James1stGen: Fostering the Arts in Sioux Falls

Words by Sonja O’Steen

Photos by Brooke Hamilton-Nichols

It takes a lot of sacrifice to be an artist. Just ask James1stGen.

The musician, entrepreneur and art community advocate has been busy the last couple years. He launched 1stGenHQ, an urban streetwear clothing store located in the heart of Sioux Falls with his brother. They upcycle various apparel items and give them new life. He’s also writing, mixing and performing his own music, and fostering a thriving community for artists.

This week, James is celebrating two years of bringing artists together through Art Maneuver, a monthly event where local artists come together to sell their art.

“Art Maneuver is just a fun local event for artists. It’s a lot of special people coming together and supporting one another,” James said. “We’ve definitely helped inspire people to make their art. We want to bring people together and support each other in a safe space.”

Born and raised in Sioux Falls, James joined the Marine Corp after graduating from Lincoln High School in 2011. While stationed in San Diego, he would venture to L.A. to visit friends and play music there. He even had friends visit him at his barracks in San Diego where they would record music using a little USB microphone.

“I’ve always been passionate about music,” he said. “I find it captivating.”

James wasn’t planning to come back to South Dakota after his time in the military, moving to L.A. in 2016. 

“I still don’t consider myself truly back,” he said of Sioux Falls. “I do a lot of shows in the Midwest so it’s easier to be in Sioux Falls right now.”

James hopes to spend more time in L.A. in the near future to work on his music.

“I’ve been back in Sioux Falls for a while now because of the store, but I have a lot of projects I want to do in L.A. so I’d like to get back there,” he said. “A lot of things I want to do involve being away from here. And oddly enough, the more I do away from here, the more people here are excited about it when I come back.”

But James has been keeping himself busy while he’s in Sioux Falls. Since launching 1stGenHQ at the end of 2020, he’s created Art Maneuver, helped launched Headlights Theater, and just finished his first year on the Sioux Falls Arts Council Board. He’s also been working on new music – writing new songs and teaching himself how to mix.

“During COVID it just felt like everything was stuck,” James said. “Now I feel like I should be working harder every day. I need more discipline. I don’t need more time in the day. I just need to manage my time better.”

The two-year anniversary of Art Maneuver is today, April 12, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 1108 w 12th St. Salas Salsas will cater for the event with some authentic Hispanic tastes and treats.

James1stGen will perform at Four Winds Music & Art Festival this summer. Get your tickets to catch an awesome line-up of South Dakota musicians and artists.

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