Idaho Falls art scene is thriving

Ellen McCarthy teaches students about still life painting during the Summer Art Camps on Tuesday at the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho. McCarthy received her bachelor’s degree in art from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She has been involved with the museum since 2009. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

When she moved from Maryland to Idaho Falls, Georgina Goodlander assumed there wouldn’t be much of a local arts scene and doubted she’d be able to find a job in her desired field.

Goodlander worked as the social media content manager for the Smithsonian Museum of Art in Washington, D.C., before moving.

“I looked at Idaho Falls on a map and thought ‘Oh great, I’m not going to find a job relating to art there,’ ” she said. “Then I started looking information up online and was totally blown away. I just saw art gallery after art gallery. I sat there and realized there’s a ton of job opportunities for me.”

What Goodlander learned is something that is becoming more apparent to those in the community: Idaho Falls has a thriving art scene. There are more than 15 art galleries in town, most of which feature work by local artists.

Today, Goodlander is the visual arts director for the Idaho Falls Arts Council.

She has been impressed by both the number of galleries in town and the quality of local artists.

“In March, we had a juried exhibition at the Willard Arts Center,” Goodlander said. “It was a national competition, but the majority of entrants were from Idaho Falls and surrounding areas. The quality of work was outstanding. Walking around and looking at the pieces, you wouldn’t have known it was mostly a local show.”

Karen Stoddart, a sculptor and painter, owns the gallery Elegance in Art at 367 W. Broadway. She opened the gallery, which features artwork from local and national artists, in the ’80s.

“A lot of people don’t realize that to find good art, you don’t have to go to Jackson,” Stoddart said. “There are a lot of fantastic artists right here in town. I’ll talk to people who come into my gallery and they’re surprised by what art is here locally.”

While the eastern Idaho arts scene is strong, several efforts are underway to help it continue to thrive.

Three years ago Daniel and Kara Hidalgo opened the Idaho Art Lab in St. Anthony as a nonprofit community art center. The Idaho Falls Arts Council’s ARTitorium on Broadway at 271 Broadway will open to the public Aug. 15. It is designed to give children a first-hand experience with the arts. And the Art Museum of Idaho offers classes throughout the summer for both children and adults.

Miyai Griggs of the Art Museum of Idaho said that as many established local artist are getting older, they are starting to act as mentor to younger artists.

“I think this is something really important and something that kind of says, ‘We’re an art town,’ ” Griggs said. “The established artists are passing on what they know to others. They are trying to pass the torch to the next generation of artists in Idaho Falls.

“It’s pretty cool actually to see people get involved with helping art continue to grow in town.”

Twenty-five years ago several local artists started the Idaho Falls Gallery Walk, to encourage people to visit art galleries. Once a month, for six months the galleries open their doors to the public after regular business hours and provide music and refreshments for visitors. Goodlander said the gallery walk provides people a chance to experience art in a relaxed atmosphere. For information about the gallery walk, visit tinyurl.com/IFgallery walk.

“I think the gallery walk is really a sign of what a great art community we have here,” Goodlander said. “We have nine participating venues right now, and I’ve already been contacted by venues who want to participate next year. The fact that we have so many people who want to get involved says a lot about the local art scene.”

For Griggs, the biggest thing that signifies Idaho Falls has a thriving art community, is the comments she hears from tourists passing through the museum.

“They’ll come to the museum while they’re in town and say, ‘This is really fantastic, what you have here. I wish we had museums and galleries like this where we’re from,’” Griggs said. “I think the artists have really worked to create a strong art community here.”

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