City Guides » Wood River Valley Summer Guide

A Day for Art

Recommended daily dose of Sun Valley art


From a wild creature totem in a skateboard park to a chance encounter with a symphony musician on the bus, Ketchum melds the magic of art, travel and summer in a phenomenon akin to the mysteries of Higgs Boson--one never knows exactly what effects fine art may have, but something wonderful is surely waiting for people paying attention. The pursuit of art, at least its appreciation, can change even one's concept of something as seemingly mundane as a spatula.

Just as massive thunderstorms can move miles of earthworms onto the cool pavement, a relentless stream of arts offerings--many of them free--pull people out of the woodwork for summer in Sun Valley.

For first-time visitors seeking guidance for a day chasing art, a smart place to start an art quest anywhere in the Wood River Valley is at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' headquarters in Ketchum, where exhibits rotate regularly.

The center's front desk staff is as prepared as the sharpest Four Seasons concierge and ready to point visitors in the right direction for exhibits, performances or even a performance-enhancing latte, one of the best of which is available around the corner at the bakery location of Rolling in Dough. For gluten-free foodies, and those trying to steer clear of Idaho's finest chocolate croissant, just up the street is Tranquility Tea House, one of the best spots in town for a healthy spot of tea.

Before you know it, you'll be ready for your next dose of art, perhaps on a guided tour with former state Rep. Wendy Jaquet.

The center's current exhibition, Making Camp, includes four wall tents artfully embellished and installed on a Simplot-owned lot across from the Ketchum Post Office, property slated as a future home for fine art and theater.

Still on exhibit there is the willow stick centerpiece by Patrick Dougherty that sports its own cooling climate during summer heat--a wonder by one of the most famous artists in the country.

For installations both indoors and out, the Sun Valley Gallery Association has a useful online guide for planning a walking route in Ketchum for those who won't be around for the monthly gallery walk on the first Friday of the month.

For those who don't make it to the valley before September, never fear, a fairy-tale exhibit is in the works for the fall, preceded by a free showing of The Princess Bride Friday, Sept. 21, at the center's arts extension property, lovingly referred to as the "Hailey House" in the county seat. The center offers a number of art and literature classes at the historic location.

Beyond still art and moving pictures is a long list of concerts in the Sun Valley summer offing.

A new exhibit at the Gail Severn Gallery features work by Hung Liu, one of the most well known Chinese-American artists around. Liu is known for her paintings that integrate historical Chinese photography. It is compelling to view how she overlays traditional Chinese insects, birds, flowers and dragons in her works, regarded as representations of "social realism" derived from the era of real socialism that was the cultural revolution in China.

Deep summer is a time to dream and wonder and one that brings people together at events like Ketchum's free Arts and Crafts Festival Friday, Aug. 10-Sunday, Aug. 12, hosted by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. It includes hands-on art projects for children, demonstrating artists and performances by local and regional musicians playing everything from American folk-rock to blues. Local vendors will serve fresh fare.

The Sun Valley Summer Symphony Orchestra season--which continues through Tuesday, Aug. 14--offers free picnic seating on the Sun Valley Pavilion lawn to go along with the beautiful music made by the orchestra's professional musicians. Get a full rundown of the concerts at

Other performances include the center's Summer Performing Arts Series, which brings world-class musicians to the valley, including Bonnie Raitt on Thursday, Aug. 30.

Another Wood River Valley tradition not to be missed is the Northern Rockies Folk Festival set to kick off Friday, Aug. 3-Saturday, Aug. 4, in Hailey's Hop Porter Park.

If your Sun Valley visit is only for a day, and you still have a gap in your arts hunting schedule, a quick reference to see what you might be missing at any given hour can be found on the events link at