Nothing Funky Happens in Idaho

Posted by Jackie Collins, Jun 15, 2016 2 comments

Nothing happens in Idaho—or does it? Actually, this is where the new rural-urban arts-centric landscape is happening!

What’s funny is, I’ve had leaders of arts schools say to me, “I have no idea what’s going on in Idaho, as I’ve never been there.” This implies that the arts are perhaps missing in our rural state. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the little rural town of Nampa, where our school, Idaho Arts Charter, is located, there are numerous artists living here and folks that organize a lot of “arts” events.

An example of this is “Arts in the Alley,” held the second Friday of each month in downtown Nampa from May through September. Artists will be waiting to show what they do and explain why they do it. They have poetry readings (Death Rattle’s Haiku night) and music/dancing with Nampa Blues night at the Elks’ Lodge.

Several artists live and work in downtown Nampa. I have developed a strong relationship with Betty and Lawrence of Hill Street Studios. They do photos shoots for our school of anything and everything, just as a goodwill gesture. They have a beautiful and unique gallery/home in downtown Nampa in a converted old bar. They have converted the entire upstairs into the living quarters and have outdoor space on the top of the building for a patio and garden.

Puffy Mondaes is another local art business downtown that offers all types of art classes from ceramics to weaving. The company prides itself on sourcing art materials responsibly and gives priority to local, U.S. grown, and fair wage & trade projects. 80% of their yarn and fiber is grown and processed in the United States, and finished gifts in the store are made by locals as well as U.S. and fair trade artisan co-ops.

Then you have the amazingly cool school Idaho Arts Charter in Nampa. Of course I’m a little biased, but we do have it going on considering we’re so small. We are the only arts-focused school in the state. We don’t have any sports. Our gymnasium is our 2000-square-foot dance studio with surround sound. We have a state of the art piano lab with 24 Roland RP401 RWC pianos, a black box theatre, and a full recording studio. We offer unique classes such as electric orchestra, rock band, video production, graphic arts and world global beats. Of course we also offer an array of arts classes in music, drama, dance, and visual art. Certified teachers who are also professional performing artists teach all of the arts classes.

Nampa has a population of about 80,000 but is surrounded by tiny towns with populations of 800 to 7,000. The arts flourish everywhere here because it is an outlet for people. There is a huge community theatre group here and live music everywhere. Thankfully, the National Endowment for the Arts created the Rural Arts Initiative over two decades ago. State arts agencies received grants of up to $40,000—to be matched 1 to 1 by the state arts agencies—designated for use in supporting between two and five rural arts organizations.

The arts are alive and thriving in our small communities; you just need to look around you. People tend to think that you have to go to the big city to get your “arts” on, when in reality it’s right next to you.

2 responses for Nothing Funky Happens in Idaho


Peggy Wenner says
July 07, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Thanks for your update on things hopping in Nampa, Idaho.  I should write an article for Boise, as I live here, and my daughter is a working artist herself.  One correction to your statement that Idaho Arts Charter is the only arts school in Idaho.  West Ada actually has four public arts Magnet elementary schools--and they provide a strong background in the arts with a certified visual art teacher, music twice per week with several options in grades 4 and up, and incredible art projects created in all classrooms.  They also hosted several artists in residency this year through the Idaho Commission on the Arts.  I know more about Pioneer Elementary, as my grandson attended 4th grade there and will be completing the 5th grade next year at Pioneer--but I have visited the other schools, especially often Christine Donnell.  We also have an audition-based public arts school, grades 6-12 in Eagle.  Go Idaho!
Peggy Wenner, Ph.D. Idaho State Dept of Education

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Mr. Donn K. Harris says
August 26, 2016 at 1:29 am

Jackie, great article on all the unique and inspiring stuff going on in southern Idaho. Many of us no longer think that only the big populaiton centers have sophisticated art output. Especially when it comes to placemaking, smaller communitioes have shown remarkable ingenuity, like the Hill Street Studios you mention. The converted gym you describe sounds flexible and useful -- I know schools that would sell off their supply closets for that. Makes me want to take a field trip . . . 

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