Connecting to a Broader Community at Sun Valley Mu...

Connecting to a Broader Community at Sun Valley Museum of Art

Sun Valley Museum of Art was founded in 1971 on the premise that our rural community would only be made whole with vibrant arts programming. For the past 50 years, SVMoA has served as the Wood River Valley’s cultural anchor, bringing learners of all ages together for shared arts and educational experiences.

Image Courtesy of SVMoA

Image Courtesy of SVMoA

Since 1971, we’ve welcomed 52 Grammy winners to perform in our small town—including Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Ray Charles, Carole King, and Brandi Carlile.  We’ve featured 800 artists, 91 of whom were Guggenheim Fellows and 11 whom were MacArthur Genius Award winners.

Image Courtesy of SVMoA

Image Courtesy of SVMoA

What SVMoA is most proud of is its commitment to arts education: we’ve given more than $1 million in arts scholarships to 638 local students and 75 teachers.

As the only American Alliance of Museums accredited museum within a hundred-mile radius (and one of 5 institutions in Idaho), SVMoA has a responsibility to reach as broad of an audience as possible—from retirees to teachers, to young entrepreneurs, to the seasonal work force, to immigrant families to students.

More than 24% of Blaine County’s population has roots primarily in Mexico and Peru. The valley’s Spanish-speaking population is a significant part of the local labor, school and church populations, but few local organizations provide Spanish-language or bilingual cultural events.

“While SVMoA has a longstanding presence in all of the valley’s schools, a goal for the coming years is to develop programs that serve a broader swath of the adult community, including the Spanish-speaking community,” said SVMoA Artistic Director Kristin Poole. “We’re committed to serving the whole of our community while nurturing ways to better see and understand one another and our shared experience.”

Image Courtesy of SVMoA

Image Courtesy of SVMoA

Intent on building projects with the community rather than for them, SVMoA staff have been working with a small group of leaders in the Latinx community. Together they have developed a year-long multi-disciplinary project on Día de los Muertos to bring people together in shared celebration of traditions.

“The project will engage Spanish and English-speaking audiences in making, learning about, and celebrating this important and diverse holiday while cultivating an understanding of its meaning and nurturing respect for traditions that are familiar to some and new to others,” continued Poole. “Because our audience looks to SVMoA to provide meaningful context around the ideas we are examining, we’ll bring scholars and authors to the valley who can elucidate the how, why, and history behind these traditions. We’re so excited to see these projects and partnerships come to life over the next 10 years.”

During celebrations of the Mexican holiday El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a reunion that includes food, drink, prayer, and parades. As part of the festivities, families and communities come together to create altars or ofrendas to honor the deceased. Traditional ofrendas are rich with symbolism and often include photographs, candles, food items favored by the deceased, and personal mementos.  They are both an offering and a place of gathering.

SVMoA’s Día de los Muertos project will take place over the course of one year starting with an event on October 30, 2021. SVMoA will invite organizations and individuals to create altars honoring a specific individual of their choosing or a well-known Mexican artist. An expanded multi-day celebration in October 2022 will feature the creation of six public altars, including one by a commissioned artist.  Both events will welcome the whole community and include food and music.  Lectures by Mexican scholars and authors will lead up to the 2022 celebration, including internationally celebrated author Sandra Cisneros.

Image Courtesy of SVMoA

Image Courtesy of SVMoA

“As we celebrate our 50th year it has been a great honor to look back and find those touchstones that have been through-lines for the organization: the commitment to education, the desire to be responsive to the community as it grows and evolves, the deeply felt belief that the exploration of ideas through the arts allows us to understand ourselves and our world better,” said Poole. “As we look forward, we will carry this tradition of enriching the Wood River community.”

SVMoA looks to this quote by Holland Cotter on what it means to be a 21st century museum: “The new museum won’t be defined by architectural glamour or by a market-vetted collection, though it may have these. Structurally porous and perpetually in progress, it will be defined by its own role as a shaper of values, and by the broad audience it attracts.”

Image Courtesy of SVMoA

Image Courtesy of SVMoA

As SVMoA looks forward to the next 50 years, it will be a 21st century museum for this community—a hub for activity and debate where programs are not restricted to the space of the museum and partnerships with other local nonprofits can result in a fuller exploration of ideas that matter to the people who live here.

“We want to listen to each other and also welcome and encourage perspectives that are new or different—provide a window into cultures, peoples, ideas that are not typically represented in this rural mountain town,” explained Poole. “We hope to be a museum that is of, by, and for its community.”

Author Bio: Kristin Poole has served as Artistic Director at SVMoA since 1997 where she leads programming for the accredited Museum. Kris focuses on The Museum’s multidisciplinary approach and explores relevant topics through visual art exhibitions, humanities lectures, seminars, music, film and theatre performances. A curator and art historian, Poole also develops exhibitions and lectures and writes on topics related to modernism, American Craft and contemporary art. She has served as a member of the Ketchum Arts Commission and is past Board president and current Board member of Visit Sun Valley. In 2018 she received the 2018 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in recognition of her contributions to arts and culture in the state of Idaho. Kris holds an MA in Modern Art History from the University of Chicago and a BA in Studio Art and English from Denison University.

About Sun Valley Museum of Art

Nonprofit Sun Valley Museum of Art (SVMoA), formerly Sun Valley Center for the Arts, has nurtured curiosity, sparked conversation and engaged the Blaine County community since 1971. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, SVMoA reaches an annual audience of 40,000 with its mission to enrich the community through transformative arts and education experiences. SVMoA’s diverse programming includes visual arts exhibitions, lectures, concerts, classes, performances, play readings and BIG IDEA multidisciplinary projects. SVMoA enhances K–12 arts education in local schools with elementary school theatre education, student exhibition tours, professional artist residencies, arts-based classroom enrichment projects, and student and teacher scholarships. To learn more about Sun Valley Museum of Art, explore upcoming events, become a member, or get involved, visit


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