50 Artists to Watch: Altman Studeny

Altman Studeny is a Plankinton, SD artist, but you’ll seldom find him at home. He’s frequently traveling the state, connecting with people, and collaborating with other artists.

“My work, whether painting, installation, or community collaboration deals most usually with questions of Midwestern mythology. When I was growing up at my family’s newspaper office in Plankinton, I’d spend hours every summer pouring through the stacks of yellowing newsprint to read stories of cloud seeders, locust swarms, and baseball teams comprised entirely of brothers. These narratives were as thrilling to me as any Hardy Boys mystery or comic book, and in a region whose potential is often overlooked, it’s important to me that each community value its own stories as having a role to play in the formation of the future.”

Altman takes particular interest in food traditions of our region (think Jell-O, dessert bars, casseroles…) as well as roadside attractions. Through both, he recognizes ways art practices are frequently brought into homes and lives without us even realizing it.

He’s currently on a road trip as an OTA Builder, and he’s taking us all along for the ride on the OTA Facebook page. For this project, Altman is collecting “elements” (soil, seeds, stones, etc…) important to the cultural or geographic history of the cities and towns where OTA events have been held. Many of these places happen to be regionally significant locations anyway (Bismarck, Duluth, Rapid City…), but Altman hopes to reveal something interesting about why places grew as they did when the differences between these natural elements are set side by side. Check out his photo/video/journaling to keep up.

Altman, through his art, seeks to address questions of regional responsibility in cultural creation with a strong emphasis on fostering inclusiveness through collaborative art-making. He’s worked as a resident teaching artist with our Artists in Schools and Communities program since 2008.

“Some of the greatest satisfaction I get as an artist is developing place-specific projects with underrepresented communities across the State. I believe that it’s incredibly important for each individual to feel able to engage in the process of cultural creation for him or herself, which both empowers individuals and works to make art more inclusive.” he wrote.

“When it really comes down to it, no art is apolitical, and I think it’s important for artists to recognize their role as teachers, even if they never set foot in a classroom.”

His thoughtfulness, energy and quirky style of contemporary conceptual art make him a favorite among students and teachers.


50 Artists to Watch is a special project we’re embarking on in celebration of our 50th anniversary at the South Dakota Arts Council. This series of short artist features is intended to share the work of South Dakota artists on a wide platform. It is not intended as a list of top or best artists. It is not presented in any particular order. Featured artists are being selected from nominations sent to us. You can nominate an artist by emailing sdac@state.sd.us. We can’t include them all, but we’ll keep all nominations on a list for future features and blogs.

We welcome your continued suggestions for 50 Artists to Watch and your (constructive) comments about the work of those being featured.




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