A Strong Sense of Place and Space

By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015



 Photo courtesy of Micheal Two Bulls

Photo courtesy of Micheal Two Bulls

Micheal Two Bulls (Oglala Lakota) is an artist from Rapid City, South Dakota and the Red Shirt Table community located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, also in South Dakota. Micheal received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in 2009. He was awarded a 2015 Artist in Business Leadership fellowship, served as the Northern Plains Artist in Residence at the University of South Dakota in summer 2016, and was a 2018 IAIA Artist-in-Residence. Micheal is a multi-media artist with a focus on printmaking.


Studio, warehouse, bedroom, basement. Micheal has always found space to do his art despite distractions. This past year, he transitioned into a large studio inside Racing Magpie — a hub for creativity, congregation, sustainability, and learning. It’s given Micheal new opportunities for his career — and for fellow artists.

 Photo by Micheal Two Bulls

Photo by Micheal Two Bulls

“I opened up my studio for a lot of other artists to come and work on their own projects or on collaborations,” Micheal says. “We also run it as a music studio. It’s multi-functional.”

Micheal recently collaborated with FPF employee, Bryan Parker (White Mountain Apache, Muscogee Creek, Mississippi Choctaw) and Racing Magpie to create a mural on the side of the building. Micheal grew up in a family of artists in the Red Shirt community where the tourist economy thrived on the stereotypical art of Natives. The mural they created needed to be more than that. Micheal and Bryan decided to start with telling a traditional Lakota story of the great race between the magpie and the buffalo, which also the inspiration for the building’s name, Racing Magpie. It evolved from there.

 Photo by Chynna Lockett

Photo by Chynna Lockett

Years before at IAIA, Micheal was challenged to look past the stereotypical, to ask questions, to think critically about his art and the purpose behind it.

 “This is a Stereotype” by Micheal Two Bulls

“This is a Stereotype” by Micheal Two Bulls

Now his studio space at Racing Magpie has grown into a community of its own. Printmakers are especially interested in a rare piece of equipment that came to their region through Micheal’s 2018 First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital (CC) fellowship: an etching press bed.

With his CC fellowship, Micheal plans to hold community workshops to teach printmaking, and allow fellow artists to use the press bed.

“Give me a piece of charcoal, I can make something,” Micheal says. “But there’s something else to be said about having these tools and materials. You have this responsibility as well for other artists that are learning, that are willing to come and take your workshop or listen to the lecture. You become a teacher.”

“There’s something else to be said about having these tools and materials. You have this responsibility as well for other artists that are learning, that are willing to come and take your workshop or listen to the lecture. You become a teacher.”
— Micheal Two Bulls, 2018 Artist in Business Leadership Fellow

Micheal is challenging students to ask questions and push beyond the boundaries of their views on art as he learned to do.

He says, “I feel that it is important for students to have a strong sense of place and who they are and where they come from.”