The Boise Art Association was founded in 1931, composed of citizens interested in bettering the art community of Boise. Primarily, they were focused on acquiring a gallery to display art to the people of the city. A gallery was designed by John E. Tourtellotte (the architect responsible for the creation of other Boise landmarks like the Capitol Building and the Carnegie Library) and Charles F. Hummel.
On February 24 of 1934, groundbreaking commenced on the Boise Gallery of Art on a site in Boise’s own Julia Davis Park. The construction of the building was completed through partnerships with the Works Progress Administration, the City of Boise and the Boise Art Association in 1937.
The original building featured a combination of Egyptian revival and art deco styling, mixing neo-classical form with simplified, modern ornamentation. Like many other public buildings from the same era, the Boise Gallery of Art was built from sandstone, most likely extracted from the quarry near Table Rock. For several years following, the museum thrived, establishing itself as a non-profit organization and hosting events like Art in the Park, all the while housing Boise’s finest art works.
As the gallery grew so did the need for more space. In 1972, a 10,000 square foot addition resulted in a year long relocation of the gallery. The renovation moved the entrance to the north side of the building, creating space for a lobby and a gift shop. Studio space was also added, further expanding the gallery’s sense of community. After the facility’s reopening in 1973, the changes allowed for several years of good use before further expansion was necessary.
In 1988 another addition, designed and managed by Trout Architects in conjunction with Mark Mack, nearly doubled the size of the museum and moved the entrance back to the west side. The addition enclosed the original sandstone structure, preserving it inside the newly remodeled building. However, the original sandstone entrance remained as a major element of the new lobby and entrance to the museum.
The façade is still a prominent feature of the building’s architecture. At the same time, the name of the Boise Gallery of Art became the Boise Art Museum for a more resolute connotation, and only a year later, the signature neon display featured above the entrance of BAM was added by artist George Wray, titled Post and Lintel.
Since then, there has been one final addition, giving the museum its current form. The 1997-1998 expansion was managed by the local architecture firm, CSHQA, and added the distinctive sculpture court and sculpture garden to the rear of the building. The court echoed the styling of the entrance of the museum with many modernized neo-classical features and the outdoor space allowed for a nice flow into the already existent Rose Garden.
While adding considerable square footage, the $1.3 million project also conservatively recycled previous space for refreshed uses. After the completion of this renovation, the museum has remained largely unchanged, while its community has grown considerably.
The Boise Art Museum remains as a major Boise landmark and a premier community organization in the city. They have contributed greatly to Boise’s culture and traditions in ways such as the introduction of The Beaux-Arts Society, First Thursday and programs like Artreach. BAM is also among an elite 4% of museums across the nation that are certified by the American Alliance of Museums as meeting or exceeding national standards in all areas of operations.
Information and pictures courtesy of The Boise Art Museum and Preservation Idaho, as well as Trout Architects and CSHQA.