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Central Arts

Sun Valley Center for the Arts Brings Programs Mid-Valley to Expand Reach

An artist rendering of the Ezra Pound House in Hailey and the soon-to-be-built art barn.

An artist rendering of the Ezra Pound House in Hailey and the soon-to-be-built art barn.

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At 35 years old, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts displays all the energy and ambition one might expect of any go-getter at that age.

When it was founded by Bill Janss, then owner of the ski area, it was to round out his vision for Sun Valley. That is, that it was not enough for Sun Valley to simply be a “beautiful place and a ski mountain,” said Kristin Poole, artistic director. “They needed to build a cultural life.” Janss, a former Olympic skier and scion of a company that built much of Southern California, was an art collector and had met Glenn Cooper in Los Angeles. He invited her to come to Sun Valley to start up a cultural center. After his wife was killed in an avalanche, Janss and Cooper married, and together created the beginnings of Sun Valley’s rather spectacular current art scene.

“It started small,” says Poole, “with an artists’ colony and an artist in residence.” One of those artists was Gail Severn who now runs one of the top art galleries in Ketchum.

Over the years, as the center’s prestige has grown, it has diversified, offering opportunities to see a wide range of performing arts, from ballet to Bonnie Raitt, as well as visual arts exhibits and classes.

The Center is supported by a “family of people who have been with us for a long time,” and new people who get involved each year, Poole said. In addition, it raises funds with a wildly popular annual wine auction and an arts and crafts fair. It is housed in a smallish facility in Ketchum at Fifth and Washington, but fund-raising has begun to move to a greatly enlarged space at Second Avenue and Fourth Street.

Tom Kundig, a principal architect with the Seattle firm, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, is designing the new facility. Sam Gappmayer, executive director of the Center, expresses confidence in Kundig’s qualifications, citing his experience in the design of cultural and arts facilities and his reputation of integrating a building into its environment in a unique and dynamic way. Kundig was recently named one of three finalists for this year’s architecture award by the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. Poole says the Center expects the project to take several years to complete.

In an amazing example of community generosity, Engelmann Inc. has donated its services in building the addition to the arts education facility. The company has rallied subcontractors and vendors to donate their time and materials as well.

“The motivation is that we are excited that one of the Valley’s largest non-profits has decided to bring its programs to Hailey,” Engelmann Inc. Vice President Nick Gilman says. “It’s where we live and are raising our kids.” >>>

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