Zach is one of our 20 Builders and is an artist in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Name: Zach DeBoer

City/Town: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Where else can we connect with you online?

Instagram: @hello_im_zach

Who is your community? 

My community started with young artists, then all artists, now it’s expanding into the entire downtown region.

Give us a behind-the-scenes look at your average day.

I own Exposure Gallery & Studios in downtown Sioux Falls. Exposure hosts a new exhibit featuring local artists every month and is home to 10 local artist working in 7 studio spaces. Outside of that, I’ve started working on future plans for my own event/program/activist/community building organization that will be a natural evolution of my passions: art, downtown, community building, and good design.

If you could do any job, what would you do and why?

I always tell people, I just want to do cool stuff (I don’t always use the word stuff). I want to make events, programs, and changes for our city that will add value to people’s lives and will bring our phenomenal community closer.

What is the most beneficial aspect of living in the OTA region when it comes to your career?

Sioux Falls is in it’s cultural/social infancy. I’m here at the start of it all. The decisions I make, events I organize and ideas I enact all have the opportunity to make huge changes for this city and, if done well, the ripple effect of those things will be felt for years to come.

At what intersection do you live your life?

I live at the intersection of Ideas and Community.

Where do you think good ideas come from?

I think good ideas come from interaction. Whether you interact with people, places or things, ideas need something to bounce off of. If you only exist within your comfort zone, you’re going to become creatively stagnant. That’s why I try and go to every meeting, workshop or talk that I can. I might not have an initial interest in the topic or subject discussed, but it could shake a new idea loose in my head.

What’s one current trend you think will change the world?

I think ‘pop-ups’ are a brilliant concept that are already changing the way we try, test and invent new ideas. Pop-up shops, galleries, parks, restaurants etc. capture the public’s attention and fill a void for the new, exciting and spontaneous. Plus, they take away the risks involved with starting a new business. Basically, they’re low cost, short-term obligations where wild ideas can be tested.

What’s the best way to put inspiration into action?

The answer might be a bit obvious, but just jump right in. Set a date, tell your friends, and go for it. Too much thinking before you do something can usually lead you to talking yourself out of something. Take a risk, make it happen.

What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?

Opening Exposure Gallery & Studios was and still is a risk. Art galleries in Sioux Falls tend to have a short life expectancy for numerous reasons, the biggest one being money. I’m learning that first-hand. Exposure is definitely not a moneymaker. In fact, I find myself often dipping into my own funds to continue its success. But that doesn’t matter. Because of Exposure, hundreds of our community members come together every month, artists are given the spotlight they deserve and might not have had otherwise, and life-long friendships have been formed. It’s turned into the most challenging and rewarding endeavors I’ve ever taken on.

What’s your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?

I went to school to earn a teaching degree and after I graduated I taught middle school art for two years. During my time as an educator, I loved working with my students and teaching them different art techniques and helping them explore their creativity. But looking back, I could’ve applied myself more to my lesson plans and how I taught my students. I played it too safe with straight forward lesson plans designed to teach what the district-written curriculum told me to do. I believe the person I am now wouldn’t take that easy road and let those rules squash my desire to give my students a more fulfilling art experience.

Who do you hope to leave a legacy for?

I don’t want to leave a legacy for any one person. I hope I can leave something behind for our community that will enrich their lives, weather that’s through Exposure or even something as simple as a bench in a park. I want someone to sit on that bench and think “man, I’m glad there’s a bench here.” It’s not about having my name up on a wall, I just hope to leave something tangible for people to enjoy when I’m gone.

The OTA Builders are a group of individuals who thrive on possibility and use all opportunities they are given to grow both in their careers and in their passions. We seek creatives who are tenacious and strong-willed movers and doers and are driven to make a significant impact on the people around them and the community they call home. These people recognize their talents and capabilities and find ways to continuously grow and learn from them. Why is this you?

I suppose the easiest answer is determination. Whether I make it into this program, receive a Bush Fellowship, a grant or anything else; I’m going to do what I set out to do. I’ve proven myself in small ways over the past year in a variety of ways: opening Exposure, uniting a community of young artists who didn’t have a voice, bringing public art to the streets of downtown, inventing and improving new events in the downtown area through my work at DTSF etc. But now I’m ready to make the leap into the next tier of my life. I’m going to start building ideas/events/programs that will have a greater reach and impact on the community and city I love.

What project will you focus on as part of the OTA Builders Program?

The projects I’d like to work on during the OTA Builders Program are wide and varied. Each may hit on a different area of focus including art, tactical urbanism, community building, and urban planning.

What change / advancement do you hope to achieve as part of the OTA Builders Program?

I hope to grow my current set of skills by learning directly from the leadership of others or through collaboration with peers. I want this program to push me forward professionally in ways that may have taken years to develop on my own.