The cultural life of a community cannot exist without the people who take chances on an idea and who take the plunge to make things happen. They are people who are on the lookout for what is happening in their areas of expertise and who bring their ideas and visions to the population at large. They enhance the life of the community by providing opportunities for others to experience what they see and bringing their aesthetic to the forefront of our shared cultural experience.
Boise has been lucky to be the chosen home of Stephanie Wilde and Lane Bune of the Stewart Gallery. Together, they have created a home for contemporary art in our community. The Stewart Gallery will mark its 20th anniversary on October 20 with the "20/20" show: celebrating 20 years with 20 artists. Adding to the excitement is the fact that this will be the debut of the gallery's new location at 1110 W. Jefferson St. across from Boise Plaza.
Wilde has been an artist for 36 years. Early in her career, she understood the necessity of being creative in getting her work out there to be seen. "Art likes to be looked at," she says. "It loves to be up on a wall." She and Bune came up with the idea to rent a temporary space to put up a show of her own work, so they leased an area in the 8th Street Marketplace. "There was pink carpet and fluorescent lighting," she remembers of her first show. "We really didn't know anybody in town, so we invited Gene Harris to play. We needed a way to introduce ourselves to the community and to encourage an audience to attend our gathering."
The show was so successful that the leasing agent of the space asked Wilde and Bune to stay. "It seemed odd to me to have a space where I just showed my own work, so we decided to show other local artists as well," Wilde says. "Whenever a new gallery opens up, there is a certain longing, and other people who want to show there will make their way to it." The first official show was a group show, and the Stewart Gallery was on its way.
The new location will be the eighth space the gallery has occupied. "We moved from the 8th Street Marketplace to Park Center, which was a new venture at the time," says Wilde. "People thought that the area was going to be filled with boutiques, but it didn't work out that way. Then we moved to Eighth and Idaho, which is now occupied by Bitter Creek Ale House. Later, we moved across the street, where the Casbah restaurant is located. At the time, there were no other businesses there. It was an area in need of revitalization.
"We are always thinking about how we are going to exist in the community and what we are going to bring," explains Wilde. "As artists, it is important that people understand that these moves are for the growth of the gallery. You must constantly re-think how you can move forward with the best that you can bring. Each move creates a change of direction of what you're doing; you're always shaking things up.
"We have been very fortunate with all of our spaces," says Wilde. "When we move, we re-do the buildings. Each building has a different energy, and each building is honored for what it is. We are always able to leave really beautiful spaces behind. Our new location has straight, clean lines, and a 1950-60s feel to it. It's perfect for art.
"Having a gallery has been primarily for my own artistic stimulus. We've found that it fed us in different ways. Being so involved in the contemporary art scene, I get to know that my contemporaries are doing incredible work. I am interacting in a way that is essential to me, which has helped in my development as an artist." Both she and Bune pursue their own creative endeavors in addition to running the gallery: he as a musician, she as a painter and printmaker. Wilde goes home from her work at the gallery, eats dinner with her family, and heads into the studio. "After 20 years in the business, I've managed to make more time in the studio for myself," she says. One of the crowning achievements of her career, the Half a Life show, opened at the Stewart Gallery last year, and will travel to the Fresno Art Museum in the spring. She was also the recipient of the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2002.
The Jefferson Street location creates new opportunities for the gallery. The space allows for exhibitions as well as work areas to develop the many projects in the works at Stewart. "We've shifted and moved and re-thought the direction of the gallery," says Wilde.
In addition to a full calendar of exhibitions, the next year is full of new undertakings for the Stewart Gallery. They will debut the "Selecting and Collecting" series, bringing in one artist to have a concentrated showing of their work and to present a lecture and discussion. This year, the touring exhibition of Bay Area artist Henry Jackson will be at the gallery during the first week of November.
The Stewart Gallery is also actively pursuing both regional and national art fair opportunities. They just participated in the Affair at the Jupiter Hotel in Portland and would like to attend two such fairs per year. And, as always, Wilde, Bune and associate director Anna Marie Boles will continue to work with their clients to bring together artists and collectors in a manner that is beneficial to everyone involved. "There is a mutual respect that must be paid," says Wilde. "The artist and the curator are working toward the same objective, and their success is ours."
Wilde views her gallery as a community-oriented space. For her, some of the most striking moments of its existence have been when performing arts groups have come into the space and presented their own art form, surrounded by the art on the walls. They have also hosted lectures and events for social organizations. "I believe we have a responsibility to the community where we live, to provide a venue for voices that need to be heard," says Wilde.
Wilde has an expansive view of her endeavor. She is always looking for new artists to debut in Boise, and works to bring the local artists that she represents to the attention of the rest of the world. "The art in our exhibitions moves to collections throughout the country and not just regionally," she explains.
This ability to create opportunities on many stages is a testament to the Stewart Gallery's commitment to carving its niche in the contemporary art world. The air at the new gallery is electric, and as the gallery celebrates its 20th anniversary, its eyes are set firmly on the future.
The 20th Anniversary Open House is October 20, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Stewart Gallery, 1110 W. Jefferson St., 208-433-0593, StewartGallery.com.