As we approached our 50th anniversary, we reached out to the many great minds, talents, and community leaders who have both contributed to—and experienced—the arts with SVMoA.

We asked them a couple of simple questions about the power of the arts, and their answers are anything but ordinary.


Pete & Becky Smith: Longstanding Love of the Arts & The Museum

Pete & Becky Smith: Longstanding Love of the Arts & The Museum

June 4, 2024
Pete & Becky Smith

Curator Courtney Gilbert sat down with longtime SVMoA supporters, former board members, and arts patrons Pete & Becky Smith to talk about their early involvement with the Museum, their love of art, and their work with organizations across the valley. As our team gears up for our annual fundraiser, the Sun Valley Museum of Art Wine Auction, now in its 43rd year, we celebrate the early days of the organization, the first wine auction, as well as how the Museum came to be at its current location at 5th and Washington with our dear supporters Pete and Becky Smith.

CG: How did you first get involved with the Sun Valley Center for the Arts (SVCA - now Sun Valley Museum of Art)?

Becky: I first connected with the Center in the summer of 1974. I took [our children] down to the Sun Valley Center for the Arts for classes in macrame and all the crafty things that were taught then—throwing pots. Very 1970s! The Center was still at its original location then, where the Community School is now.

CG: What year did you move here full-time?

Becky: My parents first brought me here in 1951 or 52. We bought a house in Sun Valley around 1986 and moved here full-time in 1987.

CG: And when were you each on the board?

Becky: We both were on the board at the same time, together. Michael Engl knew about our activities in Los Angeles. At that time, we were on the Collectors Committee at the National Gallery of Art. We were on the Director’s Roundtable at LACMA, and Rusty Powell (then Director of LACMA), when he went from LACMA to the National Gallery, he took that idea with him. The Director’s Roundtable was a group of younger collectors.

Pete: We joined the board here in 1988 or 1989, when SVCA had just moved to the Walnut Avenue Mall and had sold the original property to the Community School.   

I can’t remember if Michael asked us personally, but I think he was president of the board then. He had built a large endowment for the Center, which came into play shortly after we joined the board. The gallery and the office were in the Walnut Avenue Mall. The owner of the Walnut Avenue Mall raised the rent on all the tenants. Mike Feltman, the CPA, was treasurer of the board. Joan Stewart Anawalt was on the board then, and she asked me to co-chair the board with her and divide our duties. It was a terrific partnership.  

Pete: There was a high level of respect among the three of us. And at that point, Michael Feltman let me know that Bob Smith had sold Smith Optics to John Malin. John built a building for Smith in the Industrial Area, and vacated the building on 5th St. It was empty. Mike Feltman suggested we buy the old Smith building. So, he and I went and looked at it, without any architects or anything, and we thought it could be a gallery space if we removed all the cubicles, which were non-structural. I called Wes Nash—he and I had built a home and worked on some other projects. Wes came to the building and gave us an idea of what it would cost to open the center space, put in lighting, create a meeting room, build offices on the perimeter, and add a classroom with sinks. He checked the substructure. And told us that it would cost something like $40,000. Mike Feltman suggested we use some of the endowment money, so we went to Michael Engl and asked what he thought about drawing down on the endowment to buy the building, and then pay a monthly rent back into the endowment. Bob Smith agreed to let us buy it for less than he was asking. So there went the endowment put into the building. And we had no money for a remodel. But we pulled together a group of donors, mainly friends of Glenn and Bill Janss, and named the building the Janss Building. Glenn thought this was a terrific idea. Wes Nash made his donation by giving us a low price on the remodel. Jim and Jean Welsh were finishing a remodel and had a lighting expert coming. Jim asked him to help us design the lighting for the new space. He told us where to put the lighting tracks along the ceiling.

Becky Smith at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts event
Becky Smith at a dinner celebrating the new home for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts at 191 Fifth Street, E. in 1994.

CG: And we have stuck with basically the same lighting layout even with our remodel.

Pete: Yes. And so, we went out to friends, mostly of Bill Janss, and raised close to $100,000. And we were then on a footing to continue the Sun Valley Center. And you have to give credit to Michael Engl, because he created the endowment, and we were able to use it and pay it back. Michael was instrumental in making this all happen. Staff, generally speaking at the time, wanted a larger space. But Mike Feltman, Joan and I sat down with the staff and explained that we’d start with this space and later, go grand. And here we are 30 years later! It’s served its purpose. But I can’t say we thought it would be in use 30 years later. But what you’ve just finished doing to the building with the remodel—the galleries look really great.

Pete Smith at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, 1994

Pete Smith at a dinner celebrating the new home for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts at 191 Fifth Street, E. in 1994.

CG: Anything else you’d like to share about your time with the Center?

Becky: We got very involved with the Wine Auction. It started at Jack Thornton’s house.

Pete: And then it moved to the Gun Club.

Becky: It was a lot of fun. And when Jim Cimino first put his paddle up, that changed everything. We started having bidding wars.

CG: You two have an amazing collection of art. What are some of your favorite things you’ve collected?

Pete: We bought a lot of things from John Berggruen, who was a good friend.

Becky: Our Frank Stella Protractor piece, of course, we love.

Pete: We’ve had encounters with Frank Stella over the years.

CG: Didn’t you set up a tennis game for him here on a visit to Sun Valley once?

Becky: Oh yes. I did.

Pete: We knew Marcia Weisman, Norton Simon’s sister, who taught classes in Pasadena on collecting. She and her husband had an extraordinary collection. Her classes consisted of traveling to artist studios in Venice Beach and other places, and to galleries that represented these artists.

Becky: We took her classes. This is mid- to late 70s.

CG: Who were some of the artists you visited with?

Becky: Billy Al Bengston was our first purchase. We knew him. And we loved Kenny Price.

Pete: Dwayne Valentine. His son Nelson. Chuck Arnoldi. Ed Ruscha. Sam Francis.

Becky: A lot of the fun of collecting in those days was that you knew the artists. I was never thinking about growth in value. We never bought anything because we thought it would make money later. We bought art because we fell in love with it.

Becky: John Coplans gave classes at the Pasadena Art Museum. The exposure was great. I met Frank Stella when he was signing the Star of Persia prints. We had work by Vija Celmins and Judy Chicago.

Pete: We went to Sam Francis’s studio once and everything was on the floor. He painted on the floor. Jim Corcoran was a good friend. Sam Francis gave Jim Corcoran and us access to his studio when he wasn’t there one time. We went in with Jim and chose a painting we wanted to buy. Nick Wilder, the gallery owner, had also been in the studio and wanted the same painting before us. Sam told Nick that we wanted it, and Nick told Jim, “If it’s Becky and Pete, I want them to have the painting. But would you pick another one out for me?”

Becky: I was already collecting when I met Pete, and when he and I first started dating, he fell in love with art. And Pete’s eye was just dead on. So, we carried on together. It’s been a great adventure.

Pete: There was a time when we had Peter Alexander, Ed Ruscha, and Chuck Arnoldi up here. They wanted to go skiing, and they all thought they knew what they were doing. Jim Corcoran was involved in getting them here. So, we got their skis at the bottom and got up to the top, and Peter Alexander said, “What do I do now?” Literally! We had to ship him down somehow. He didn’t know a thing about it. He assumed if we knew how, he could do it.

CG: I know you two have done a lot of work for so many organizations in the valley. What are some other boards you’ve served on?

Becky: Both of us have been on the Community School board at different times. I was on the St. Luke’s Hospital Foundation board, and Pete is now the president. And is doing a sensational job. And he was on the SVSEF board.

Pete: I was also on the Nature Conservancy board. Glenn Janss was, too. Bill Janss helped put together the local chapter of the Nature Conservancy when he sold the Stalker Creek Ranch to them. We had our meetings in the living room of Hemingway House.

CG: I’d love to hear about your work to get public radio to the valley.

Becky: That was Ken and Judy Dayton.

Pete: Gretchen Guard was here, and her mission was to bring another radio station to the valley. We only had KECH at the time. Chuck Gates was running KECH, which was located where Vintage restaurant is now. He was the DJ. Gretchen had run into problems getting it done. Somehow Bill Janss heard, and Ken Dayton was here and was on the board of Minnesota Public Broadcasting at the time. Ken brought Bill Kling, founder and president of Minnesota Public Radio out here. Bill said we could put a 10’ diameter dish somewhere and then we can have the equipment in a closet near the dish. The Community School went along with hosting the dish. Page Jenner was involved; he was in communications and knew how to get it hooked up.

Bill Janss hosted a dinner. There were 10 couples there, including us. Ken Dayton got up and said the project would cost $20,000. He’d put in $10,000, and he told us we were all to put in $1000. Page Jenner was instrumental in getting it set up. We had limited coverage, but it was a start.

When AT&T came in and wanted to put a cell tower on Dollar Mountain, Wally Huffman knew we needed better reception. He cleared it with the Holdings and asked AT&T to provide the hookups for a stronger signal when they installed the tower. We were able to remove the dish at the Community School, and that was the first step in better reception. Subsequently, we relocated to Seattle Ridge or the top of Baldy. But it was Ken and Judy Dayton who got the project started.

Becky: And the Dayton Collection is now in an exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. They were wonderful people.

CG: This has been so wonderful! I wanted to talk to you about your history racing cars, too, but we’ll have to save that for another time.

Pete: That was another life!

Becky: That would be so fun. We’ll do that next time.

CG: Thank you both!  


Erin Buell: Creative Solutions for Healthcare Challenges

Erin Buell: Creative Solutions for Healthcare Challenges

March 19, 2024
Erin Buell, Community Outreach Coordinator at St. Luke’s Center for Community Health

SVMoA’s current exhibition, Bodies of Work: Art & Healing, explores ways that artists have used their practices to navigate the experience of illness. This is the final week of the exhibition, which will close on Saturday, March 23.

Because of the exhibition’s focus on healing, for this week’s SVMoA Voices, SVMoA and Bodies of Work curator Courtney Gilbert sat down with Erin Buell, Community Outreach Coordinator at St. Luke’s Center for Community Health, to talk about the work she and her colleagues do to come up with creative solutions for people in our community facing healthcare challenges.

Tell me a little bit about the Center for Community Health (CCH).

The CCH is a department of St. Luke’s Wood River, and it was established about 30 years ago — it was kind of a pioneer in the field of community health at the time. I’ve been here for nearly 20 years, and it is constantly evolving and improving. We work to connect the dots of a person’s health so that one is able to understand their diagnosis and have support to follow instructions regarding their health and medications once they leave the clinic or the hospital. This way, individuals in our community are better able to get — and stay — healthy.

We are a non-clinical department, and our services are free. Sometimes, we help people facing financial challenges, and sometimes, we help with mental or physical health situations. Health can mean many things, and there are many things that we can do to try to help.

A lot of what we do takes time, so we try to hold our clients’ hands through the process. For example, applications and paperwork can be overwhelming, particularly for people facing a medical or other crisis, but that form or application may be important to receive assistance. So, we meet people where they are and help them get through the process.

We also provide community education, such as English and Spanish-language childbirth and parenting classes. Over the years, more organizations have come to our community, so we work hard to understand the work and the programs and classes that other local nonprofits and agencies are doing so that we can support and refer to them.  

Six times a year, we organize an interagency meeting that’s open to any organization. Currently, more than 70 organizations are invited to participate. To mention a few who often attend are the Hunger Coalition, The Advocates, local libraries, Mountain Rides, the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, the Salvation Army, Hospice, the Senior Connection, YMCA, Blaine County Housing Authority, Blaine County Charitable Fund, and the social workers in the school district. Everyone shares a bit about what they’re doing, what they’re seeing in the community, and what they have coming up on their calendars. It’s kind of amazing how many resources there are in the valley.

St. Luke's Center for Community Health Team
St. Luke's Center for Community Health Team

How many people work in the CCH?

Right now, we have three outreach coordinators, including myself, an administrative staff member, and our manager. Two of my colleagues are Spanish-speaking, which is really beneficial.

How do clients find you?

We used to be in offices that were separate from the clinic. I think that because they didn’t see us, it was easy for clinical staff to forget we were a resource. Now that our offices are in the St. Luke’s Clinic, doctors often send patients directly to us. And we get referrals from other community organizations, such as those who attend the interagency meetings.

What is a typical day like for you?

We usually have about 60 contacts a day between the three outreach coordinators. Those can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes or longer. We’ve been busy and are getting busier. Demand is growing. A typical encounter starts by evaluating where people are in terms of the social determinants of health, food, clothing, housing, and access to care. Once we determine what services a client needs, we’ll start making a plan. Sometimes, we connect patients to funding sources — some with applications, some without. We try to problem solve and make the process as easy and sustainable as possible for people. For example, we might be able to cover the cost of someone’s prescriptions, but if it’s a medication they’ll need for a long time, we help find a long-term solution.

Our goal is to help people access health and stay as healthy as possible. I’m really proud of our team. There’s so much compassion. We try to break down barriers to access from the beginning and create a safe space. For people in crisis, the world can feel like a snow globe. There are lots of snowflakes flying around and making it hard to see — it’s messy. We help people grab onto one flake of snow to get started while letting everything else settle for a while.

Do you have any thoughts about the relationship between health and creativity?

I believe the arts are very much intertwined with our health, particularly our mental health and sense of well-being. They are completely connected.

Me, too! Thanks so much for sharing your time with me.


Heather Watkins: Artistic Practice as a Reflection of Personal Journey


Communications & PR Manager

Submitted by [email protected] on Tue, 02/27/2024 - 15:20

Heather Watkins: Artistic Practice as a Reflection of Personal Journey

February 27, 2024
Soundings by Heather Watkins

This week, we sat down with artist Heather Watkins, whose work is in our current exhibition, Bodies of Work: Art & Healing, to discuss her art and artistic practice as a reflection of her personal journey. An artist working in many media, including drawing, sculpture, printmaking, and artist’s books, Heather makes work that is an expression of time, flow, circulation, stasis, and gravity.   

On Saturday, March 9, at SVMoA, Heather Watkins will join fellow artist Katherine Shaughnessy and author Sarah Sentilles in a conversation about their artistic processes and the ways that making art has helped them navigate their personal experiences with illness.

Can you tell us about your background and upbringing?

I was raised in Northern California in a small town in the Sierra Foothills, east of the Bay Area, not too far from Yosemite. It’s known as Gold Country, where prospectors came west to seek fortune (and claim land that wasn’t theirs) in the late 1800s. There was a strong literary presence as well, with figures like Mark Twain and Bret Harte and Jack London. Twain famously wrote his first short story set in the region about the idiosyncratic frog jumping in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” I think the bigger and more lasting impact on me growing up in this area was developing a close relationship to nature. Hours and hours playing in the woods and creeks, surrounded by oak, pine, manzanita, the reddish-orange earth, pocked with granite and quartz.

I had the opportunity to spend time in other places through my adolescence, where I came to know different landscapes. I went to high school in New England and spent summers in the Pacific Northwest. At Pitzer College (in Claremont, California) I earned a bachelor’s degrees in English and World Literature and Classical Studies (with an emphasis on Art & Archaeology). I moved to Portland after college, and found a community in the arts, working and studying at the beloved (now unfortunately closed) Oregon College of Art & Craft. I returned to New England to study at the Rhode Island School of Design, where I received an MFA in 2000, and eventually made my way back to Portland, where I live and work now.

It’s interesting that your work fills an entire gallery in our current exhibition Bodies of Work: Art & Healing. It completely surrounds the viewer:  

I had a week-long residency with SVMoA in August of 2023. Curator Courtney Gilbert and I spent time considering the Museum spaces, talking about various possibilities, and how my work would feel in the space. It became clear to both of us that a series titled Recordings would be central, and I liked the idea of giving them a room of their own within the Museum.  

I first exhibited most of these works at PDX CONTEMPORARY ART in 2018 in an exhibition called “Waiting Room.” Although they can certainly be described as textiles or embroideries, I think of them as drawings. I don’t think of myself as a textile or fiber artist—needlepoint is not a craft that I am trained in. These thread-drawings began as a way to materialize and maybe account for a period of time when I couldn’t be in the studio much, when I was spending more time as a patient than anything else. Lots of waiting. This body of work involves a close/intimate engagement with the tools and materials: linen cloth, embroidery hoop, needle, thread, scissors. It’s a slow meditative process of translating the feeling of time—particularly the experience of waiting—into something one can sense. I think they benefit from a space that is quiet, where you can be alone with them.  

Gallery Group Image of Recordings

Gallery Group image of Recordings & SVMOA

Needlepoint is craft typically associated with women. How did you come to needlepoint as your medium?

Both of my grandmothers did needlecraft. Making things with fiber and fabric was just part of what they did with their hands, with their time. And it’s also how they cared for the people they loved.  

My father’s mother was a knitter. She would knit mittens and hats for all the grandchildren, and when we were small, she made sweaters with zippers with little bells on them. She lived in Minnesota, and during our visits, she taught me how to knit.  

My maternal grandmother lived across the street from us when I was growing up and she was a really gifted seamstress. She sewed for the entire family. She would create sets of pajamas for all the grandkids for Christmas—each family got their own print and fabric, and we’d take pictures of us all lined up in our matching outfits. She did needlepoint and embroidery as well. I remember a quilt project we started together. We cut a stack of little gingham squares, and she handed me a needle and thread and said to just stitch whatever design I wanted on them. All of her sewing supplies went to my parents’ house when she died, and I still look through them when I’m there.  

I think part of why I started working with thread as a drawing material is rooted in these early experiences watching the women in my family make something by hand, all that care and all that time.

So, thread is just another medium for expression. Can you talk about your relationship to your materials, how you choose or find the materials you use?   

A: My work in other media—ink, paper, cotton cording, wire—is very gestural and process-oriented. I think a lot about what a material does naturally, what its gestural language is, and what it might help me see or say. There’s a lot of experimentation as I develop an almost collaborative relationship with those materials, a give and take. My work with thread has become a more mediative, grounding, and deliberate part of my practice. The Waiting Room Recordings were like a sketchbook, little abstracted notations that refer to various influences and obsessions. They were made with sewing thread (not embroidery floss), some from my grandmother’s supplies. The thin size of the thread almost matches the gauge of the weave of the linen—they feel like weavings. I left the indentations of the embroidery hoop visible as a reminder of the process, evidence of one of the tools used to make the work.  

Heather Watkinds studio
Heather Watkins Studio

In the larger works (Soundings), I use a silk thread that is flat, a bit like a skinny ribbon. It feels almost like working with a nibbed pen. The first part of the Soundings series is part of the Vanport Collection at Portland State University and was commissioned by for a specific site: the waiting room in the School of Counseling and Psychology—I love that connection to the earlier series that inspired the commission. For this exhibition at the Sun Valley Museum of Art, I created another suite of Soundings, which relate to the first five formally, a little like an echo of each of them.  

Heather Watkins Soundings close-up

Image of Soundings

How has your medical journey impacted your artistic process?

My health journey began in 2008 when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was a total surprise. I had a delayed doctor’s appointment, and the nurse offered to do an eye exam to fill the time. I always had excellent eyesight, but I couldn’t read the bottom line of the eye chart. I figured it was just aging, but followed up with an optometrist, who sent me on to an ophthalmologist to get a full workup and within three weeks I was having brain surgery; a sudden, life-changing turn of events.  

Before I learned I had a brain tumor, I had begun making these drawings by pouring black ink on black paper, then bending, tilting, holding, turning the paper—mapping my body’s movement. It was a way to explore flow and circulation—playing with being in and out of control of the line. When I returned to the studio after my surgeries and treatments, I was struck by how many of these drawings looked like some of the diagnostic images the doctors had shown me of what was going on inside my body. The strange, uncanny sense that I was drawn to make these things that later looked so prescient was wild. It’s why I love working in such an open-ended way, to make space for unforeseen, unexpected, surprising things to happen.  


Surfacing by Heather Watkins

Image of Surfacing 16

Can you discuss your project with Sarah Sentilles?  

When Sarah Sentilles was living in Portland, she would occasionally come to my studio to work on writing or editing while I was working on my artwork. During this time, I was halfway through making what would become the Waiting Room exhibition, although I didn’t have the title for that work at that time. We were talking about the question of naming works, and I remember Sarah saying that if she were writing an essay about it, she would call it “Body of Work.” So that idea took hold, and now, many years later, it’s happening. Sarah has written a beautiful, deeply moving essay in response to my Waiting Room project.  

We started the process with an email exchange, a kind of call and response—very experimental in terms of form and length, exchanging personal stories, creative influences, things we were reading and thinking about, associations and connections related to themes of waiting, thread and cloth, fronts and backs of things, seeking and finding meaning. Sarah’s writing is both intimate and personal and at the same time addresses what’s going on formally and conceptually in my work. I am thrilled and honored to have this opportunity. The essay will be published in an artist’s book I am creating, alongside images of my Waiting Room Recordings, as well as images of the Versos, or backs of the Recordings. It has been an absolute joy to collaborate with Sarah on this project, and I am truly grateful to Sarah, Courtney, and SVMoA for supporting this project.  

Copies of Sarah Sentilles and Heather Watkins's collaborative project will be available soon at SVMoA.


Jen Schneider & MashUps! Little Lectures for an Odd World

Kristine Bretall

Public Programs Director

Submitted by [email protected] on Tue, 02/06/2024 - 12:44

Jen Schneider & MashUps! Little Lectures for an Odd World

February 6, 2024
Jen Schneider hosting a MashUp in Boise, summer 2023

Public Programs Director Kristine Bretall sat down with Jen Schneider, the creator and curator of MashUp! Little Lectures for an Odd World and the Associate Dean of the Boise State College of Innovation + Design to discuss how MashUp came to be and how she is looking forward to the collaboration with the Sun Valley Museum of Art and the Wood River Valley community.  Read the interview below, and don’t miss MashUp! #1: Digital Arborglyphs & Sound and Mind at the Museum on Thu, Feb 15. Mark your calendars for the MashUp! #2: Death Masks & Sign Geeks Thu, Mar 21, and MashUp! #3: Bird-Proof Building & Habit Rehab, Thu, Apr 18.

Presenter Elizabeth Kidd talks about the value of boy band superfans
Photo: “Presenter Elizabeth Kidd talks about the value of boy band superfans.”

Tell me how you describe MashUp to someone who doesn’t know about them.

Our tagline is "Little Lectures for an Odd World," and I think that describes it pretty well. We bring together two people from the Boise State University campus or the community who are experts on their odd little corners of the universe, and the topics they talk about ostensibly have nothing to do with each other. We encourage them each to give a 20-minute lecture or demonstration in a lively, engaging way, and then we turn things over to the audience for Q&A. But the Q&A is unique because you can only ask a question that connects the two topics in some way. It leads to a lot of creativity, engagement, and depth that is truly joyful.

 Where did this idea come from?

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver has run a similar series they call Mixed Taste for years, and it has grown so much that they now host events in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. It's a major cultural event. I believe they borrowed the idea from others before them, stretching back to the Bauhaus Movement and even early 20th-century artist salons. But I first experienced it when I lived in Denver and have been wanting to bring the idea to Idaho ever since I moved back in 2014.

How did you initiate the project at Boise State University’s College of Innovation and Design?

Luckily, the College of Innovation and Design serves as an incubator for new and experimental ideas at Boise State. We mostly focus on building curriculum and programs that don't exist on campus yet, but the opportunity to pilot MashUp surfaced when we were thinking about ways to connect people in the humanities with new technologies coming on the scene, like generative artificial intelligence. It's been a great way to "mash up" those different kinds of topics in creative ways.

Presenter Chris Kotansky talks about how to make the perfect non-alcoholic cocktail.
Photo: “Presenter Chris Kotansky talks about how to make the perfect non-alcoholic cocktail.”

Coming to Ketchum, what are you excited to have this project bring to the Wood River Valley?

This is such an incredible opportunity for us. We've been wanting to partner with an arts organization (all those creative vibes!), so the collaboration with the Sun Valley Museum of Art is ideal. And we have been looking for years to strengthen the connection between Boise State and the Wood River Valley. There are deep historical, cultural, and intellectual threads that connect the two valleys. What a terrific chance to bring those to life through this series of events.

What do you think the “special sauce” is that makes MashUp fun and unique?

I think it's the mix of passion that the presenters bring to their topics combined with the creativity that the audience brings to the Q&A. There were moments during the first season when I found myself having emotional reactions witnessing people talk about something they love, and audiences taking that passion and finding rich, human connections between topics. I love that the events are casual and lighthearted, too. It doesn't feel serious like going to a "lecture" sometimes can. It's just a reminder that our humanity can be so beautiful, and we're all in this together.

The artwork for promoting MashUp in Boise and the Wood River Valley is created with AI, can you talk about why you’ve chosen to do that?

Well, I should say that we used AI tools to come up with the initial image concepts—we didn't just use them without further manipulating them ourselves to fit the events. Our theme for Season 1 of MashUp was "Our Digital Future," so it was a natural fit. But in the College of Innovation and Design, we're very interested in understanding and engaging with the tools of technology in a deep way, and also approaching them critically, teaching our students to engage with them in a serious and critical way. AI has all sorts of implications for creativity, intellectual property, labor relations, environmental damage, and so on. But we believe you can't be a good critic of technology if you don't understand it. We try to be thoughtful with how we use it, transparent about using it, and always "keep humans in the loop" with whatever we produce.


Holly Holmquist: Art Enabling Authentic Storytelling

Kristine Bretall

Public Programs Director

Submitted by [email protected] on Tue, 01/23/2024 - 10:54

Holly Holmquist: Art Enabling Authentic Storytelling

January 23, 2024
Holly Holmquist, 2021

As part of SVMoA's exhibition Bodies of Work, Wood River Valley local Holly Holmquist will share her journey through chronic illness via her film and multimedia project, "PATIENT," in a screening and artist talk on Feb 1.

For this week’s SVMoA Voices, Public Programs Director Kristine Bretall sat down with Holmquist to discuss her story, the art that evolved from it, and her artistic process.  

Upcoming programs related to Bodies of Work include an evening of art, wellbeing, and yoga with SVMoA Contemporaries on Thu, Jan 25. And on Mon, Feb 12, the founder of the Art & Global Health Center at UCLA, Professor David Gere, will lead a fascinating and provocative lecture on how the arts can save lives.

“Patient”—A Video and Conversation with Artist Holly Holmquist
Image from PATIENT, photo: Holly Holmquist

What led you to create the project PATIENT?

Six years ago, I came down with an acute illness that developed into a chronic one. I went from being an athletic, full-time art director/designer to someone with a radically altered life.

All the while, I was taking photos in the way I always have, as this is how I move through the world. If there's a grain silo through the fog, a good license plate on the car in front of me, or beautiful light coming through the window, my instinct is to capture it.

I quickly learned what it is to have an illness that doesn't have a department, the endless process of trying to get help with something complex in a hyper-specialized system. I also came to understand that my story was not unique.

As someone who works with photography, I find solace in imagery of the shared experience and look for evidence of it in the world. And I wasn't seeing it anywhere. Understandably — it’s a complicated story. Four years into my illness, I recognized that the record I had created of my experience enabled me to tell the story. "Patient," the piece I’m showing in February is the first view of an ongoing multi-media project.

1970s in Idaho with mom Julie Holmquist and sister Allison, Holly in back

1970s in Idaho with mom Julie Holmquist and sister Allison, Holly in back

Tell us about your personal background and your connection to the valley.

I was born in Southern California in 1971, and my family moved to Ketchum in 1972. Our first house was out in Warm Springs, and we were later in Hulen Meadows. I’ve lived in Idaho and California throughout my life and have deep roots in both places.
I began college at UCLA and then transferred to Berkeley, where I majored in Social Science. My interdisciplinary major allowed me to take classes in art, design, photography, and letterpress. I later earned a second degree in design from California College of the Arts in San Francisco. While at CCA, I started an internship at the brand identity firm Elixir Design. I was fortunate to find a great fit and have spent my career with the same firm.

Editing photos at Elixir / photo: John Dolan

Editing photos at Elixir / photo: John Dolan

What kind of work do you do at Elixir?

My main role has been art director, with a focus on photography. I help brands express who they are visually. For the entirety of my design career, photography has been my means of capturing ideas and telling stories.

One of the first projects I had the opportunity to work on was the formation and realization of women’s athletic apparel company Athleta. Elixir’s founder, Jennifer Jerde, and her then partner, Scott Kerslake, conceived of the brand and nurtured it through its first seven years. At the time, there was virtually no representation of female athletes, much less women's athletic apparel. It just didn’t exist. Women in groups, teams — athletes of any kind — were not in our daily visual landscape. I had rowed in college and was thrilled to work on the initial direction for what would become a new kind of representation of women.

●	At the 1991 San Diego Crew Classic with UC Berkeley crew

Rowing for UCLA at the San Diego Crew Classic, 1991

From 2005-2008, I art directed The Sundance Catalog. We did six location shoots a year, often with 14-hour workdays. Working with a close-knit, super-talented team over those years to capture a place — not just the look of it — was a challenge I loved. Picking up details like the local signage and scenes at the Grumpy’s and Pioneer of our given location was one of my favorite parts of the shoots.

On location with Sundance photo crew


On location with Sundance photo crew / photo: John Dolan

When you look at a design, what is the most important element of it to you?

I get excited about anything that has a unique point of view. There is so much repetition now, easily seen in the types of images proliferated on social media. When you can’t find examples of something on your mind, there is a story waiting to be told. It takes guts to do what is true to you and your organization, to break from the trend of the day. Authenticity is refreshing.

Holly in 2012

Holly in 2012

While chronic illness and the difficulty of finding a diagnosis is not new, it seems there is increased awareness and understanding of the complexity of auto-immune disorders, long COVID, and illnesses that currently have no ready diagnosis nor cure. And, how these things may all be occurring in the same person simultaneously …. The timing of sharing your piece and your experience is so layered with COVID, do you think it’s giving some people more insight into chronic illness?

I’m grateful that more attention is being given to chronic illness over the last few years. Science journalist Ed Yong has written extensively on Long Covid. In a recent piece in the NYT, information designer Giorgia Lupi illustrated her experience living with Long Covid.

In my project, I’m using photography to communicate what it has felt like to be up against an illness that the medical system isn’t set up to treat. Images induce feelings. I want this story to be felt.

●	New Years 2015, before this all started (On Dollar with sister Allison and nephew Oliver)
New Year's Day 2015, before this all started (On Dollar with sister Allison and nephew Oliver)

Has this project helped you in any way?

Yes, it has been an enormous help. The act of capturing this experience has felt like a return to the person I was before getting sick, and the ability to share the work with others is an antidote to the isolation that comes with illness. There is a palliative quality and a tangible benefit to making the invisible visible.

Holly Snowshoeing

Holly Snowshoeing

Click here to learn more about Holly Holmquist and her project "Patient" which will be screened along with a discussion on Thu, Feb 1 at Ochi Gallery in Ketchum.

Lella Aicher: Taking Inspiration Forward

Lella Aicher: Taking Inspiration Forward

January 9, 2024
Lella Aicher

The 2024 SVMoA Scholarships season kicks off on January 12, when applications for six different scholarships open. Every year, the Sun Valley Museum of Art awards tens of thousands of dollars to local students and educators in Blaine County to further their education in the arts and humanities. Since its inception, SVMoA has awarded over $1 million in scholarships, made possible by funds raised at SVMoA's Annual Wine Auction and generous contributions from donors.

This month, we spotlight Lella Aicher, 2023 SVMoA scholarship recipient and first-year student at Point Loma Nazarene University. Join us for a sneak peek into Lella’s life as a college student as she shares how the arts have played a transformative role in her life and continue to influence her future.

Curator Courtney Gilbert sat down with Lella to talk about her connections to the Museum, how she’s using her scholarship, and what she has planned (the arts are part of that plan!).

You’ve been involved in the Museum in many ways over the years! Can you share a little bit about the role of the Museum in your life as you grew up here in the valley?  

I first got involved with the Museum when I met Danica [Danica Robrahn, former SVMoA Museum Educator and current Art Teacher at Hemingway STEAM School]. I knew her through school tours and SVMoA’s work in the schools. She invited me to start taking SVMoA’s weekend workshops for kids and teens. I took so many! Some of my favorites were a printmaking workshop using stencils, a class on the basics of photography and cinematography, and two yarn-bombing workshops. I also attended the Museum’s weeklong summer art camps. 

What did you like best about art camp? 

I loved that you could let out your inner self. Campers have the flexibility to do whatever they want creatively within the guidelines of a specific project. The projects gave you structure, but you had lots of creative freedom.   

You’ve also worked for the Museum as an Assistant in our Smart Art Afterschool program and as an Assistant at summer camp. What did you enjoy about those experiences?  

I love watching the kids at work, expressing their creativity. I could live vicariously through them as I watched them make art without a filter, not feeling like their ideas had to be limited by society’s expectations. As you grow up, I feel like you start to limit yourself creatively based on what you think society expects of you, and often to one medium. It was so great to see kids open to all kinds of artistic mediums and ideas. Working with them was a full-circle moment for me — a reminder not to limit my own creative practice.   

Lella Aicher, Art Camp Assistant

What SVMoA scholarships have you been awarded? How are you putting them to use?  

I won two scholarships this year: the Hardy Kaslo Arts & Humanities Scholarship and the High School Arts & Humanities Scholarship. I’m currently using them to support my studies toward my B.A. at Point Loma Nazarene University, where I’m majoring in psychology with a minor in visual arts.   

Do you have any ideas about how you’d like to use your degree?  

I’ve been doing a lot of research on art therapy. I would love to start a nonprofit to make therapy and mental health treatment more accessible to all and to incorporate art therapy into that. In my psychology classes, I’ve already learned a lot about the brain and how art stimulates the brain in a healthy way. I’m interested in how art can help people heal and address things happening in their lives.  

I love that! Our next exhibition is all about the relationship between art and healing! What kind of art have you been making recently?  

I haven’t taken any studio art classes at college yet, but I’ve been taking introductory Art History classes. So, I’ve been doing small projects in my dorm room, working with watercolors and reworking and altering clothes. I’m making plans for larger projects I can do at home in Idaho. When I take notes in classes, I make lots of drawings and then turn those into study guides that are also art pieces.   

How have you enjoyed your Art History classes?  

I’ve loved them. The best part has been visiting the San Diego Museum of Art to see some of the art we’re studying in person. It’s amazing!  

What are you looking forward to in the next year?  

I’m excited to integrate more visual arts into my classes. I’m thinking about making visual arts my major and psychology my minor, so I’m looking forward to figuring that out and what my role will be here in college.  

Do you have a current favorite artist?  

Yes! Jon Allen, a sculptor in San Diego, installed a beautiful wood and light sculpture in a coffee shop here called Gordion Knot (2020). I love its meaning, which is the importance of finding unity and a place of comfort.    

Jon Allen, Gordion Knot

Jon Allen, Gordion Knot

That seems like a perfect place to end! Thank you so much for chatting with me!  

Thank you!


2023 In Review: Directors' Best of the Year


Communications & PR Manager

Submitted by [email protected] on Tue, 12/26/2023 - 10:48

2023 In Review: Directors' Best of the Year

December 26, 2023
Sun Valley Museum of Art galleries

2023 was a transformative year for the Sun Valley Museum of Art. We reopened our renovated space in June with an exceptional exhibition, Hidden Gems: Sun Valley Collects. What a treat to have so many important and outstanding works of art on view from local collectors for the entire community to see!  

2023 Street Party at the Sun Valley Museum of Art

In July, we had a fantastic street party. Over 800 people visited the museum and enjoyed live music and a pop-up performance by the dance company BODYTRAFFIC. It was a wonderful celebration of art and community.   

However, the true highlight of the year for me has been getting to know our community of engaged and curious donors, friends, students, and champions. Each of you has contributed to the advancement of our organization, and for that, I am most grateful. 

To close out the year, I have asked our Sun Valley Museum of Art programming team to share their highlights of this past year and exciting things to look forward to in 2024. 

Wishing you a joyful holiday season and a New Year filled with inspiration and creativity.

Jennifer Wells Green, Executive Director

Mexico en el Corazon

Kristine Bretall, Director of Public Programs

What I love about gathering groups of people in shared arts events is the joy, connection, and sense of community that is created when we all take in the same moments as one organism! 

Josh Ritter performing in 20203

Looking back on 2023, a few highlights for me included Josh Ritter—an incredible singer-songwriter and author from Idaho—and México en el Corazón, the community performance we brought here to Sun Valley. I was lucky enough to see Josh Ritter twice this year. His performances bring an unparalleled level of enthusiasm—definitely put one on your bucket list!  While you’re at it, put the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on your bucket list, too. 

2023 Mexico en el Corazon performance presented by the Sun Valley Museum of Art

More locally, the Museum’s performance of México en el Corazón at the Sun Valley Pavilion shined as a moment of celebration of Mexican culture and people here in the Wood River Valley. I feel so lucky that we had the opportunity to host a stop of this truly extraordinary tour of over 50 dancers and musicians from Mexico, with an audience who sang along to every song in Spanish. The support of so many community businesses and non-profits made this event possible and free for all attendees. It was a moment for all of us at SVMoA to feel gratitude and pride for our entire community.  

Installation photography of Sharing Honors and Burdens: Renwick Invitational 2023, Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2023, Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Photo by Albert Ting

Installation photo: Sharing Honors and Burdens Renwick Invitational 2023, photo credit Albert Ting

Courtney Gilbert, Director of Visual Arts

I have a long list of exhibitions I’m looking forward to seeing in 2024! While some of those shows are at internationally known museums, I thought I’d take this opportunity to recommend three exhibitions at museums that might not be on a lot of people’s radar.

First up is a show that I thoroughly enjoyed visiting last fall at the Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. Sharing Honors and Burden: Renwick Invitational opened last May and is on view until March 31, 2024. The tenth installment in the Renwick Invitational series, it is the first to feature all Indigenous artists, each making work that incorporates ancestral traditions into innovative works of contemporary art. Among the participating artists is Joe Feddersen (Arrow Lakes/Okanagan), who uses geometric glyphs and symbols drawn from urban imagery and Indigenous design to explore our human relationship to the environment. Joe participated in an exhibition here about a decade ago that marked the first time he experimented with casting glyphs in glass. It was exciting to see the newest version of that work, an enormous curtain of shimmering glass glyphs, hanging from the ceiling in Renwick’s galleries.

Fank Walter: To Capture a Soul at the Drawing Center in New York

Frank Walter: To Capture a Soul opens at the Drawing Center in New York on June 20 and runs through September 15, 2024. I try to visit the Drawing Center every time I visit the city. It’s a wonderful institution that redefines the way I understand what drawing is. I was introduced to Frank Walter’s beautiful drawings and painting in the first exhibition of his work, which took place a few years after his death in 2009. Born in Antigua in 1926, Walter was the descendant of both enslaved Africans and plantation owners. He had a fascinating life, with time spent managing a sugar plantation, extensive travels through Europe and the UK, and work as studio photographer. He dedicated his final years to making artwork in isolation, producing thousands of paintings and drawings, sculptures and photographs. The show at the Drawing Center will include landscapes and portraits, diagrams and botanical imagery, works inspired by his travels and by his life in the Caribbean.

Carolina Caycedo

PST ART (previously Pacific Standard Time), the major art event of Southern California, returns in September 2024 to investigate the theme Art & Science Collide. This year’s iteration features more than 818 artists participating in 50 exhibitions across the region. One I’m especially looking forward to is We Place Life at the Center at the Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM) at East Los Angeles College. We Place Life at the Center is a solo exhibition of work by the Los Angeles-based Colombian artist Carolina Caycedo, who produced a film and sculpture for SVMoA’s 2022 exhibition Dams: Reservoirs, Reclamation, Renewal. The show at VPAM will continue Caycedo’s investigation into the preservation of Indigenous systems of knowledge around water and land stewardship, food, and energy. It includes Salute of the Fish, the sculpture Caycedo made for Dams, alongside other sculptures, paintings, drawings, video works, and more. And if you want to catch Caycedo’s work now, her solo exhibition Spiral for Shared Dreams is on view at MoMA in NYC until May 19, 2024.

Anne Patterson, Process Sketches, Adams, 2011

Sophie Sawyers, Director of Learning and Engagement

I thought I would take this opportunity to share my favorite ways to use art as a creative outlet inspired by the artists who came to SVMoA this year.

Inspired by our exhibition, The Color of Sound, grab some watercolors and/or crayons and oil pastels and something that plays music. Choose a song—it can be anything, though I recommend listening to something previously unfamiliar—close your eyes, listen to the music, and paint/draw what you see. What do the sounds look like?

Esther Pearl Watson's artistic process

Esther Pearl Watson, who had works on view during our Fall 2023 exhibition Sightings, sometimes uses cardboard as her canvas. Using leftover cardboard boxes, cut a piece to be your canvas. Paint a landscape and accentuate details using glitter, like Esther Pearl Watson does in her own work. Check out Watson's takeover on SVMoA's Instagram page to learn more about her artistic process.

Maiah Wynne Art & Healing Workshop at the Sun Valley Museum of Art

A wonderful way to relax during the busy holiday season is "Five-Finger Breathing," an exercise of mindful breathing that can be transformed into an art exercise. Musician Maiah Wynne, who visited Sun Valley in December, kicked off SVMoA's upcoming exhibition Bodies of Work: Art & Healing and her SVMoA Art Therapy Workshop with "Five-Finger Drawing." For this breathing and drawing exercise, place your non-dominant hand on a piece of paper. With a pencil in your other hand, trace your hand as you breathe in and breathe out. Want to keep going? Turn your hand slightly and trace it again. Turn it into a hand spiral or a design of your choice. Alternatively, draw a flower while consciously breathing in and out. 

Maiah Wynne: On Art as a Tool for Healing


Communications & PR Manager

Submitted by [email protected] on Mon, 12/04/2023 - 15:05

Maiah Wynne: On Art as a Tool for Healing

December 5, 2023
Maiah Wynne - SVMoA Voices

This week, we spoke with Maiah Wynne in advance of her busy weeklong visit to the Wood River Valley to work with students in Blaine County schools, lead a community workshop, and perform a concert at the Argyros this Thu, Dec 7 (tickets are still available!). Our discussion covered her music, art as a tool for healing, and all the instruments she plays. Her visit is part of SVMoA's upcoming exhibition Bodies of Work: Art & Healing (Jan 12-Mar 23, 2024).

Maiah Wynne is a self-described singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist; however, she is much more than that. A precocious self-taught musician, she has been writing and singing songs since her elementary school days. A musical prodigy as a teen, her talent and perseverance have earned her a spot on NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, as well as slots at the Upstream Music Fest, Timber Music Festival, Northwest Folklife, and an invitation to perform at the Sundance Music Festival. She has been a guest singer with the Portland Cello Project and, most recently, is now bandmate to rock legends Andy Curran of Coney Hatch and Andy Lifeson, guitarist of Rush, in the musical project Envy of None.

You are described as a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. What instruments do you play?

I like to say that I play a little bit of everything! My main instruments are guitar, piano, ukulele, banjo, cigar box, dulcimer, mandolin, drums, and harp guitar. I also play some other fun instruments like the saz and bouzouki. Often, I play drums with my feet while I play other instruments like the guitar on stage.

Maiah Wynne at Sun Valley Museum of Art

So many instruments! Where did you first learn how to play music?  I know that learning to play music and sing songs is a process, one that is formed in many ways, starting with family, school music classes, private lessons, and the self-taught of the internet. What was your process of learning music?

I think I first became passionate about music when I was just a small kid sitting at the piano at 3 years old. I loved watching my dad play the piano and was inspired to learn from the start. I took piano lessons early on for a few years, then taught myself everything else from guitar to bouzouki! I used YouTube videos to learn new instruments, and I practiced writing and improvising. I was also a part of my school's choir for many years, which helped with my understanding of harmony and helped me develop my voice. I liked writing songs from an early age. I also loved watching my grandpa play the mandolin and banjo growing up. I was obsessed with music and learning how to create it. I loved the process of writing music, and I spent hours playing the piano, improvising, writing songs, and teaching myself new instruments after school each day.

Maiah Wynne at Sun Valley Museum of Art

You are interested in Art Therapy and using art as a tool for healing. That fits so well with the upcoming SVMoA exhibition Bodies of Work: Art and Healing, which is all about the healing power of art and art as a force to bring communities together to heal. How did you learn about art therapy or come to it as a discipline?

Music has always been a form of therapy for me. Even before I learned the science behind why music and art help, I could feel it in my body and nervous system. I feel very lucky to have found music at an early age because it helped me through the most difficult periods of my life. I feel music has the power to heal and transform people. It can help us connect with our community, and it can help us tap into our deepest emotions. Music is a powerful tool, and it also happens to be one of the most natural and instinctual things we can do if we allow ourselves to let go. I feel very passionate about bringing music to communities and helping encourage people to find their own connections with music because I know firsthand how much of a difference it can make.

Maiah Wynne at Sun Valley Museum of Art

You are trained and work with an art therapy non-profit organization. Can you tell us a little about that and how you got involved?

A few years ago, I partnered with an organization called First Aid Arts. I became aware of their work after singing at an annual fundraiser in Seattle. I was so moved by what I had learned that I decided to take their training course. I learned about how trauma affects the brain and how art-based tools can help people heal from trauma. Their program is inspiring and transformative, and they've brought music and art-based practices to communities all over the world who have suffered from trauma in various forms, from war or human trafficking to violence and displacement. I was deeply inspired by their work and was honored to partner with them in my own work as a musician. I've since taken what I've learned and implemented it into the workshops that I've led across the country, sharing tools and easy practices to help regulate the nervous system and starting conversations about mental health and the arts.

Maiah Wynne at Sun Valley Museum of Art

As a teenage runaway, you can sympathize with what kids are dealing with emotionally and empathize with what they're going through. How can kids use music to heal or connect or even as a channel for their emotions? Sometimes it’s hard for kids to put their feelings and emotions into words. How do you use music to heal?

Music can help regulate the nervous system through writing, singing, dancing, or listening. The music I make and how I create is unique to me, as it is for everyone else. That's part of what makes the process so beautiful. I can take a single prompt, and a dozen people will create something different. We all have our unique challenges, battles, perspectives, and creative spirits. Using music to process looks different for everybody.

The biggest hurdle for most people is simply giving themselves permission to try.  I like to encourage introspection and self-reflection along the way.

Can you talk about your project Envy of None? How is it to play with rock legend Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson? How did you meet him? How did you form a band? Was it chance or organized? Do you have anything coming up with him?

Envy of None has been such a fun project to be a part of. I won a song contest about 5 years ago, and through that I was connected with Andy Curran, a Canadian rock musician. I won a mentorship session with Andy, and we hit it off and decided to work on some music together. Andy and his musical partner Alf brought Alex on board. We ended up creating an entire album and releasing it last year, and it charted in the US, UK, and Canada. It was all very exciting, and it was really fun to step out of my normal genre. We have a second album in the works right now. I love my Canadian brothers! They've been a joy to work with.

Maiah Wynne and Envy of None

Can you give us a preview of the workshop that you will be leading this week at the Sun Valley Museum of Art? What attendees can expect from the workshop?

The workshop will cover songwriting, mental health, and music, and a bit about my journey as a musician. I adapt my workshops to the group, either writing a song together or in smaller groups. I'll also be answering questions.

I'm excited to meet everyone and to get the chance to work with the wonderful Sun Valley community!

Learn more about Maiah Wynne at


SVMoA Staff: Seasonal Favorites in the Wood River Valley


Communications & PR Manager

Submitted by [email protected] on Tue, 11/21/2023 - 11:29

SVMoA Staff: Seasonal Favorites in the Wood River Valley

November 21, 2023
Winter view from Baldy

As the holidays approach, we can’t help but reflect on the things that bring us joy. We recently surveyed SVMoA Staff about what is special to them during this time of year in the Wood River Valley. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Galena Lodge dominates the list!

In the spirit of gratitude, we are sharing a curated list of SVMoA staff’s “Favorite Things.” These are things that make our hearts swell, our minds expand, our legs journey, and sometimes even our bellies full. We hope you find inspiration, delight, and maybe a new favorite or two!

Kristine Bretall, Director of Public Programs

Eggnog at Galena Lodge in December! Galena is truly magical all year, but during December, it really gets me into the holiday spirit. Not only do they cook up incredible food, but their eggnog is also spectacular. A ski or snowshoe beforehand, if you’re me, is completely optional. After the New Year, the eggnog drops off the menu, so get there soon.

Galena Lodge

Kristine Bretall enjoing eggnog at Galena Lodge

Daniel Deluca, Manager of Operations

Croney Cove European Market is a lovely 7-mile drive out Warm Springs Road to put you in the holiday spirit. It embodies the old European holiday market traditions. A sheepdog, a fire, a glass of wine, and coffee greeted me last Saturday when I arrived. It’s a great place for unique holiday shopping. It’s only open on select weekends, and it is scheduled to be open this coming weekend, Saturday, November 25 & Sunday, November 26.

Located at 1033 W. Warm Springs. Just before Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs.

Dan Deluca at Croney Cove European Market

Courtney Gilbert, Curator

In winters when we have lots of snow, I love driving over to Craters of the Moon National Monument for a Nordic ski. The staff at Craters groom the entire Loop Road — about 11 km/7 mi — for both skating and classic skiing. Skiers and snowshoers can access it for free! The contrast between the white snow and black lava makes for a spectacular and otherworldly landscape. Be sure to check the wind speeds before you head over — they can create an added challenge!

Craters of the Moon

Courtney Gilbert nordic skiing at Craters of the Moon National Monument

Jennifer Wells Green, Executive Director

Last year was our first Sun Valley Christmas, and one of the highlights was the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade down Dollar Mountain (fireworks too)! We will be back this year outside the Lodge with hot drinks in hand.

Sun Valley Resort Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade & Fireworks

Jennifer Wells Green - Sun Valley Torch Light Parade

Sue Heaphy, Finance Director

The Heaphy Family Annual Christmas Tree Finding Day. We know it’s the holidays when we head out to find our Christmas Tree as a family, with my husband and three kids.  It is an annual event that started when my children were babies and continues today. It is a fun family day of skiing, snowshoeing and of course a snowball fight or two that includes lots of fun and laughter. I love being in the mountains with my family.

Sawtooth National Forest Christmas Tree Permit Info

Sue Heaphy - Christmas Tree Cutting in the Sawtooth National Forest

Elizabeth Herrick, Director of Advancement

Trekking Up Baldy. It finally feels like winter to me when I can start or end my day by skinning up Baldy. There is something magical—especially during the busy holiday season, about starting out in the dark morning hours and watching the sun crest over the ridge line to light up our town, or climbing up as all the lights come on below and town is aglow. I always go with friends and pack hot coffee or refreshments to share at the top, and nothing beats the ski down after earning every turn.

Elizabeth Herrick - Hiking up Baldy Mountain

Michelle DeLateur, Visitor Services Assistant

Playing "A Charlie Brown Christmas" album by Vince Guaraldi Trio, particularly on vinyl, is what kicks off the season for me!

Michelle DeLateur - Charlie Brown Christmas Album

Sophie Sawyers, Director of Learning and Engagement

I like to get out the snowshoes and go for long walks in untouched snow or packed trails. Crunching fresh snow with friends and family always makes me laugh and appreciate being outside. Bonus fun when the afternoon ends with a hot chocolate at Galena Lodge!

Galena Lodge

Sophie Sawyers Snowshoeing at Galena

Ava Scanlan, Public Relations and Communications Manager

The Boulder Mountain Clayworks Holiday Sale! Boulder Mountain Clayworks is a gem of a community space, hosting some of the valley's most talented and sometimes most secret makers. Every year they host a holiday sale where the makers of the studio sell their wares to the public. Some of my most treasured pieces are from Boulder Mountain Clayworks, and it’s a great place to find unique gifts for family and friends. Mark your calendars: Saturday, December 9, 2023, 11am–4pm.

Boulder Mountain Clayworks

Ava Scanlan - Boulder Mountain Clayworks Holiday Sale

Rory Slattery, Development Associate

I love fondue! There are three great ways to enjoy fondue in the valley: while skiing, in the village, or in support of a great local non-profit. Fondue at the Roundhouse on Baldy is a memorable way to end a day of skiing on the mountain or visit the historic Ram Restaurant in the Sun Valley Village for fondue alongside European winter favorites. Sun Valley Culinary Institute hosts fondue nights throughout the winter, and they're a delicious way to support our community. SVCI classes sell out quickly—join their email list to hear about them early, they sell out fast!

Sun Valley Culinary Institute

Rory Slattery - Fondue


Esther Pearl Watson: On Art & the Power of Personal Influence


Communications & PR Manager

Submitted by [email protected] on Tue, 11/07/2023 - 12:47

Esther Pearl Watson: On Art & the Power of Personal Influence

November 7, 2023
Artist Esther Pearl Watson

This week in SVMoA Voices, we sit down with Esther Pearl Watson, an artist based in Los Angeles currently teaching art at ArtCenter College of Design, who is in the group exhibition Sightings, on view through January 4, 2024, at the Sun Valley Museum of Art. Esther grew up in a series of small towns outside of Dallas, Texas, with her siblings, mother, and flying saucer-building father, Gene. Her father’s flying saucers and the nomadic aspects of her childhood inspire her “memory paintings,” which playfully narrate the experience of an economically precarious family living in rural America. Watson’s work highlights an absurd, persistent, and particularly American optimism that only seems to grow stronger in the face of failures of family, policy, and the American Dream.  

You recently returned from your trip to Europe, how was that?  

I went to visit my father and my aunt in Italy, outside of Milan. My father’s name was originally Gino Vescio; his adopted name is Watson. He was an orphan from postwar rural Calabria who was put on a plane to the United States after his grandparents heard the Pope on the radio saying, “Send your children to the United States, and they will have a better life.” So, they did. In some respects, he spent his adult life building a spaceship to go home. Since he returned to Italy in 1992, he stopped building large car-sized spaceships.

Esthter Pearl Watson and her father standing beneath an angel

Esther Pearl Watson with her father standing beneath an angel. Her father believes angels guide him through the interstellar spaceship and show him how it works.

Italy played a large role in your upbringing. How did it influence you and your art?

When I was a child, my family, my mother and father and me and my four siblings, moved to Italy for two years. I was put in an Italian school and had to learn the language, which I remember learning very easily. I would often translate for my parents.

When I was 8-10 years old, I would go to mass at the tiny village church in Ferno, Italy. Italian was my second language, so during the mass, that was in Latin and Italian, I would look up at the paintings on the ceiling and make up stories to accompany what I saw. When we returned to the United States, my parents were always changing religions, and it often had to do with more where the food was than the religious beliefs. My mother was inter-denominational / Pentecostal, and my father Catholic.  

Esther Pearl Watson's childhood church in Ferno

Esther Pearl Watson in from of her childhood church in Ferno.

You have compared your memory paintings to Ex Voto art, a form of folk art that traditionally acknowledges a tragic event intercepted by divine forces.

Yes, in college, I discovered Mexican Ex Voto art, which is very similar to Italian Ex Voto art, which are both a form of folk art. There is almost always a saint or a Virgin Mary floating in the sky, sometimes on a puffy cloud or surrounded by a glow. It’s a narrative where there is a beacon of hope. I realized later in life that the influence of Italy may have had something to do with that as well.

Also, it was also in college when I began to associate flying saucers as a kind of folk art. My big A-Ha moment was when I was in college and I discovered Douglas Curran’s book In Advance of the Landing: Folk Concepts of Outer Space, a book on photography of people believing in and building spaceships. When I saw those photos, I realized I wasn’t alone and that there were others out there building flying saucers, like my dad. I processed it as visionary art. Folk art felt like the language I was raised in. My father saw it more as if he was an amateur engineer.

When my father came to the US, he went from extreme poverty in Calabria after WWII to growing up in the United States during the Space Age. As an American, he learned that anything is possible and that anyone could be anything, which is uniquely an American sentiment to a culture that was obsessed with space and travel, and ideas of what the future looked like.  

Esther Pearl Watson's father's drawings

Esther Pearl Watson's father's drawings on the wall of his home.

So, you consider yourself growing up with a form of folk art and chose folk art as your language?

Yes, in a sense. I love the way that Anna Mary Robertson Moses, aka “Grandma Moses,” romanticizes and idealizes everything. I find it funny and cathartic when dealing with painful memories. The saucers in my paintings stand for hope in a hopeless situation. My paintings are like Ex Votos; they are about vision and hope. No matter how bad it gets, there is always a presence of salvation. The paintings are also about the American Dream, where you can be anything. My parents really believed that. My father really thought he could build a flying saucer.  

Esther Pearl Watson painting

Esther Pearl Watson, Space Gas Exceeds Weight of Manned Flying Saucer, 2023.

The flying saucers in your paintings seem to be a trope for many different things, more a constant presence of something than a unique vision of some rare extraterrestrial being.  

The flying saucers in the works are more of a symbol for the American Dream that my parents believed in, the hope that kept us as a family together, as well as the ever-present mental illness that was a fact in our daily lives. As kids in the late 80's, my siblings and I were outcasts, eccentric, punk kids; we were the weirdos. Kind of like aliens looming overhead. The story I’m always trying to tell is that of someone trying to fit in, like in my book Unlovable.

Unlovable is based on a diary of a 15-year-old girl that my husband and I found in a gas station. It’s a story about a girl who is trying to fit in and impress her friends. It’s the story of being 15, and in hindsight, you see all the things that you did wrong.

Ever since I was 13, I kept a diary, and to this day, I write in my diary every day. But in my diary, I pretended to be normal. I didn’t write about the flying saucers that sat parked in our front yard in my diary.  

Esther Pearl Watson

Esther Pearl Watson, I was left behind because I was not on their list, 2022

*Fun Esther Pearl Watson Fact:

Esther Pearl Watson remembers meeting Ionel Talpazan, another artist represented in SVMoA’s Sightings exhibition. She recalls seeing him in New York City selling his paintings and drawings lined up in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, she sent her father a postcard of one of his drawings of a flying saucer and recalls her father saying, “That flying saucer wouldn’t fly.” She regrets not buying one of his works.

Esther Pearl Watson’s recommended reading list:

Tune in on Thu, Nov 9, 2023, at 6pm as Esther Pearl Watson takes SVMoA on a Virtual Studio Tour!

Join Sightings artist Esther Pearl Watson and SVMoA Curator Courtney Gilbert for a conversation about Watson’s “memory paintings” based on her childhood in Texas, where her father devoted himself to trying to build a working flying saucer, a tour of her studio, and a chat about what she’s working on now.

Free, Via Zoom
Thursday, November 9, 2023, 6 p.m.
CLICK HERE to join!