(Chamberlain, S.D.) – When he arrived in town, Hector Curriel went for a walk as he pondered the subject for his artist’s residency with grades 3 through 5 at St. Joseph’s Indian School the following week. Coming upon Dignity, he snapped a photo of her against the turbulent South Dakota sky and knew at once he had met his model for the week’s classes.
Dignity stands 50-feet-tall above Chamberlain, S.D., where I-90 dips downward to the Missouri River. Designed by sculptor Dale Lamphere, she honors the courage, perseverance and wisdom of the culture of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota children who attend St. Joseph’s.
Curriel worked with each of six classes twice during the week of October 4. In the first session, he showed students how to sketch their model, Dignity, using the photograph he took earlier. The drawings would guide the washes of watercolor applied to bring her to life. Even the younger students captured the grace, pride and movement of Lamphere’s statue, their own cultural character illustrated by their hands.
During the next session, Curriel used the first 15 minutes to show them how to make a watercolor wash and apply it consistently. After that layer, they would add color and shadow. Students fell silent, focused and had good results with the sometimes tricky medium. Curriel and Art Teacher Rachel Butzin encouraged. “I like your sky.” “That’s just amazing.” “Very nice.”
Then Curriel used the last 25 minutes, hastily and effectively moving through the room of as many as 12 students to create a caricature of each. “I like it. I’m ‘Shaggy.’ I’ll probably give this to my grandma,” giggled Gunner Big Crow of the caricature that accentuated his long hair hanging in pieces across his face.
Curriel is a watercolor expert, cartoonist and book illustrator. Born in Lima, Peru, he lives in Sioux Falls, S.D., and enjoys being part of the art community. St. Joseph’s Librarian Claire Nehring took advantage of the opportunity to integrate his residency into her classroom, where students read a book that Curriel had illustrated, “Beauford Peever’s Animal Family.” In keeping with the themes of character and caricature, Beauford finds that his family members resemble animals. In this way, he sees their unique characteristics and the ways they show love for each other.
The visit was made possible in part through the South Dakota Arts Council Artists in Schools & Communities (AISC). AISC is a residency program for K-12 schools and community organizations, with matching funds from the South Dakota Arts Council.
More Than 220 Native American students in first through twelfth grade find hope and brighter futures through our educational, counseling, and residential programs. St. Joseph’s Indian School transforms lives—mind, body, heart and spirit—every day. Learn more about us at www.stjo.org.