Viajando al BAM 

The return of BAM's outreach program

Artists who want the broadest exposure tend to take their work to the big city, hoping to revel in the patronage of lauding critics, fans and followers. They make the journey for art. The fans and followers who live outside of the city, too, must make the journey to art to see it in the urban galleries and museums.

Sometimes the journey from the 'burbs is difficult, but the bucolic can frolic with Boise Art Museum's cultural outreach program, Viajando al Arte (Journeys to Art). On the last Saturday of every month, the Boise Art Museum provides free transportation from the Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho in Nampa to BAM and back. The program also includes free admission to Family Art Saturday and a bilingual docent to conduct tours.

The idea of the transportation program germinated two years ago, at the time of BAM's "Degas in Bronze" exhibit that featured Balance Dance group and music. "I wanted to produce a bilingual pamphlet, which is something we hadn't done before," says Melanie Fales, BAM's curator of education. Even though Degas info might be more appropriate if translated into French, the French artist is pretty popular, so Fales went for Spanish because BAM already had an established relationship with the Hispanic Cultural Center and the Cultural Network, an association to help cultural organizations work together to provide education.

Fales arranged for Canyon County residents' transportation from the HCC to attend the special dance performance during the Degas show. "It was very well-received," she says. "Lots of families hadn't been to the museum before and enjoyed it."

Once at the museum, participants get a guided tour and handouts in Spanish. After the tour, the bilingual docent guides them in the hands-on art project that employs some of the techniques studied in the exhibit. It is designed for whole families.

Everyone thought it was a one-time special, but then Fales happened upon a grant from the Idaho Commission on the Arts that is issued to target new audiences and reach underserved audiences. "Once this grant came up, it seemed like a perfect fit to offer something like this on a regular basis," Fales says. "The Hispanic Cultural Center and I had worked with each other in the past, and it was an audience the museum hadn't necessarily tapped into." She applied, received the grant, and thus began Viajando al Arte.

The program was successful. "I was happy (with the reception) in the first year," Fales says. "We went from having a few participants the first month to filling the bus--that's about 20 people."

But the grant ran out quickly. When the funding ended, BAM was on the hunt for more. "There was a short lapse where we didn't have funding," Fales says.

The Whittenberger Foundation, based in Caldwell, offers grants throughout the Treasure Valley to organizations that promote education. BAM applied and received partial funding. "We initially applied for a $5,000 grant--that would fund a full year of programs," she said. "But this year, we received less than half."

With the lapse, people forgot or lost interest, and Fales says the resurrection of the program was hard, like starting all over from the beginning. But the bumpy road to recovery smoothed out and the turnout for the last event in April was back at full participation.

Right now, BAM has enough money to fund this program through June, but Fales would like to see it become a permanent program. In May, participants will see the Clyde R. and Helen M. Bacon Collection of Artisan Art, which is mostly ceramics from the Oing Dynasty, and an installment by artist Deborah Oropallo, titled "Twice Removed." Under the impending financial circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising if the Viajando al Arte participants themselves feel twice removed from the art that us city-dwellers can take in daily.

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