Arts and Culture in Idaho
Idaho culture reflects its melting pot past. The Shoshone and Bannock, the Coeur d'Alene, Nez Perce and Kootenai tribes were there long before the European explorers. Lewis and Clark met Spaniards, Mexicans, and French-Canadian fur trappers in 1803. There were Chinese, Basque, and Japanese groups living in 1860s Idaho. Today, Idaho’s universities, arts councils, and heterogeneous population reflect its interest in sustaining the cultural past and future of the Gem State.
The Boise Philharmonic is Idaho's largest and oldest performing arts organization, getting its start in the late 1880s as the Boise City Orchestra. The 70-member orchestra performs for over 50,000 people each year at the Morrison Center, the Swayne Auditorium in Nampa, and other performance spaces. The Boise Philharmonic performs classic works and new commissions by artists such as Idaho composers Jim Cockey and David Alan Earnest. The players in the Boise Philharmonic come from all over the country including renowned music schools like Juilliard School and the San Francisco Conservatory.
Opera Idaho's mission is to offer training and performance opportunities for singers around Boise. The opera has both vocational and professional performers. An adjunct program, the Opera Idaho Children’s Chorus, gives Idaho youth the opportunity to learn and perform opera as well as to participate in vocal ensembles. Children perform in choral concerts, participate in Opera Idaho andBallet Idaho productions, and have myriad other performance opportunities. The Opera Idaho Children’s Chorus is comprised of children in the 5th to10th grades, while the Opera Idaho Angelus Chorus is for younger children in the 2nd to 4th grades.
Composed of 18 dancers and seven apprentices, Ballet Idaho performs works by Balanchine, presentsThe Nutcracker every December, and offers a full-length "story" ballet every spring. The ballet’s academy offers classes for beginner to professional students ranging from ballet, jazz, tap, and modern. It is the only ballet academy in Idaho connected to a major ballet company. Classes are held in the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy and are taught by a nationally recognized faculty.
The Coeur d’Alene Symphony Orchestra features musicians from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and the surrounding areas (including eastern Washington and western Montana). It performs new music by contemporary composers and frequently works with other local groups in opera, dance, and vocal presentations. The symphony strives to encourage young musicians with its Annual Young Artists Competition. Its yearly family concert is performed free or at low cost. Its scholarship program awards scholarships to college-level music students in Coeur d’Alene and the surrounding area. It serves the local elderly population by offering concerts in senior centers and retirement homes and also by selling discounted senior tickets.
Founded in the early 1900s, the Idaho State Civic Symphony is the oldest symphony in Idaho. TheWashington Idaho Symphony, based in Moscow, brings live classical music to rural counties in Washington and the Latah and Nez Perce counties in Idaho. It offers local talented musicians the chance to perform high-quality live music.
In Pocatello, Idaho State University Department of Music offers a variety of different music degrees as well as concerts at the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center. The Fine Arts Building contains the 450-seat recital space, Goranson Hall. Most music department concerts take place in the 1,200-seat Joseph C. & Cheryl H. Jensen Grand Concert Hall, which opened in 2005. ISU students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of music ensembles, including bands, choirs, orchestra, and chamber groups. Some of these are also open to community members.
Boise boasts numerous small and large performance spaces downtown, such as the Knitting Factory(formerly called the Big Easy). Since the 1890s, the town of Weiser has held fiddling contests every June. The National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest got its start in the early 1950s. Considered the "National Finals of Fiddling," more than 20,000 people attend the contest every year.
The Idaho Falls Arts Council hosts productions in the Willard Arts Center/Colonial Theater. Its mission is to promote and advocate for a variety of visual and performing arts in eastern Idaho. The council helps present arts organizations and local artists to the community. It runs the Idaho Falls Cultural District in historic downtown Idaho Falls, and also organizes the Snake River Roaring Youth Jam, a large, no-cost art and music festival for young people every August.
The Treasure Valley enjoys productions at the Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 1997. It offers popular Broadway musicals and has hosted big events and celebrities like David Copperfield, Bill Cosby, Kurt Bestor, and Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!
The Idaho Falls Opera Theatre is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization that began in 1977. It performs opera and musical productions in the Idaho Falls area using local musicians and actors. It employs professional singers and directors to teach local performers and improve its productions.
The film industry in Idaho finds itself at a turning point in the first two decades of the 21st century. It is working very hard to lure film projects to the Gem State but is in direct competition with its neighbors, Utah and Oregon. In 2008, Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter signed a bill offering film productions a 20 percent rebate when at least 20 percent of the crew is composed of Idaho residents. The required amount of local crew increases by five percent each year until the measure ends in 2014.
The Gem State is host to an eclectic group of film festivals. The Idaho International Film Festival is a non-profit organization that presents films by Idahoan and other independent filmmakers. It also develops and brings attention to Idaho-based films. The festival works to educate youth and minorities about the film industry and connect leaders in the motion picture business with up-and-coming filmmakers. It also offers filmmaking workshops.
The SpudFest Family Film and Music Festival is an annual film festival that began in Driggs in 2004. Actress Dawn Wells, who played "Mary Ann" on Gilligan's Island, created the festival as a natural outgrowth of the Idaho Film and Television Institute and Film Actors Boot Camp, both of which she also founded. SpudFest offers independent features, documentaries and short films, with a decided emphasis on family films.
Idaho also hosts, among others, the Family of Women Film Festival in Sun Valley,
the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival in Sun Valley, the annual Song Bird Film Festival in Coeur d'Alene, and the Schweitzer Lake Dance Film Festival in Sandpoint.
Idaho's most famous literary icon is probably poet Ezra Pound, who was born in 1885 in Hailey in what was then Idaho Territory. In addition to Pound’s myriad published works, he is credited with bringing attention to many important artists. He influenced the careers of W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Robert Frost, and many more writers. He also brought acclaim to the artists Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Wyndham Lewis.
Novelist Marilynne Robinson was born in 1943 in Sandpoint. She won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel, Gilead and was once a member of the permanent faculty of the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. She also won a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for Best First Novel in 1980 for Housekeeping. In that book, the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho, bears marked resemblance to Robinson's hometown. In 2008, Robinson’s third novel, Home, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award. It won the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction.
Other famous Idaho scribes include Richard McKenna, the author of The Sand Pebbles, and Patrick F. McManus, a humorist who writes for Outdoor Life.
When people think of the arts in Idaho, they generally think first of Boise and Sun Valley. But the visual arts are also well served in northern Idaho—there are a number of well-regarded artists and fine art galleries in the region.
ArtWalk takes place in downtown Coeur d'Alene April through December. Coeur d'Alene’s art galleries host receptions with opportunities to meet the artists, listen to live music, and see new works of art. Sandpoint also hosts an art walk that, in addition to showcasing indoor art, also displays outdoor sculpture.
Idaho Art Net is an online organization that publishes a monthly newsletter describing upcoming art events, a forum/bulletin board for sharing ideas, and a recommended art book list and bookstore. It also offers website and printed portfolio services and various marketing material help and advice to Idaho artists.
The Visual Arts Collective is a mixed-use contemporary fine art gallery in Garden City, outside of Boise. VAC presents exhibitions of and events for visual artists, performance artists, film, music, and theater. It encourages local residents to explore and engage in art, as well as to take part in special events and to pursue their artistic impulses.
Idaho State University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture/drafting. The architecture studio experience is an integral part of the university’s architectural education. It encourages problem solving in a collaborative environment. The school has campuses in Pocatello, Meridian, Idaho Falls, and Twin Falls.
The Front 5 Building in downtown Boise received the state's first LEED-NC (New Construction and Major Renovations) certification for its energy- and resource-efficiency. Since Idaho has historically been better known for its forests than its "green" building, the newly renovated brick railroad warehouse sets a standard for environmental sustainability.
HANDICRAFT AND FOLK ART
Idaho’s most famous folk artist is James Charles Castle (1899–1977), a presumed-deaf (but now considered probably autistic rather than deaf) artist from Boise whose work is avidly collected today. Castle began drawing at a very young age. He is famous for his "spit-and-soot" method, which he developed while growing up on his parent’s farm, using the soot from a wood-burning stove there. Raised to "reduce and reuse" long before the phrase was made popular, Castle made art from every kind of used paper. His art reflects his life, houses, family animals, and the deaf school he attended for five years.
Castle’s work paints an interesting picture of rural Idaho in the first two-thirds of the 20th century. He created art in many styles including surreal pieces and art that experimented with size and shape. He was known for creating unique artistic "books." Despite the artist’s isolation—he never learned sign language, lived his whole life on his parent’s farm, and may have actually been autistic—much of his art had a wit to it. His work was virtually forgotten for about 20 years following his death. It was re-discovered in 1994 and featured at the dedication exhibition of the Idaho Center for the Book (ICB) in Boise. Today, Castle’s work is globally known and his work is widely appreciated, especially in New York.
-World Trade Press