Artist uses graffiti to tell of Lakota culture


RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) – Graffiti. It covers abandoned buildings, the sides of train cars, and roadway underpasses, but over the years it’s become an accepted and praised form of expression and artwork.

And a Rapid City native is using his talent as a graffiti artist to tell stories and share his culture and the culture of the Black Hills.

From magpies to the South Dakota state flower to buffalo and pine trees, the south wall of Acme Bicycles may look like it’s been vandalized when in fact it’s being turned into a massive work of art.

“It’s a South Dakota-themed mural so my inspiration is the Paha Sapa, which for the Lakota is the Black Hills. And it’s a creation story for our people,’ said Focus Smith, the artist behind the mural. ”Go from images you would see on the bike trail since this is on a bike shop, that same idea, that same inspiration of sharing that culture that people see.”

This mural is part of Smith’s goal of Thaza Kin, or the wave. Creating a wave of beautiful murals while telling the story of the Lakota culture.

His pieces adorn many Rapid City buildings and spaces; the Club for Boys, Cave Collective, I AM Legacy and more.

“Just for myself, it’s an homage back to my past with, I’m a graffiti writer and that’s something that I’ve done throughout my entire life and just to show people that it’s a transformative process, it’s not just one thing that people are stuck in and it helps, my whole intention is to do away with the boxes people create,” said Smith.

Starting with art alley at the age of 14, graffiti has been a huge part of Smith’s life and he plans to continue sharing his gift with the Black Hills and the world.

“Spray painting is taking off in larger cities, it is unstoppable,” said Smith. “They have huge mural festivals, it’s an amazing thing to see it and as for this area, it very much feels like I’m adding to a lot of the culture that’s already been here.”

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