Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A search for artist Dennis Linn finds a really great gallery in Rapid City

My painting of the view from M Hill
Last month I participated in the Urban Plein Air Competition held by The Dahl Fine Arts Center in downtown Rapid City
Starting with blank canvases you have eight hours to finish painting views of the city. The artwork in the competition was nice, and the artists were even nicer. Dennis Linn's intricate painting of Prairie Edge won uncontested. Even better he was genuinely fun to talk to. 
Winning artist Dennis Linn

I wanted to see more of his work, so a week later I went to the only gallery in Rapid City that represents him, the Alex Johnson Mercantile

This is a friendly looking shop right underneath the hotel of the same name, and I had never visited it.

What a great surprise I found!  

From inexpensive souvenirs to truly accomplished works of art, the Mercantile has a bit of everything. It is mostly the work of individual artisans or small collectives. This is exactly the kind of shop I am looking for when shopping locally!

But the shop does not truly light up until you start talking to co-owner Jennifer Johnson. She told me "I wanted the store to have a heartbeat" and she has certainly succeeded. This bright woman is clearly the soul of the shop and the reason it has such a welcoming feel.

Jennifer has a story about every piece in the shop and was happy to take the time to tell them.  She is so excited about the artists she works with that her energy is contagious.  
evocative paintings by Dennis Linn and Jeff Gulbransen

Items large and small

Leonard Yellow Horse's carved Cottonwood roots have warmth and humor that make them a favorite

this men's bracelet by Michael Running Shield shows incredible skill
These are just a few of the unique treasures in the shop.  Jennifer speaks beautifully of our city and the Black Hills and says "it's all right here" "it's coming through my front door" of the art and crafts the Mercantile carries. She wants everything in the store to be "touchable" and she is proud to "honor these friends in our stores" by displaying the pieces and telling their stories. 

 Next time I visit I want to take the time to make my own wire bracelet using the collection of beads she keeps near the counter. And I want to visit in the winter because the warm heart of this place will travel with me when I have to go back into the cold.

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