Visiting Artist and Students Bring Dignity to Life through Artwork

Curriel showed students how to sketch their model, Dignity, using the photograph he took.

When he arrived in town, Hector Curriel went for a walk as he pondered the subject for his artist’s residency with grades 3 through 5 at St. Joseph’s Indian School the following week. Coming upon Dignity, he snapped a photo of her against the turbulent South Dakota sky and knew at once he had met his model for the week’s classes.

Dignity stands 50-feet-tall above Chamberlain, S.D., where I-90 dips downward to the Missouri River. Designed by sculptor Dale Lamphere, she honors the courage, perseverance and wisdom of the culture of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota children who attend St. Joseph’s.

Although students took time to concentrate on their art, there was also time for silliness.

Curriel worked with each of six classes twice during the week of October 4. In the first session, he showed students how to sketch their model, Dignity, using the photograph he took earlier. The drawings would guide the washes of watercolor applied to bring her to life. Even the younger students captured the grace, pride and movement of Lamphere’s statue, their own cultural character illustrated by their hands.

During the next session, Curriel used the first 15 minutes to show them how to make a watercolor wash and apply it consistently. After that layer, they would add color and shadow. Students fell silent, focused and had good results with the sometimes tricky medium. Curriel and Art Teacher Rachel Butzin encouraged. “I like your sky.” “That’s just amazing.” “Very nice.”

Students were able to take home their own caricature, drawn by Curriel.

Then Curriel used the last 25 minutes, hastily and effectively moving through the room of as many as 12 students to create a caricature of each. “I like it. I’m ‘Shaggy.’ I’ll probably give this to my grandma,” giggled Gunner of the caricature that accentuated his long hair hanging in pieces across his face.

Curriel is a watercolor expert, cartoonist and book illustrator. Born in Lima, Peru, he now lives in Sioux Falls, S.D., and enjoys being part of the art community.

St. Joseph’s Librarian Claire Nehring took advantage of the opportunity to integrate his residency into her classroom, where students read a book that Curriel illustrated, “Beauford Peever’s Animal Family.” In keeping with the themes of character and caricature, Beauford finds his family members resemble animals. In this way, he sees their unique characteristics and the ways they show love for each other.

To learn more about the great things happening at St. Joseph’s Indian School, visit

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

5 thoughts on “Visiting Artist and Students Bring Dignity to Life through Artwork”

  1. My husband and I had the opportunity to see Dignity when we attended the Powwow in 2019. She is breathtaking! Additionally, I can really appreciate this story because my husband’s grandfather was both an illustrator and a watercolor artist. Also, his father was a watercolor artist and his brother paints in both watercolor and oil. We are surrounded by beautiful, original, family created artwork and we realize how fortunate we are.

  2. To those who think they might be or are artists and to those who think “I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler,” art is an expression that is given one way or another to all of us and it is a beautiful way to reach our God connection, as that is Who gives us the Gift. Some years ago, I taught a class at a church to a group of church going folks who just wanted to “be able to draw”. I am a commercial artist, one who has done the gamut of commercial work… fashion illustration, web design, magazine layouts and illustration and so on, so I thought I might be able to somehow help these people FEEL that expression and get enjoyment from it. Well, it was an amazing 8 weeks. One dear lady wanted so badly to have a portrait of her sick old dog, a small Westie, who’d been a companion to her for several years. Another younger woman wanted to draw her boyfriend, as he was so very special to her. With a little bit of “coaching” and some hints of approaches that I had experienced over the years, these two ladies brought amazing pieces of art to the class to show. Not only that, but they then, HAD these pieces of art that meant so very much to them. And, others, then, were inspired by their successes and went forth and had their own successes. Mostly what I did was just watch and every now and then, give an encouragement or another hint of ways to bring forth that beloved expression. The GIFT is there, it just takes some trust and maybe a couple of “hints” to enjoy that very special expression. As God is always with us, so, of course, are His Gifts. If you want, DECIDE to draw, then ENJOY!


    1. Hi Shirley, we are so sorry to hear about your health and will pray for you. If you’d like to change your mail preferences, please email your mailing address and name to and someone can update your account so you stop receiving fundraising mail. Thank you and God bless!

    2. That is really sad, Shirley, BUT you have to do what is good for you. It’s hard to be older and have limited income which you can barely manage… and every month it’s a mental/emotional race to see WHO’s gonna get paid. I will be thinking about you and add you to my Love and Light list (nightly meditation, sending lots of Love and Light to folks who can use it… INCLUDING our beautiful Native American Lakota children… and their supporters). So; hope for you some relief and joy in your life AND remember that while sending money works, all good thoughts you have for our Lakota children also works to their advantage. Do what you can and always with Love and Light.

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