Downtown Hot Springs to potentially be the site for unique art project

This is the proposed piece of art that will be recreated on the chain link fence currently located on North River Street and in front of the area where a fire destroyed several businesses in downtown Hot Springs earlier this year. (Submitted photo)


‘Linking Fences’ raising funds to promote community unity

HOT SPRINGS – Hot Springs is next in line to have a new mural – on a chain link fence – using fabric strips and other materials woven in a design created specifically for the community.

To make the project a reality, a group of private individuals, referring to themselves as ‘Friends of Linking Fences’ in Hot Springs, are seeking contributions from the community to bring South Dakota Artist, Cary A. Thrall of CAT Scratch Studios to Hot Springs in July.

Thrall has successfully completed numerous projects throughout the Black Hills. The project design for Hot Springs – which will be 12-feet wide by 6-feet tall and depicts colorful hot air balloons flying over a river – is scheduled to go up the week of July 20 on the temporary fence on the 300 block of North River Street, where several building burnt down in a fire earlier this year. The Friends of Linking Fences group said they hope “this bright, cheerful design that depicts some of our Hot Springs treasures will bring healing and beauty to the historic downtown district after the devastating fire that destroyed four vital businesses.”

The group says Greg Gunwall, owner of The Vault, one of the businesses affected by the fire, is supportive and excited about the project. The group has received positive responses from many in the community including Keep Hot Springs Beautiful that will be the Fiscal Sponsor for the project. 

A goal has been set to raise $5,000 in three weeks for the project, which the group acknowledges may seem lofty, especially considering the challenging times everyone of today. However, the group says they are hopeful that the community of Hot Springs will come together to support this positive project.

“If everyone donated $10-20 we can easily reach our goal,” said Rajni Lerman, one of the members of the Friends of Linking Fences group. “If $1 is what you can offer, this too creates a positive ripple in our community. Those who can share more are encouraged to do so.” Donors of $500 or more will have their names displayed on a sign next to the artwork.

To contribute, donors can mail a check to: Keep Hot Springs Beautiful, C/O Amy Symsted, Treasurer, 27928 Cascade Road, Hot Springs, SD 57747 (write “Linking Fences” in the memo line). The Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce has also agreed to be a drop off location for checks and cash donations toward this project by July 15, 2020. There has also been a GoFundMe page created.

CAT Scratch Studios (Creative Arts and Therapies) has already been engaged in several public art installations for 2020. This year, four South Dakota communities will be united with a variety of Creative Community Collaborations beginning in the Spring (Lead, Belle Fourche, Hot Springs and Lower Brule). Through the project, each site with an installation from years prior are connected to one another and to this year’s new sites as well. These connections are accomplished through participation during engaging co-hosted events, artworks and deepening relationships from the previous three years of this work. Due to Covid-19, some of the events will continue through next summer to engage with each community in the unique ways artist Cary A. Thrall has developed over the years.

Each artwork is installed on existing 6-foot tall chain link fences with designs Cary develops through collaborative processes that further strengthen connections in the communities. Primary materials for all projects are recycled, including acquired hot air balloon fabric in several locations – some of which came from Black Hills Balloons in Custer. The public artworks are designed to last for a minimum of three years. Managing artist Cary, appreciates the support of each community in making public fences available for this project.

Main goals of the projects are always to forge partnerships, to produce art in communities, develop visions of life, and build stronger relationships and communities.

“By creating these works, we signify the unity of South Dakota people. We also construct stronger networks and a healthier understanding of how connected we truly are. To be vital, is to be supported,” says artist Cary A. Thrall.

Thrall’s projects are funded by community and individual sponsors in each town. Following her work in Lead in 2018, Thrall scaled the size and scope to include three communities in 2019, through the Change Network’s support and leadership training of which Thrall was a part. This program is funded through the Bush Foundation and partners with a leadership team and National Arts Strategies to support change leaders from South Dakota and North Dakota through a year long project and curriculum for navigating systems change.

“One of Change Network’s greatest strengths is the cohort’s ability to learn from and assist each other thanks to their breadth of expertise,” said Kari O’Neill, Community Vitality Field Specialist with SDSU Extension. 

Local event champions for the Hot Springs project include Diane Gross, Jess Noteboom, Rajni Lerman and many others.

For more information about Linking Fences, contact Thrall, at CAT Scratch Studios, through her website at


Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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