It was late last summer when Jim Goplin—then chair of the Dakota Buttes Visitors Council—approached the group about Nigerian Painter Dotun Popoola designing something for the community of Hettinger.
Popoola had already completed murals in New England and Lemmon, S.D., as wells as the painting inside Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Hettinger.
By the time Goplin had conferred with the rest of the council the weather was beginning to change, and a start date would have to wait until the weather warmed.
But late in December Goplin and the council had come up with roughly five designs that Popoola could gain inspiration from.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and Popoola and Goplin could be seen around Hettinger, scouting potential design locations.
“We had in mind, one location, and that was the north wall of the graphic design and Printing,” Goplin said. “That’s the way it started out.”
He told the Record that the side of the Image Maker would have been ideal because of the proximity to the highway, but that the empty lot leaves open the potential for another building to be built. But right on the highway would be where Goplin would want the painting.
“I’m looking more for potential community walls, especially ones you can see on Highway 12,” he said.
Main Street, though potentially home to heavy traffic, wouldn’t allow the maximum exposure a highway location would be able to offer.
Goplin also thought of the space next to White Drug, but it is covered by a green house for up to three months of the summer.
At this point they have potentially four inside locations and one outside location, and Goplin is waiting to hear back from another. The true desire, according to Goplin, is to make it a community wall, and put it some place even people driving by can admire, which is why a Highway 12 location is the most desirable.
Goplin said that the community response has been positive, and that he has had many people offer up inside locations.
Popoola said he is ready to get going when there is a location, and that he can get a job done fairly quick depending on the size and detail of the sketch.
“Basically I can be very fast,” he said.
For example, the painting in Lemmon—which measures 120 feet wide and 15 feet tall—took 15 days. Weather is also undoubtably a factor for him.
“If the weather is favorable, than [my] hand does not shake,” he said. “If the weather is cold than [my] had freezes. All those factors need to be considered,” he said. “That’s why it’s good to do outdoor painting in the summer.”
Popoola, who holds a degree in sculpture and a masters degree in painting, operates the National Gallery of Arts in Nigeria. He joking told the Record that he has been painting right from his mother’s womb and continued right from his baby crib. He has been painting professionally since 2000.