Tuesday, August 20, 2019
State of the Arts in the Wood River Valley
Graffiti Artist Bobby Gaytan spent Monday painting characters from the novel “Into the Beautiful North”—this year’s BIG READ book--on a 16-by-8-foot canvas of plywood in the foyer of the Community Library. Executive Director Jenny Emery Davidson said the walls of the library will be filled with art once the library has been completely renewed this coming November.
Tuesday, January 29, 2019


The Sun Valley Center for the Arts is gearing up for its 50th anniversary. And the Community Library is beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel—a literal tunnel built of plywood.

Arts leaders in the community offered up their State of the Arts summaries this past week during the annual Wood River Community Arts meeting led by Claudia McCain and Hilarie Neely.  The event has been held since 1991.

Here are the highlights:


The library has spent 16 months shoring up the floor to withstand earthquakes and expanding its footprint. And the remodel has 10 months to go, with the last nail to be driven by the end of October, said Executive Director Jenny Emery Davidson.

The library continues to average 10,000 visitors a month, even though people are having to find their way through the aforementioned tunnel and even though the library’s cherished fireplace is currently under wraps.

The project is costing $12.5 million--$2 million of that for work on the Hemingway House, which The Nature Conservancy gifted to the Community Library.

Davidson noted that the new climate-controlled archives in the new Regional History Department “says something about our community: We have something worth taking care of.”

The teen space was the hardest to design, she said. But, she added, teenagers shouldn’t have to buy a coffee to find some place to hang out.

All this is happening because we’re not just a storage area for books, she added. “History and culture and ideas are born here.”


The marketing organization has engaged more than 60 members of the community in a project to explain what makes Sun Valley special, said Aly Swindley, the organization’s community relations coordinator.

One of the visitors being targeted as a result is the culture seeker. As the new branding say: “Sun Valley doesn’t just have arts and culture—it is arts and culture.”

The branding is a five- to six-year project that will grow with more feedback she said. And it’s established that “quietly kickass yet cultured spirit” is at the heart and soul of Sun Valley’s brand.


The Center, born in April 1971, is experiencing tremendous growth, said Kristin Poole, The Center’s artistic director. And it’s engaging more community partners.

Company of Fools is on “a wonderful trajectory after nearly two years of grief” following Director John Glenn’s sudden death, Poole said. Its new director Scott Palmer is edgy and possesses great knowledge of the theater that should manifest itself in more diversity on stage.

The Center is developing more family programs. And it’s delving more and more into the work it does in schools.

Those programs are not designed to duplicate the work the local schools’ arts and music teachers are already doing, Poole replied to a question from the audience.

Instead, musical groups might go into the schools to talk about what it’s like being a professional musician, how they work together and how they improvise music.

The Center takes art projects into English, science and math classes to present students with alternative ways of learning those subjects. Rather than tell students about a geological structure, for instance, they might build a geologic structure via art.

“It’s experiential,” she said.


The symphony’s director Derek Dean noted that the symphony is celebrating 35 years of instilling a lifelong love of classical music in everyone it can.

It performs 20 concerts in 25 days during summer and probably double that if you count recitals that the symphony’s Summer Music Institute students perform during that time.

It’s not possible to expand the offerings in summer because of the musicians’ commitment to their own orchestras at home in Toronto, Canada, and Houston, Texas. But the inaugural Winter Festival in mid-February will give the symphony an opportunity to do more, while introducing itself to potential new fans that aren’t here during summer, he said.


Tim Mott, who recently took over as executive director, noted that it was three years ago last week that he emailed members of the arts community, inviting them to a workshop to brainstorm what to do with the nexStage Theater property at First and Main streets in Ketchum.

A crowd showed up to spend a half-day answering what kind of programs they would like to be able to offer on that site and what they would like the building to look like.

The answers included a modern building offering world-class artistic and engaging programs adapted to the community.

Now the Argyros is the area’s newest artistic attraction building on Sun Valley’s vibrant cultural history, he said. It’s a high-tech performance and event facility designed to inspire and enrich artists, residents and visitors from around the world with music and dance, live theater and film and speakers and educational workshops.

“We want to help eliminate slack and provide a reason for people to come to Sun Valley in May and November,” he said.

The Argyros has raised $15.5 million to cover building costs and some of the start-up costs. It’s also raising $2 million for performance funds which will be paired with sponsorships and underwriting to   bring in serious headliners from around the world.

One of those is American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, a hometown kid who has collaborated with contemporary pop star Rozzi on an original dance production Feb. 9 and 10.

The Argyros Presents series was initiated, knowing there would be a limit to how much local nonprofits could program. It has brought in acts like Kristin Chenoweth and the Jerry Herman Show, as well as the upcoming Rita Wilson concert and a Cirque du Soleil-type show from Australia.

While the Argyros opened to great reviews, the one thing attendees have been critical of is the lobby where some have complained it’s difficult to carry on conversations.

Mott said the Argyros will consider acoustic dampening

“It’s on our list, although we’re going to have to raise a little more money to do that,” he said. “We don’t expect to have the entire building to be completed for a couple years.”


The Chamber’s new executive director Mike McKenna said he is trying to reach out to other areas ranging from Jerome to Teton as he takes his sons to hockey and baseball games. His hope: To educate them that “you don’t have to be a millionaire from New York to come to Sun Valley and have a good time.”

Sun Valley is for Idahoans, too, he said.

McKenna said The Chamber’s Welcome Center gets walk-ins and calls every day, asking about everything from where they can find a good plumber to the area’s attractions.

He invited the arts groups to enter the Fourth of July Parade, which attracts thousands of people each year.

“It’s our biggest event, and it’s a cheap fun way to market what you’re doing,” he said.


Juta Geurtsen, the ICA’s community outreach director  who got her start with Company of Fools, noted that the ICA offers project-based grants, professional development grants, grants for technical assistance and other consultant needs and arts education grants.

And it will review grant applications made to the National Endowment for the Arts.

It offers a three-day intensive professional development program that’s open to arts administrators and  arts advocates alike. It offers programs helping artists to become more polished professionally. And it will help communicates calculate the economic impact from art.

“Arts and culture are one of the biggest industries in the nation and we don’t talk about that enough,” she said.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The Earth without art is just eh.”


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