50 Artists to Watch: Heather Pickering

Heather Pickering is a Rapid City artist and founder and artistic director of Flutter Productions, an all-ability dance theatre company, which is a division of Black Hills Works.

Pickering holds a MFA in Acting and Directing from the University of Wisconsin, a BA in Theatre from Colorado State University with an emphasis in music and dance and a BS in Secondary Education from Chadron State College. She has worked both on stage and behind the scenes for

Heather Pickering head shot.jpg

organizations such as: The Guthrie, The Children’s Theatre of Madison, The Georgia Shakespeare Festival, The Post Playhouse, Up With People, Storybook Island Children’s Theatre, Black Hills Dance Theatre, Outright Dance Theatre, Black Hills Community Theatre, The Firehouse Theatre, Open Stage Theatre Company, Prima School of Dancing and both Stevens and Central High School in Rapid City. She was the recipient for the 2008 Community Connection Award from Black Hills Works and the National Community Building Award from the ANCOR Foundation in 2011.


Flutter was founded in 2008 by Pickering while serving as the Education and Outreach Director for Black Hills Community Theatre (BHCT). BHCT had received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to create an original piece of theatre in partnership with the Suzie Cappa Players at the Suzie Cappa Art Center and the result was a production entitled: Flutter. Flutter continued to do biennial productions and in 2013 and 2014 Flutter joined forces with LifeScape Center for the Arts to expand to include Sioux Falls. A total of 10 all-ability performances have been created to date.

In 2015 Flutter Productions became a division of Black Hills Works and now operates year round. Working with a composer, and choreographer, Flutter currently produces one larger show in the summer, and two smaller productions during the school year. Flutter recently launched a 360 Degree Arts Camp that allows individuals with disabilities the chance to escape to the scenic Black Hills and be immersed in a variety of art experiences taught by trained professionals in: music, visual art, theatre, and dance.

Heather and the crew at Flutter Productions are in a constant state of art making, and the public has plenty of opportunities to participate in the various events. Coming this fall, Journeys, a collection of six vignettes written by individuals with disabilities will run Sept. 29-30 in the Studio Theater at the Performing Arts Center of Rapid City. It is a multi-disciplinary piece of theatre that is created in part by the cast. The two performances will be held at 7:30 PM.

On October 21, Flutter Productions will be partnering with the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra, and Ekphrasis Dance Company from Academy of Dance Arts for Something Wicked This Way Comes. The performance will happen at 7:30 PM in the Historic Theater at the Performing Arts Center of Rapid City. The evening promises that the audience will be able to treat themselves to a dark and stormy night with spooky symphonic classics along with dance apparitions sure to make your heart flutter.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting followed Flutter behind the scenes during the summer of 2017 during their production of: CHROMA – Painting a World of Inclusivity. Directed and Designed by Heather Pickering, Composed by Andrew Grace, Choreographed by Sara Olivier, and Assistant Directed by Kameron Nelson, CHROMA featured an all-ability cast of 40 individuals that painted a 24’x36’ canvas in real time. The piece was performed in Founder’s Park with the audience seated on all four sides of the canvas. The cast told the story of one young boy seeking his artistic voice. The special will air on SDPB later in the fall/winter of 2017.

Currently, Pickering is working on launching an education and outreach team through Flutter Productions into the local school system to teach kids about disabilities. A total of nine original, all-ability performance projects have been created to date. In 2017 Flutter Productions received a Building Humanities Communities challenge grant from the National Endowment for the humanities. Over the next three years they will be partnering with the University of South Dakota School of Medicine and the Department of Disabilities to facilitate discussions that probe the history and culture of people with disabilities through the disciplinary lens of disability studies.

Don’t miss out on your chance to experience the fantastic work Heather is doing throughout South Dakota and the lasting impact she has on people and communities.


Photo by Russell Jensen, Sage Studios


50 Artists to Watch is a special project  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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