Artist’s legacy will live on with help from new fund supporting the arts

Dec. 28, 2020

This paid piece is sponsored by the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation.

A new charitable fund established in memory of local art legend Carl Grupp is aiming to inspire young artists and ensure that local creativity continues to thrive.

Carl Grupp was a renowned artist, iconic teacher, passionate scholar and prolific storyteller.

But before he was all of those things, he was just a kid from Sioux Falls with red hair and thick glasses who was trying to find his way.

While he loved to draw — he even worked as the cartoonist for the Orange & Black, the Washington High School student newspaper — Grupp was, admittedly, more of a curious dreamer than serious student. He was a fan of classic stories like “Dick Tracy” and “The Lone Ranger,” but by the time his senior year came around, he still didn’t have a good sense of where his own story was headed or what his next chapter would be.

That all changed when his high school civics teacher took the time to encourage him to pursue a college education.

“I didn’t think I was college material, but because of him, I changed my mind and tried to go to school,” Grupp said in a 2013 interview with The Augustana alumni magazine. “I thought it was amazing that he would tell me that. I wasn’t a great student in high school. I’d be lucky if I got a C in civics class. You just never know where the encouragement you need is going to come from.”

For Grupp, that encouragement made all the difference. Knowing that someone believed in him provided the spark he needed to enroll at Augustana University. There, he studied under art legends Palmer Eide and Ogden Dalrymple, both of whom inspired Grupp to discover and pursue his own passions for art.

After Augustana, Grupp studied at the School of Associated Arts in St. Paul and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where he earned the prestigious Ethel Morrison VanDerlip Fellowship. After traveling and studying art abroad, he went on to earn his Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University. In 1969, he returned to his roots and took a job teaching art at Augustana. He would go on to spend nearly four decades at the university, teaching, guiding and shaping the careers of generations of artists while continuing to produce his own artwork, participating in more than 100 regional, national and international art exhibitions.

While Grupp passed away in 2019 at the age of 79, the story of his extraordinary life is about to come full circle thanks to a new fund established by his children as a way to honor his legacy.

The Carl A. Grupp Charitable Fund, held at the Community Foundation, is designed to “create opportunities for kids to find inspiration, just like he did,” said Grupp’s daughter, Saskia Ekstrom.

“Dad’s foundation was built around a teacher who pushed him to think differently, who challenged him to use his abilities to the fullest. That changed his whole life. That moment in time changed everything. We wanted to do something to create opportunities for today’s young artists to receive the same kind of encouragement he did.”

“That’s what’s driving us in creating this fund,” said Grupp’s son, Carl Grupp Jr. “Our dad’s whole life was dedicated to creating — to pouring out what was going on in his life into his artwork and to teaching and inspiring his students. We want to honor his legacy by supporting initiatives that will inspire and create the next generation of dreamers, artists and art teachers, as well as movements that use art as a way to build and strengthen the community.”

Distributions from the fund will support various initiatives and movements throughout Sioux Falls that will inspire and celebrate art and the imagination of art, as well as efforts that support the teaching of art. Distributions will be reviewed and awarded by Grupp’s children.

In addition to opening doors for creativity, the fund’s timing is critical given the pandemic’s impact on the arts.

“We know the pandemic has impacted our local arts organizations as well as local artists in extraordinary ways,” said Mary Kolsrud, the Community Foundation’s vice president for philanthropy. “But in reality, the impact is far greater — that’s because we all need the power of the arts to help understand, heal and learn from this complicated moment in time.”

“At the Community Foundation, we’re here to help create positive change through philanthropy, and this is such a great example of how we do that by matching the interests and passions of donors with needs and opportunities that exist within our community,” she said. “While this fund celebrates the life of a truly amazing individual, it also ensures Carl Grupp’s legacy of care and creativity lives on — creating opportunities for artists to grow and thrive, which in turn enhances the vibrancy of our entire community.”

Flexibility and the potential for impact

Grupp Jr. and Ekstrom said their decision to honor their father’s legacy with a fund at the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation came about because of two reasons: flexibility and impact.

“Dad didn’t leave us answers or instructions for what to do with the enormous physical collection of art he left behind,” Grupp Jr. said. “I think he knew we would figure it out. I think he just wanted us to be patient until the pieces clicked into place. We feel like we’ve found a good partnership working with the Foundation. The team at the Foundation knows this community and the needs and opportunities that exist here. We know the Foundation will make us aware of opportunities this fund could support that we wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.”

In order to have the greatest impact far into the future, Grupp Jr. and Ekstrom are hoping to grow the fund to support future dreams, such as an after-school art program for students at the Washington Pavilion led by visiting artists, future art exhibits, programs to help families engage in the arts and more.

“We can only imagine what the possibilities will be, and we can only imagine how excited Dad would feel about all of this,” Grupp Jr. said.

Cody Henrichs, curator for the Washington Pavilion’s Visual Arts Center, agreed.

“Having spent time with the Grupp family, you can’t help but feel the energy of Carl coming through in his family’s desire to support the arts community. This will be a wonderful resource in supporting aspiring artists in our area,” Henrichs said.

Those interested in joining the movement to honor Grupp’s legacy by creating opportunities for future artists and creative endeavors can do so by:

• Making a gift to the Carl A. Grupp Charitable Fund online at
• Purchasing Grupp’s original artwork. Proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Carl A. Grupp Charitable Fund. See Grupp’s collection of work for sale online here.

Learn more about creating a charitable legacy by clicking here.

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Artist’s legacy will live on with help from new fund supporting the arts

A new charitable fund established in memory of local art legend Carl Grupp is aiming to inspire young artists and ensure that local creativity continues to thrive.

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