Thirty-two years ago--before BODO, the Sesqui-Shop or the Eighth Street Artist in Residence program--Lane Bune and Stephanie Wilde moved to Boise from Utah. Long before the local scene residents know now, Bune and Wilde came for one thing: art.
"At the time we were living in Ogden, Utah," said Bune. "So it was a no-brainer."
Since October 1987, the couple has run contemporary fine art outlet Stewart Gallery in numerous locations around Boise, exhibiting work from artists popular in local, national and international markets. Originally setting their sights on the City of Trees to help nurse Wilde's own artistic career, the gallery sprung up as, perhaps, dumb luck.
"It really was a good thing for me as an artist, because I really understood galleries, the importance of them, what they do, how hard they work, what they do for an artist. It's an essential relationship. It's just really important to have a really good gallery to work with you," Wilde said.
While Wilde can see both sides of the relationship, both she and Bune admit Boise can be a tough market. Relatively few fine art galleries make for a scene constantly in flux. That has forced Stewart Gallery to take on different forms to respond to demand.
"We really have had to reinvent ourselves numerous times," she said.
Both attribute their continued success to that flexibility.
"I think that's pretty much the secret: You have to reinvent yourself, you have to do different things, you have to bring in different artwork. But we bring in what we like," said Bune.
"And what we really would like our clients to purchase, and own," added Wilde. "We have had great success with people who have gone on to do wonderful things, and our clients have been able to purchase them just on the cusp of that, which is really fantastic to watch."
Local artists Pat Hughes, Charles Gill and Karen Woods have all shown at Stewart Gallery. Acclaimed artists Benjamin Jones, of Atlanta, Ga., and Wesley Anderegg, who maintains a studio in Lompoc, Calif., both have work at Stewart Gallery. Stewart Gallery even hosted famed glass artist Dale Chihuly 20 years ago.
For Wilde, bringing artists from outside Boise is an important influence in the art community--both for her work, and the work of others.
"Bringing in artists, for me, is humbling, and also helps me as an artist. You get your chops up, you know. Being isolated, you can think you're doing fantastic work, because there's nothing to compare it to," she said.
But the economic turmoil initiated in 2008 was a blow to the arts community--and business. "When the economy hit, we saw a lot of people close their doors and walk from the arts. It hurt. It really hurt the visual arts, it hurt the performing arts, it hurt everybody. It took a major toll," said Wilde.
In response, Stewart Gallery moved from Jefferson Street to a smaller storefront off the beaten path at 2230 W. Main St.
"Boise, also, for what we do--we would rather go into a very small space, or close, rather than compromise what we show," said Wilde.
While the pair may have a smaller Boise footprint, they've expanded their reach to art shows in Dallas, New York, Miami and other cities.
"Art fairs are a major step for us--and it was a good one. And we've met so many other people, too, that are like-minded," said Bune.
"We've been doing the art fairs now for six years," said Wilde, adding that they've opened doors for local artists, like Karen Woods, who now has a dealer in Los Angeles.
For Wilde and Bune, the gallery is a place to help artists propel their careers into new cities, museums and other exhibitions.
"There are half a dozen artists we're working really hard to get national, international, world recognition. And that's happening," said Bune.: