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Dorothy Wallace Sieh, a Groton, SD, farm wife and self-taught artist, is the inspiration for the Granary Rural Cultural Center, which sits on an acreage that was formerly part of the farm she and her husband William owned and operated.
Sieh’s son, John, watched his mother paint well into her 80s and 90s and was moved to develop his own dream of a rural cultural center to carry on her dream that artists creating all forms of art (visual, performing, and musical) should have a place to display/perform their craft with pride and dignity. Upon retirement from a successful career in insurance, John began working to develop the Granary Rural Cultural Center to benefit the artists and audiences of the upper plains.
What better spot for this facility than on the Sieh farm. John and a group of like-minded volunteers formed a group to tackle the task of refurbishing an old granary building built by his father in 1928 into a center to “celebrate the land and the animals, and the people who live here through the arts.” The structure was transformed into a five-room exhibit space without sacrificing the original floor plan, which included high ceilings and walls and unique room configurations. Additional improvements included the construction of a gazebo, the laying of brick sidewalks, and the planting of trees.
The Granary Rural Cultural Center hosted its first event, The All Dakota Fine Arts Festival, in June 1996.
During the summer of 1996 work was also progressing on the addition of a second building to the campus. Putney Hall was purchased and moved from the small town of Putney, SD. The building was completely restored now offers a space for the performing arts, workshops and exhibitions.
“Walk with Dakota” an outdoor sculpture walk became the focal point of the Granary’s campus with the first piece “Staff of Life” installed and dedicated in 2002. Since that time other pieces have been added to tell the story of the relationship between the land and the peoples who have inhabited it.
In the spring of 2012 John Sieh gifted the Granary Rural Cultural Center to the people of Brown County, South Dakota, with the Dacotah Prairie Museum appointed to administer programming and development of the facility.
Existing programs like the All Dakota High School Art Exhibition will continue and new programs will be added, so the dream of Dorothy Sieh and her son John will continue well into the future.