rec Center where Cary Thrall incorporated her Lakota heritage into her masterpiece.

Artist says Cary Thrall said, "What is above is below. What's in the sky -- what's in heaven -- is on Earth."

The four-panel piece features prominent Black Hills landscapes like Bear Butte and Devils Tower, as well as Spearfish staples, from Lookout Mountain to Crow Peak.

But the fence is about more than just the art itself. Thrall collaborated with schools on this project, educating them on Lakota culture and the importance of kindness.

Thrall said, "Having compassion for every single human, every single creature, every tree -- literally. Having compassion for the Earth we are on and to use the landscapes - is just a tiny little teaching to hopefully open people's hearts and minds."

Her message resonated with one group from the Northern Hills Training Center.

Thrall said, "The feedback from the people who work there was excellent. They said that sometimes they won't even stay for a program. So it made me melt a little bit and my heart -- that's just how it is."

As Thrall was working on her fence, she said she's already noticed some of the good it has done.

Thrall says, "People are coming to talk to me from both sides of the fence. They'll walk by and ask questions or they'll come up literally to the fence while we're working."

Art Central with the Matthews Opera House wants to see even more fences pop up around the area.