Mixed media artist Ceca Cooper has been in Sioux Falls for almost 25 years and 17 of those have been spent teaching. Cooper is an associate professor of art at the University of Sioux Falls and is also a working artist, using creative and unique pieces she finds all around her in her paintings.

605 chatted with the mother of five on what she is up to when she’s not in her downtown studio or in front of a classroom.

PEOPLE MIGHT KNOW ME FROM… the Edith Sanford Breast CenterRaven IndustriesAva’s House, and Monks House of Ale Repute.

I STARTED PAINTING… when I was in second grade. My mom gave me one of those wooden briefcases full of oil paints and several canvases. I painted and listened to The Supremes and Johnny Mathis records. I never really stopped painting after that.

I COLLECT UNIQUE ITEMS FOR MIXED MEDIA… from the streets constantly. I once used a piece of old, dried up chewing gum I found on the ground. I have also used pieces of rugs, old x-rays, lace, run-over rusted metals, and of course, I continue to use tar in most of my works.

MY PIECE FOR ARTS NIGHT AT THE WASHINGTON PAVILLION IS… a really fun piece inspired by the architecture and designs in a small town south of Barcelona called Sitges. Every building has beautiful, ornate architectural embellishments in wild colors.

SOMETHING I’M WORKING ON NOW IS… a series of small, abstract landscapes. When I was in Europe in January with USF students, I had the pleasure of visiting the Tate Modern in London and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, both of which have tremendous collections of abstract masterworks that greatly inspired me to begin this body of work.

STUDENTS AT USF HAVE TAUGHT ME… to never grow old and to keep on learning and exploring.

“Nature continues to be my biggest muse in my artwork.”

LOCAL ARTISTS I CURRENTLY LOVE ARE…  Joe Schaeffer and Rick Johns are both rocking the art scene here. Joe has an incredible gestural approach to painting, and Rick’s work is always filled with incredible mark making, color, and texture. I love both of them.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE PIECES OF LOCAL ART IN MY PERSONAL COLLECTION ARE…  I have always loved the tall, narrow piece at Parker’s Bistro in the main dining room which is part of the Ode to a Nightingale series inspired by John Keats’s poem, as well as the coming and goings of yellow warblers at Blood Run.

HOW I’M HANDLING THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS IS… taking long walks (or snowshoeing) and spending more time in the studio. I’m actually moving my office to my studio for as long as I can. Since our courses are all online for a few weeks, I can go back and forth between painting and checking in on my online courses.

WHEN I’M NOT WORKING ON ART, YOU CAN FIND ME… during warm weather, either in the Butterfly Meditation Garden at USF or my own garden at home or walking/snowshoeing along the Big Sioux River, or riding my bicycle around downtown.


Arts Night has been moved from April 25 to a pending new date. Follow the Washington Pavilion for details

A MOMENT I’LL NEVER FORGET IN MY CAREER IS… when I got the phone call from New American Paintings that I had been chosen as one of 20 artists out of over 600 from around the U.S. to be featured in the 2000 edition of New American Paintings.

SOMETHING THAT MIGHT SURPRISE PEOPLE ABOUT ME IS… I grew up in southern Arkansas hunting and fishing almost every day. I was one of the top skeet shooters in my age group when I was 10 years old.

SOMETHING I’M DOING WITH ART RIGHT NOW THAT I’M EXCITED ABOUT IS… exploring encaustic painting. It is a mixture of beeswax, dry pigment, and dammar resin fused together with heat.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES TO STOP BY IN TOWN IS… Antiques on 18th. I’m always looking for interesting objects to work with.


ONE THING I LOVE ABOUT SOUTH DAKOTA… how quickly one can get out for a walk in nature. No traffic jams to speak of.

For more information, visit cecacooper.com
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