Opening of Passage begins Monday at Main Street Square

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Sculpture Project: Passage of Wind and Water begins Monday, July 1, at 8 a.m. at Main Street Square in Downtown Rapid City.

Masayuki Nagase, the artist selected to carve the granite sculptures in Main Street Square, will open the Passage at the eastern end of the Badlands Garden, the series of stones along Main Street.

This week, the artist is setting up his work site at the Square and studio at the Dahl Arts Center. He and his assistant Martin Rickert are also traveling to the Badlands to camp and to meet with ecologists and a paleontologist, building inspiration and concentration on the Badlands, Nagase said.

On Monday, the duo sketched designs on the first stone to be carved. Construction crews are erecting a temporary structure with viewing portals that surrounds the first two pieces for safety of those visiting Main Street Square to observe the process.

"The carving marks the opening of the Passage of Wind and Water, which the artist has been preparing for all spring," said Anna Huntington, Destination Rapid City community arts coordinator. "In March, he traveled to Japan to purchase special granite carving tools not available in the U.S. Earlier this month, he spent a day driving all over the Bay Area in California tracking down the best dust collector to use – compact, efficient and quiet. Another day, he researched the giant, SUV-sized prehistoric turtles, archelon, that once inhabited the Badlands. And always, it's making many, many connections with people in the Black Hills, Badlands and Bay Area who are knowledgeable and passionate about the Rapid City region's history and culture."

This spring, the sculptor carved his design into plaster models of the five granite stones he plans to complete this summer. He has experimented with lighting the models from below to get a sense of how The Sculpture Project will appear in the evening after lighting is installed at the base of the granite sculptures.

"When I made the design drawing originally, I am trying to visualize it in relief form," Nagase said. Carving the models allows the artist to think about "the carving techniques for translating the lines and forms" of his design into the granite, he said.

He then projected images of the carved models onto sheets of ultra-thin plywood and traced the enlarged images. The sculptor is using those templates to transfer the design directly to the granite before carving.

"Masayuki worked this spring to revise his design for the Passage of Wind and Water," Huntington said. "If you look closely at the photos of the carved models, you'll find he incorporated avian and other elements as a result of the community design workshops in the Black Hills over the winter."

Once carving begins, Nagase expects to work on site at Main Street Square on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. He will be available from time to time for questions during breaks. On July 19, Aug. 2, 16 and 23, at 3:30 p.m., Nagase will give informal talks at the Square about his process and progress.

Most Thursdays, the artist will work in his studio at the Dahl Arts Center, which he will open to the public on July 18, Aug. 1, 15 and 22, at 3:30 p.m.

While in Rapid City, the artist will stay at the Hotel Alex Johnson, which donated its presidential suite for the duration of Nagase's work.

The $2 million project is entirely funded through a partnership between Destination Rapid City and the John T. Vucurevich Foundation, and is one of the largest privately funded public art projects in the United States.

The artist is expected to complete the work in three to five years, working on site during the summer months. A committee of arts and civic leaders chose Nagase from an international pool of 88 applicants through a yearlong selection process.

For the latest information, like The Sculpture Project: Passage of Wind and Water on Facebook; follow @rcsculpture on Twitter and Instagram, and Sculpture Project on Vine; or check out the blog at Additional information is available on Main Street Square's Facebook page, @mainstsquare on Twitter, @mainstreetsquare on Instagram, Main Street Square on Vine or the websites or