We have a Plan, a Master Plan! 

Boise's Department of Arts & History tackles evolving city culture Lex Nelson


Pat Kilby


The mission of the Boise City Department of Arts & History is simple: "To enhance Boise by providing leadership, advocacy, education, services and support for arts and history in order for people to create, engage and connect with the community." This year, the department took its charge to the next level with the City of Boise Cultural Master Plan, a 127-page document-slash-book that serves as a deep dive into Boise culture, its current resources and the ways it might be preserved and encouraged in the future. "It is a tool for current and future leaders to understand the evolution of the arts communities and the richness of Boise's history," Arts and History Department representatives wrote in a press release. "Ultimately, the Plan recommends where we go to develop an integrated vibrant cultural environment." If you're still feeling a bit confused, don't worry—the concept is even bigger than the book. Here's a breakdown that might help shine a bit more light in.

What is it?

"The Cultural Master Plan reviews the history of Boise's cultural life, and assesses current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is a tool to help make wise investments; a story to help long-time residents and newcomers understand our cultural evolution; and a platform for everyone to make Boise the most livable city in the country."'

– Terri Schorzman, Boise City Department of Arts & History Director

What are its Goals?

1. Develop Cultural Policy 2. Enhance and Preserve Neighborhood Places 3. Maintain and Develop Cultural Assets 4. Foster Organizations and Partnerships 5. Expand Cultural Resources for Individuals

Who is Involved?

According to Schorzman, the plan "explores the good work of Boise's cultural partners—public and private organization, individual creators, philanthropists, community advocates, historians, educators, business owners and entrepreneurs."

Facts and Stats:

In 2014, Drs. Amanda Ashley and Leslie Durham of Boise State University conducted a survey of artists (including visual, dance, musical, theater and literary artists, plus designers and educators) in the Treasure Valley to find out who they are, what do and what kind of support they need. 556 responded, and their voices helped to inform the Master Plan. Here's some of what the good doctors found:

31 percent of Treasure Valley artists are emerging artists, 41 percent are mid-career and only 20 percent are established

The artists spend an average of 49 hours per week on "arts-related work," though many also have other jobs

For nearly half of the artists surveyed, art makes up 1 to 20 percent of their income; only 21 percent can claim their art finances them 81 to 100 percent

39 percent of the artists surveyed are self employed

53 percent of the artists "started, or helped start, an arts organization or arts-related business"—of those, 7 percent of the businesses didn't survive

The artists were split almost equally between those who present their work in person (50 percent) and those who do it online (43 percent)

73 percent of the artists surveyed worked from home, or from some other mixed-use space; very few have designated studios

65 percent of the artists feel "arts and culture sector organizations support their career development," while 44 percent credit the for-profit sector

The artists identified the two key benefits of art organizations as 1) exhibiting work, and 2) providing jobs

55 percent of the artists had to look outside of the Boise Valley for necessary training

Only 31 percent of the artists surveyed believe that you can make a living as an artist; 45 percent think it can't be done and 17 percent are unsure

75 percent of the artists surveyed plan to stay in Boise for the rest of their careers

What Does the Master Plan Mean for You?

Basically, the work being done by the Department of A&H means citizens can rest easy because the city has got your back—they're looking at the facts and laboring to make decisions that will bring you more of the good and less of the bad and the ugly. If you're an artist or historian, this could mean an Indian summer of recognition, opportunity and respect for your work, and if you're an art appreciator, get ready to be a bit happier in Boise every day.

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