Painting the town with happiness: Mitchell artist Jessica Callies brightens Main Street with latest mural

MITCHELL — From the moment Jessica Callies picked up a paint brush, the Mitchell artist wanted to create works of art that made people smile and instilled happiness.

Speckled along the wall of Nepstad’s Flowers & Gifts is a mural with whimsical plants and brightly colored flowers that Callies recently finished painting. The wall mural has brightened the north edge of Main Street and caught the attention of many community members.

“I just want to make people smile. I’ve always preferred what I call happy art, and I’m finding out there are a lot of people who connect with that,” Callies said of art style.

Of all the work she’s created over the past three decades, her Main Street building mural has shown Callies her style of art resonates with a lot of people. What was once a plain gray wall has now become a popular spot for senior pictures and lure for the flower business’ customers.

The impact Callies’ wall painting has had on the Nepstad’s Flower & Gifts has also taken Renee Polreis, owner of Nepstad’s, by “complete surprise.”



Jessica Callies (left) and her sister Jenna Miller (right) work on adding the final details to the flower mural on Nepstad’s Flower & Gifts exterior wall on Monday, June 12, 2023, in Mitchell.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

“The amount of people who called or came into the store commenting about how much they loved it and asking me who did it was amazing and took me by surprise. My phone was ringing off the hook. I always admired her work, and she designed it beautifully,” Polreis said of Callies.

Although the large-scale mural projects came with some nerves, the positive feedback Callies received has “added fuel to her creative fire.” And she’s already preparing for another downtown mural that will soon brighten another building.

“I was nervous at first to be putting my art on something so many people would see. The positive feedback I’ve received has made me feel really good although it’s not why I do these murals. It’s added fuel to my creative fire,” Callies said. “I’m fortunate to have my helper in my sister, Jenna Miller, who has always supported my art endeavors.”

The popularity of her Main Street building mural has sparked an influx of requests for similar projects in the area that have provided Callies with new canvases she’s yet to paint on. A steel farm building in rural Mitchell is among the new canvases Callies took her paint brushes to in late September. While the farm building project presented her with new challenges, the outcome resulted in another satisfied customer.

“The metal on the Haven Farms building is not the easiest thing to paint on, but I feel like it adds more of a wow factor. It was a really fun project,” she said of her mural on a rural farm building.

Some artists hone their skills by learning from art instructors at colleges, but Callies has been a self-taught artist from the moment she began painting at the age of 4. Over the past decade, the Mitchell native has channeled her art skills into a side business she operates from her home.

In addition to her mural painting, Callies makes handmade cards and custom accessories that are sold online and in select stores.


Jenna Miller applies paint to the flower mural on Nepstad’s Flower & Gifts exterior wall on Monday, June 12, 2023, in Mitchell.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

While painting has provided Callies a side career, money has never motivated her. For Callies, art is therapy. And it’s helped her overcome some of the biggest life obstacles she’s ever experienced.


“It’s my therapy. It’s my coping mechanism and addiction. I need painting,” she said. “It’s always been a constant in my life for a reason.”

Uniting with local artists to bring more art  

Since moving back to Mitchell a few years ago after spending over a decade residing in Alaska, Callies has been connecting with other local artists who share her passion for creating.

As the newest member of the Mitchell Area Council for the Arts – a nonprofit that recently formed to foster community art culture – Callies is determined to spark more interest in the arts for people of all ages and skill levels.

“This community and the world needs more art and creativity,” she said.

She’s helped organize an event that will take place in November at The Back 40 where a gallery of local artwork will be on display, along with local musicians performing.


Jessica Callies paints the final details to her flower mural on Nepstad’s Flower & Gifts exterior wall on Monday, June 12, 2023, in Mitchell.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

When Callies isn’t painting and working, she’s usually making music with her husband Jay Shelley, a talented guitarist and singer who has been spreading another form of art in the community.

“I love getting to meet people who understand what art and creative culture can bring to a community, and it’s here. We just need to come together even more,” Callies said.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.

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