Simplified: New public artwork is in the works downtown – and it's more than a mural. Here's what you need to know about artist Walter Portz' latest creation.

Why it matters

  • The mural is located on the west side of the old Sioux Steel building adjacent to the Levitt stage, which means it'll be very visible to everyone who comes downtown to enjoy one of the 50 free concerts throughout the summer.
  • Portz' work goes beyond the painting on the wall, though. He's also including a QR code in the mural that will unlock a virtual art exhibit on the Levitt lawn that can change and be updated over time.
  • It's also a full-circle moment for Portz. The longtime Sioux Falls resident was arrested on graffiti charges for painting unsolicited murals back in 1994. Since then, he said he's grown a lot as an artist (and has permission from Sioux Steel CEO Scott Rysdon). But he's seen Sioux Falls grow and evolve its acceptance of public art as well.
"I think there’s a lot of people that are compelled to create," Portz said. "And having a community that’s finally embracing that is really refreshing. It's taken a long time to get there."

Tell me more about the mural

Portz had a vision for the mural back when the Levitt first opened several years ago.

  • It took awhile to get things going, but once he got the go-ahead from Rysdon, Portz went quickly to work.

The image for the mural was generated by artificial intelligence using a combination of Portz' images.

  • The mural depicts the side profile of a woman singing, her black hair flowing behind her.
  • Portz is putting the mural together using stenciling, a method of work he's well familiar with and describes as his own version of "paint by numbers" where he completes one color at a time in the mural.

How does the augmented reality part work?

The QR code included in the mural will direct people to download an app called Aero.

"Within that, we can create virtual augmented reality experiences," Portz said. "You look at your phone, and it shows you the actual world around you but in certain spots in your view, you can see other things."

The first virtual exhibit will feature a combination of graffiti pieces, stencils and wheat paste murals. And it'll be able to be updated with new virtual artwork as well.

What happens next?

Portz anticipates he'll finish the mural as early as Sunday.