kellen boice

Aftyn Shah & Kellen Boice


When artist Aftyn Shah was invited to South Dakota, her original idea that the state was one monolithic prairie shifted. Experienced in block printing, she was inspired by South Dakota’s rock formations and the passion of local artists like Kellen Boice. Read on to learn more about Aftyn’s trip to South Dakota and Kellen’s perspective on being an artist in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Kellen Boice

Tell us a little bit about life in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

I grew up here in Sioux Falls most of my adult life and from my travels, I can honestly say we have something pretty special going on here. SF is not too small-town and not too “big city,” if that makes sense. We have a great variety of places to shop, eat and play, and the locals are super friendly. 

What attributes of the Sioux Falls community make you proud to be a resident?

We have a growing arts and entrepreneur community that is very welcoming and inclusive. People want to help other succeed, whether it's local artists getting together for a critique or small businesses networking to move their business forward. 

Tell us about your role as the director of the Sioux Falls Design Center. What does a day in the life entail?

Being the ED of the SFDC is a very unique role indeed. Every day can be different but one thing remains the same—we are driven by design. We partner with many different design organizations to promote what their groups are doing as well as work with local universities to highlight student design work, host workshops, lectures and events like the 6th Annual Sioux Falls Design Week, which we just held. 

What kind of an impact does the Sioux Falls Design Center have on Sioux Falls? What are some of its goals for the community?

Our mission is “Empowering Community Through Design,” and we do that in many ways. A great example of this is our current work with the City of Sioux Falls to help aid in their efforts to revamp the public transit system. Part of the challenge will be communicating the new changes with maps, signage and mobile applications, and we know we can make a difference by addressing those issues through the lens of design. 

What are the top three takeaways from your experiences with Aftyn?

Aftyn was well-traveled and had been to many beautiful places. Even so, she found beauty in the plains and talked about how the vast blue skies and pink rock formations were a pleasant surprise. It made me realize, as locals, we take that for granted but should embrace that more.

Aftyn was a very down-to-earth person. Growing up in a smaller rural town herself, she seemed to like the peacefulness of South Dakota and quiet. It could be just a few miles from Sioux Falls and feel like you are the only person around for 100 miles. 

She seemed to appreciate all of the places where you can find art in Sioux Falls—coffee shops, retail, and restaurants as well as your typical gallery spaces. 

What was most the most inspiring thing about her and her artistic style?

With block printing, most of the work you do does not show as you are scraping away the parts of the block you do not want to see once on paper. Much of her work is tedious and very precise to get the look that she wants.  Looking at a landscape and simplifying it to translate as a block print is not an easy task but the work she creates makes it look effortless. There is something very therapeutic about her work once you understand that. 

What key insights about Sioux Falls art and South Dakota as a whole did you hope to provide Aftyn?  

We met on a very rainy day and were supposed to walk around Sculpture Walk. Instead we popped into Ipso Gallery at Fresh Produce to check out their most recent show and talk with their gallery coordinator about the work that was up. Aftyn seemed to love the little gallery space and all the wonders it had and even left with some sweet swag. We checked out the design center's gallery of graphic design work, then walked over to Rehfelds to see some more work from local artists. I wanted Aftyn to see our vibrant community and how the local businesses come together to support the artists. We are not a big city but the diversity of artists we support is and is something we should be proud of and show off. 

kellen boice
Courtesy of Aftyn Shah
Kellen Boice
Courtesy of Aftyn Shah

Aftyn Shah

Tell us a little bit about yourself and the origins of your unique artistic style. When did it start? How did it develop? What were some key influences?

I’m the outdoorsy printmaker and painter behind Rise + Wander, my creative studio in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. With a background in communications and federal strategy consulting, art was never in my plans until a life-changing car accident brought it into my life as part of rehabilitative therapy. Living with the daily effects of a traumatic brain injury, one of my doctors suggested I use art to keep my hands busy and give my brain mental stretch activities. I started block printing on a whim, inspired by Indian mother-in-law’s beautiful block-printed textiles. That was in early 2015 and I haven’t stopped since, learning and exploring the medium with each and every block.

How did South Dakota surprise you?

While I always knew South Dakota was one of the larger states, I never fully realized how diverse the landscapes can be. There are the expansive green fields that we all associate with the Midwest, but there are also otherworldly landscapes mixed in— sometimes rather suddenly. One minute, you’re driving through a beautiful agricultural town and the next you’re in the midst of monolithic rock formations or stacks of beautifully colored stones. There’s so much more to the landscape than what we all picture from roaming bison stereotypes we have.

What was one of the most inspirational attributes you discovered about the state?

As an artist who focuses primarily on the lines and textures of the great outdoors, the rock formations across South Dakota are incredibly inspiring. 

How will your new experiences of South Dakota impact your art? Any specific areas you’ll draw direct creative inspiration from?

I’ll definitely draw inspiration from some of the landscapes but, more than that, I really respect how tight-knit the creative community is in Sioux Falls. I know part of that is just the nature of Sioux Falls being a smaller city, but I think many of the creatives make an effort to support one another and draw others into their creative practices, even just for moral support. I’d love to cultivate that here in my smaller community outside Philadelphia. 

What are some of the key takeaways from your experiences with Kellen?

She’s incredibly passionate about Sioux Falls and helping to empower the local creative community and making the city a great place for creative ingenuity. I loved her story of taking the local Sioux Falls flag to the people and getting it through the local bureaucracy. 
When I heard about the Sioux Falls Design Center, I originally had something very different in mind. I thought it would be a large building with several employees, maybe even a few departments. Instead, it’s one well-considered multi-purpose room, and that’s pretty awesome. It can be used however they need it to be used. It’s a really great space and something any community would be lucky to have.

What will you remember most about this trip?

I will definitely remember connecting with other creatives like Anna Youngers and Dalton Coffey, and the conversations we had around our struggles and inspirations. Regardless of location, some of these things are universal.

On your next trip to South Dakota, what area(s) of the state do you plan on visiting and why?

I plan to return to the Badlands with my family at some point, further exploring the beautiful rock formations there. But I’d also love to spend time exploring the northern part of the state, particularly the northeast, with all those beautiful lakes. 

Kellen Boice
Courtesy of Aftyn Shah
Kellen Boice
Courtesy of Aftyn Shah
Illustrated image of three bison grazing in Custer State Park. The Needles rock formation is visible in the background.
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