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The Sun Valley Guide magazine is distributed free twice yearly to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area communities.

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Art Alley, a street in the Hailey Market, offers local artists a place to display their work. Hailey artists Chris and Melissa Brownís booth (right) features his colorful woodwork and her large-scale tree paintings.


Let art lead the way

Hailey is ensuring its future through encouraging arts in the community.
Text by Sabina Dana Plasse.
Photos by David N. Seelig.

Hailey is quickly growing into a bona-fide arts destination, a distinction once reserved locally for Sun Valley and Ketchum. While not yet at the level of its North Valley neighbors, the fast-blossoming art scene in Hailey is a sign of good things to come.

With the Sun Valley Center for the Arts creating a new space, and North Valley artists and gallery owners opening locations in Hailey, added to the hugely popular Artistsí Market, opportunities are booming for local and visiting artists to display their works.

What brought about this sudden attention to Haileyís once-struggling art scene? In 2006, the Idaho Commission on the Arts awarded the city a $5,425 grant for public art in Haileyís new Woodside Park. This first step united local arts advocates and led to the creation of the Hailey Arts Commission.

The establishment of an arts commission has motivated city officials to view art as an important business entity; prompting much-needed planning for public art and arts education. "Now we are looking at what role the city should be playing to support the arts," said City Councilperson Carol Brown. City officials reviewed national studies demonstrating that support for the arts is good for economic development. Modeling itself after successful arts commissions in Boise, Jerome and McCall, Hailey has learned that "a vibrant arts community helps businesses to thrive," Brown said.

The Hailey Arts Commissionís aim is to enhance the culture of the community by providing leadership, advocacy and support for the arts. Ideas generated so far include artist walks with business sponsors and the integration of art in new city buildings, which is a common practice nationwide, said Brown. The commission will fund projects through grants and tax incentives.

The Sun Valley Center for the Artsí
new Hailey location, poet Ezra Poundís childhood home, affords much-needed space for art exhibitions, as well as a classroom for after-school art programs.

"Arts have been cultivated here for a long time, and as people move into the area they are naturally exposed to it," said Mark Johnstone, a member of the Arts Commission. In addition, parents want to participate in activities and events with their children.

 "They want to take the whole family," he said. Alongside the family-friendly Back Alley Parties at the Wicked Spud, the emergence of the Artistsí Market last year provided such an opportunity.

"Things are exploding, and itís a domino effect," said Artistsí Market Director, Alissa McGonigal. "Area artists were underrepresented, Hailey needed it."

In under a year, the Artistsí Market has established itself as a vital part of the arts scene. Featuring a rotating roster of artists and craftsman from in and around Blaine County, including Hailey-based fine artist Melissa Graves Brown, jewelry designer Heidi Mexia and Bellevue river rock artist Mike Baldwin, the market encourages participation from one and all.

In June, it merged with the Hailey Farmersí Market to create the Hailey Market, which offers 44 booths at a new location, next to the Bank of America on Main Street. The event, held every Thursday from June through September, also showcases musicians and offers face-painting for children. "There are so many talented people in the valley, and they are excited about being in Hailey," McGonigal said.

While it is based in Ketchum, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts long ago foresaw the need for a South Valley presence. The Center found the perfect location at the childhood home of poet Ezra Pound, on Second Avenue in Hailey.
 

"Itís really exciting," said Kristin Poole, The Centerís artistic director. "In the last three years Hailey is the place to be. We saw it coming some years ago."

The Center in Hailey provides space for professional exhibitions and public classes, as well as convenient housing for artists in residence.

"We are rooted here and more people are living here," Poole said.

"We showed a Hemingway film earlier this summer, and half the people came on foot or bike. Programming happening in town is a sign of a healthy community."

The Center also provides an office for the Wood River Arts Alliance, which encompasses all arts entities in the valley. It plans to host an arts festival in Hailey next January. The festival will focus on the performing arts, featuring live music and the opportunity for classes and presentations.

With the creation of its arts commission, Hailey has the means to promote and encourage community support for all types of cultural ventures, which in turn will attract businesses that are inspired to support the arts. In the meantime, The Center and the success of the Artistsí Market enhance the development of Hailey as a viable arts destination.