The Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy is the heart of the performing arts community in Boise, and is renowned for its educational outreach programs. The impact of the academy and its outreach programs on Boise and its youth is monumental. Within these modest buildings, the lives of young people are forever changed under the insurmountable impact of the arts.
The Academy is located on the corner of 9th and Myrtle. The Academy was launched in 1992 from a generous endowment from a philanthropic Mr. Simplot. In 1992, the Academy consisted of only one building; since then, the Academy has expanded to a total of three buildings, including the Academy, the Annex, and a recent addition of the Ballet Idaho offices in May of 2007. The ESPAA has an extremely interesting and paradoxical history. According to Tom Tompkins, who has managed the Academy since 1995, “the buildings that are currently in use are more than 100 years old.” Originally, the buildings were part of Boise?s warehouse district. The Academy was home to the company Boise Feed and Seed; the Annex was initially housed the company Boise Fruit and Produce. The activities that currently take place within the buildings, however, reveal little evidence of their historic origin.
Today, ESPAA is home to many of Boise’s most prestigious performing arts associations, including the Boise Philharmonic, Ballet Idaho, and Opera Idaho. The Academy is also one of the foremost artistic educational outreach programs in the city. The various professional organizations host an array of youth organizations, including the Treasure Valley Youth Symphony, the Ballet Idaho Youth Ensemble, and an Opera Idaho outreach program. These young artists are exposed to the masterpieces of the artistic world, and are mentored by some of Idaho’s top musicians and dancers. These educational outreach programs have established the ESPAA as one of the most important aspects of our community. Tompkins reminds us that “art is a vital part of our world; it is vital because too often people are caught up in mundane aspects of everyday life. Art allows us to see something greater than ourselves. It opens our eyes and ears to the sensitivities of emotion.”