Spotlighting the Arts

Celebrating Local Creativity

The arts scene in Sioux Falls has never been more vibrant and, even amid a pandemic, local artists have continued to create, innovate and inspire. Today, thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation, two new, free publications are showcasing locally produced theatre, dance, comedy, music, and visual arts — helping more people than ever to find opportunities to connect and engage with the arts.

Luke Tatge. Photo by Rachel Winters.

Luke Tatge never sleeps.

As owner and publisher of Sioux Falls Stage and Sioux Falls Gallery, two free publications designed to showcase locally produced theatre, dance, comedy, music and visual art, Tatge not only conducts interviews, writes feature stories and organizes photo shoots for eight issues each year, he also leads the graphic design of each issue, oversees the website and social media platforms and manages advertising partnerships. Oh, and after each issue prints, he helps transport copies to magazine racks around the city.

And then there’s his “real” job — as in, his Monday-through-Friday-and-sometimes-nights-and-weekends job. That’s no small gig, either. Tatge works as creative director for Epicosity, a marketing and advertising agency in Sioux Falls.

And then (yes, there’s more), there’s The Good Night Theatre Collective, a Sioux Falls-based theatre company now in its sixth season, for which he serves as co-owner and marketing director. He also composes original music, writes shows, directs and does some tech.

So, why does he do all this?

It’s pretty simple, actually. Tatge loves the arts, and he wants to share the story of the local arts scene with others.

‘There’s No Better Time Than Now’

A native of Minnesota and a graduate of Augustana University, Tatge’s background is in music (he plays the trumpet) and journalism (as a student he served as editor for The Mirror, the Augustana student newspaper, and later worked for a weekly paper). About seven years ago, he began his first brush with theatre, eventually co-writing a show for The Good Night Theatre Collective.

In 2019, he had an epiphany.

“I started to notice there wasn’t really a place for local performing arts and fine art in media around this area. There are great news organizations and great lifestyle publications, but there wasn’t a print publication covering local performing arts. I just knew so many other creators and artists in the performing space that sort of struggled to get represented in media around here,” he said. “So I thought, ‘I could probably just do this and figure it out.’”

And he did. The first issue of Sioux Falls Stage published in January 2020.

“In order to keep the magazine free, I made it ad-funded. It all came together really smoothly and it was so exciting,” he said.

Then March 2020 happened, and life as we knew it sort of stopped.

“I kind of pondered, ‘okay, is this the right time for a performing arts magazine?’ Then I decided, there’s actually no better time than now to just keep sharing what people are doing, especially with all the creative methods people came up with last year to keep the performing arts alive,” he said.

But as much as he wanted to push forward, funding was an obstacle.

“After the pandemic arrived here, ad budgets were the first to get killed — that whole sector just sort of fell by the wayside in 2020,” Tatge said. “All the ad buying just stopped.”

Tatge began using his own money to fund the publication, but then “I kind of had to reevaluate the business model. This wasn’t designed to be a sales driver, it was designed as a service to the community.”

Tatge said he was contemplating closing the publication when the Sioux Falls Arts Council reached out to suggest a fiscal sponsorship. With the Arts Council as its fiscal sponsor, Sioux Falls Stage could apply for grant funding to advance its mission of sharing the stories of local artists.

The Community Foundation stepped forward to help, awarding a grant that would offer support for Sioux Falls Stage, as well as support for the launch of a companion publication called Sioux Falls Gallery, celebrating local visual artists and area fine art. The first issue of Sioux Falls Gallery published in July 2021.

The support from the Community Foundation has been a complete game-changer.

— Luke Tatge, Founder of Sioux Falls Stage and Sioux Falls Gallery

Patrick Gale is the Foundation’s vice president for community investment. He said spotlighting the local arts scene was an idea whose time had come.

“At the Foundation, we believe the arts are integral to a thriving community,” Gale said. “We believe the arts can inspire us, connect us, and motivate us to pursue new ideas. So, when we heard Luke was working on an effort that would share the stories of local artists and promote opportunities to engage in area arts events, we knew we wanted to help.”

“We know that people are continuing to use the arts to heal and understand this complicated moment in time, so we couldn’t be more proud of the work of Sioux Falls Stage and Sioux Falls Gallery. We look forward to watching these fine publications continue to inspire people throughout our community to engage in the local arts scene,” he said.

Photo by Peter Chapman.

The Power of the Arts

In the 16 years Tatge has lived in the Sioux Falls area, he says the local arts scene has never been more vibrant — another reason he felt compelled to shine a spotlight on local artists.

“I was noticing that there was such a variety of smaller, kind of boutique groups that had this kind of niche patronage, but that the general public didn’t know about. It felt like such a missed opportunity that more people weren’t aware these groups were out there,” he said.

Tatge said those same groups play a key role in bringing people downtown, which contributes to economic impact.

Two examples: Monstrous Little Theatre Company, which produces contemporary dramas designed to explore societal issues and human nature, has held shows at Full Circle Book Co-Op and some other downtown spots. The Good Night Theatre Collective, which aims to produce work that challenges actors to grow and offers audiences something unexpected, has performed at Icon Lounge and now holds shows at the Washington Pavilion.

“It’s symbiotic in a way that these performances bring people downtown. They bring people to bars and restaurants before and after the shows. Though it’s not necessarily a direct impact on the local retail and service economy, there’s definitely an indirect impact,” he said.

And while downtown is certainly a hotspot for the arts, Tatge is quick to point out that, amid the pandemic, local artists used their creativity to make the arts accessible in a variety of spaces, including virtually and outdoors.

“I think the benefit of the arts to our community was made even more evident last summer, especially when you see the emergence of a group like Headlights that safely brought us dance and emotional theatre experiences when we needed those things more than ever,” he said, explaining that Headlights Theater is a collective that facilitates pop-up/drive-in performance collaborations between local musicians and professional dancers. Its mission is to “transform bleak parking lots into magical landscapes and provide a live performance experience while practicing social distancing.”

“I think people can have such a relatable and emotional response to things like theatre or dance or visual art that maybe we weren’t expecting. I think the pandemic forced a lot of groups into changing up what they did and a lot of new groups came out of it as well, and they’re sticking around. There’s just so much variety and so much opportunity out there,” he said.

Another thing we needed during the pandemic? Laughs.

“The local comedy scene has just exploded in the last couple years,” he said. “There’s this super-awesome all-female comedy troupe that I feel like most people have no idea about. They’re doing such awesome shows around town, but unless you’re tapped into that, you might not know about them.”

So, Tatge decided to do something about that.

He featured Jamie Tharney, the founder of Prairie Madness Comedy, in an issue of Sioux Falls Stage.

“Being able to put their founder on the cover, in a ridiculous ball gown, and sharing their story with others — that’s very exciting for me,” he said.

“There are so many amazingly talented people who live here and they chose to stay here and I would love to keep it that way,” Tatge said. “So I want to help make them successful so we can keep diversifying the arts scene.”

Photo at top: Madison Elliott, co-founder of and dancer for Headlights Theater. Photo by Peter Chapman.