Skip to main content

Black Hills Playhouse Recognized for Service to Rural Communities, Awarded with Regional Grant

Two cast members and a Black Hills Playhouse employee together in an inclusive production of Robinhood. The Black Hills Playhouse stages innovate productions inclusive of people with disabilities. Last year, the program staged a production of "Robinhood."

VERMILLION, S.D. – The Black Hills Playhouse received a $50,000 United States Regional Arts Resilience grant and was recognized for its service to rural and underserved communities.

The Black Hills Playhouse, a non-profit theatre located in Custer State Park near Center Lake, South Dakota, is supported in part by the University of South Dakota College of Fine Arts. The playhouse was one of 30 organizations across the Midwest chosen for this grant, which was made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the Arts Midwest organization.

"We are so honored to have been nominated and chosen for this award. This grant will help the playhouse stay resilient and continue to serve our communities in challenging times,” said Linda Anderson, Black Hills Playhouse executive director. “The teaching artists, many of whom are graduates of USD, get the opportunity to put their performing arts education to work in a professional setting while strengthening the educational opportunities for students in rural communities.”

The Black Hills Playhouse began in 1946 as a dream of Warren M. Lee, former professor and dean of the USD College of Fine Arts. His goals were to create high-quality entertainment for people in rural areas and visitors to the Black Hills while providing training and employment opportunities for students and theatre professionals.

The Black Hills Playhouse continues this tradition and has grown to be a robust regional theatre and statewide theatrical service organization that delivers exceptional theatre programs that engage diverse people and strengthen South Dakota communities. Current programs include a 75-year-old summer stock theatre program in Custer State Park, BHP junior performing arts camps for children in fifth-twelfth grades, a touring educational theatre program (Dakota Players) which visited 40 locations in 2019, and innovative productions inclusive of people with disabilities.

“The Black Hills Playhouse is a valued partner of the USD College of Fine Arts and is part of the rich tapestry of performance experiences USD is affiliated with across this state and region,” said Bruce Kelley, Ph.D., fine arts interim dean. “Their cultural and educational mission is an extension of our goal to combine creativity and scholarship to make a difference in our world. The Black Hills Playhouse has long prepared our students and graduates to impact culture and the quality of life wherever they go—from the smallest of our South Dakota communities to the greatest stages in the world.”

The United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund’s goal is to invest in historically under-resourced arts and culture organizations across the United States as they work to weather the COVID-19 pandemic. In line with these priorities, 22 of the funded organizations are led by and serving people of color and/or Indigenous communities, and 11 are based in rural areas. Recipients may direct United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund grants to their most pressing needs and opportunities, from response activities to investments that build resiliency and sustainability.


USD's College of Fine Arts encourages students to pursue their chosen professional field in art, music or theater through their study with nationally recognized faculty who are working professionals. Students learn and grow to be professional fine artists with great job potential anywhere in the country. The college offers opportunities for additional real-world experiences through work with guest artists, study tours abroad and opportunities at the National Music Museum and the University Art Galleries on the Vermillion campus and the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. The college brings more than 80 guests artists to campus annually to work with students.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News