Image © James Castle Collection and Archive
A few months ago, the City of Boise completed the purchase of the James Castle Home Site, the West Boise property where Idaho’s most famous visual artist lived and worked from 1931 until his death in 1977.
Born deaf and possessing little ability to communicate, Castle was a self-taught artist who is recognized as one of the most important of the 20th century. His primary medium was soot and spit, applied with a stick to scraps of paper and cardboard. Today, Castle’s works are exhibited in such places as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Boise Art Museum, which holds the largest museum collection of his pieces.
When renovations to the Castle family home are completed in 2017, our Department of Arts & History will have done more than just preserve an important cultural site; our city will also have a new space for art exhibitions, workshops, and artists-in-residence programs.
Coincidentally, October is National Arts & Humanities Month, an opportunity to reflect on the critical importance of the visual and performing arts, history, and culture in creating a unique sense of place and enhancing our livability. The City of Boise recognized this early on, and in 2008 we became one of the first cities of our size in the nation to create a separate department-level agency devoted entirely to supporting and enhancing arts and history in our community.
In the years since, the Department of Arts & History, under the leadership of Terri Schorzman, has saved 1,895 historic documents and objects, provided grants totaling more than $900,000 to 355 individuals and organizations, and built a city art collection now valued at $4.2 million. All of this and more has been accomplished on a budget that represents a mere penny on every dollar of city-wide spending.
Next month, the department will unveil a new city-wide cultural plan, which will outline ways to foster Boise’s art and culture in the years to come.
Preservation and restoration of the James Castle Home Site is an excellent example of that approach and of how relics of the past can, with foresight and determination, become our community’s treasures of the future.
Until next time …
A guest post by Mayor David Bieter, 10/15/2015
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