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Man of few words is 2017 Artist of the Year

Shawn Bifulco is a man of few words, but his art speaks volumes. The 29-year-old artist was recently named the 2017 Suzie Cappa Art Center & Gallery Artist of the Year. “He’s an amazing artist,” said Suzie Cappa Executive Director Brad Winter.


Shawn Bifulco is a man of few words, but his art speaks volumes. The 29-year-old artist was recently named the 2017 Suzie Cappa Art Center & Gallery Artist of the Year. “He’s an amazing artist,” said Suzie Cappa Executive Director Brad Winter.

Suzie Cappa chooses one artist each year to celebrate and highlight, a tradition that began in 2002 when Black Hills Works artist Suzie Cappa’s legacy was first honored. “Everyone is so deserving of it,” Winter said, but Bifulco was chosen for his longevity at the center, commitment to art, and his talent. “He’s an amazing acrylic artist. He does abstract and real-life looking animals.”

Bifulco was announced as Artist of the Year during a reception in January, and will be honored on May 7 during the Suzie Cappa Royal Tea. He first discovered his love for art in high school when he took a pottery class. The opportunities provided to him at Suzie Cappa have been exciting and important to Bifulco’s life, according to his mother, Lyndee O’Neill. “I always told my kids you can do anything you put your mind to,” she said.

In 2010, a self-portrait by Bifulco was exhibited during a party at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. His artwork is displayed in the Rapid City community as well, including a large wolf painting displayed at West Middle School. Two years ago, he was one of four artists selected to work with famed speed painter Michael Israel. “Michael was really impressed with him,” Winter said.

Bifulco is also known for a large cardboard lizard, a creation he completed by stacking, gluing and sanding cardboard and clay. “When he focuses on something, he’s just so passionate about it,” Winter said. “It is neat to see.”

Winter hopes that Bifulco will be encouraged by being chosen Artist of the Year. “We have two to three of his original works on the wall,” Winter said. “Everything else has sold. We always tell him what a great artist he is, but we hope this gives him affirmation. We want for him to recognize what a talent he has.”

The annual honor has turned into a bit of friendly competition among the Suzie Cappa artists. It also creates confidence, and is a wonderful way to celebrate talent, hard work and success. It had a significant impact on last year’s winner, Jill Holien. “Her whole person changed,” Winter said. “Now she holds her head up high, explains her work to people, and hands out business cards. I hope this brings that kind of positivity to Shawn’s life as well.”

O’Neill said her son never talks about his art, but he was visibly happy when he received the news that he was selected as Artist of the Year. “He just focuses on his painting,” she said. “He’s got the finished product in his mind and he’s not going to talk to anybody—he’s just going to do it.”

Bifulco lives in Black Hawk, South Dakota, with his mother, and she hopes 2017 brings more time in the art studio for him. If not, she’s confident he’ll continue great artwork at home as well. “Right now he’s soaking cardboard in the bathtub and hanging it up to dry, like he did with the lizard. He’s up to something new. I can’t wait to see what comes of it.”

Neither can we.


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