Boise Places Worth Seeing

Boise Art Museum - Love It or Hate It, It's All We've Got

I have a love/hate relationship with the Boise Art Museum. OK, to be honest, it's mostly a hate/hate relationship, but I can justify this. Believe me, I want nothing more than to like BAM, but my experiences so far haven't been so great.

First, some logistics. If you're new to town, just visiting, or live under a rock somewhere in the city limits, you'll need to know that the Boise Art Museum is one of the main attractions in Julia Davis Park. Other notable park attractions include the Idaho Historical Museum, the Rose Garden, Zoo Boise, Abe the Ogre, the paddle boats, and the Idaho Black History Museum. The area is without a doubt THE place to go if you're looking for something to do, and it's safe to say that you could spend a whole weekend there and get more than your fair share of culture, history, and poo-flinging monkeys.

Whether you want to spend your time and money at the BAM is, in my humble opinion, debatable. During "regular" times when they have no special exhibit, the $5 general admission fee is pushing the limits of acceptable considering the size of the museum. After all, if it costs $19 to roam around all day in the Louvre -- which by my estimation must be at least 1000 times larger than BAM, the $5 fee for at most an hour's diversion might seem excessive. But that's the sacrifice we all have to make in order to have a decent museum here in B-Town, and in the end I'm fine with it. What I'm not OK with is the outrageous fee they sometimes charge when they're featuring a special exhibit.

And that gets me to the first reason my relationship with BAM is so strained. In 2000 or 2001, when my ugly wife was a student at BSU, her art class required her to go to BAM and peruse the art as part of the class requirements. I, being the supportive and somewhat cultured backwoods husband, joined her for her visit, which just happened to coincide with a big special event featuring the work of one Dale Chihuly. If you've never heard of the guy, he's a super-special eyepatched glassblower dude who's been making fancy colored glass monstrosities for years. The general entrance fee was, if I remember correctly, $12. I paid this fee, thinking I was really going to be enlightened, educated, and maybe even stimulated, which did not end up being the case. If you've seen one of his pieces of art -- which are cool, don't get me wrong -- you've pretty much seen them all, so I left BAM that day feeling like I'd been bent over by a one-eyed fat man. In fact, I still feel a little bit sore over ten years later.

I recently made my first trip back to BAM since the awkward and scarring Chihuly experience, and I was very thankful there was nothing going on that was special enough to warrant a deviation from their regular general admission price. However, I was quickly reminded of another reason why BAM really irritates me. As a journalist of sorts, I visit places around town and take pictures. After all, what's a good piece of online journalism without a few eye-catching photos to increase interest in the subject of the article? Well, forget about doing that at the Boise Art Museum, because they have an asinine no-photo policy which, according to their welcome flyer, includes "video and digital, with and without flash." The only exception is in the children's area, known as the ARTexperienceGallery. I hate that policy, and I don't care what their explanation for it is. I understand the no-flash rule, because camera flashes can damage the work, but non-flash still photography should be allowed. A photo posted on the internets for informative purposes isn't going to keep someone from going to see the piece in the museum. Putting the kibosh on photos just makes the place seem pompous. If the Seattle Art Museum allows non-flash photography in their galleries, BAM should too.

Because I believe in obeying rules, the only two photos I took inside the museum are from the ARTexperienceGallery. Why two? Because that's the number of artworks they have in there. So if you think this article doesn't have the pizzazz you've come to expect on Boise the Great, there's your reason.

OK, I'm off my soap box now. If you're looking for a nice quiet place to walk around and reflect on some art, this place will suit you just fine. But don't expect to see very many names you recognize. This is the middle of nowhere, after all. What I really like about the place -- and what I wish they had more of -- is art about or inspired by Boise. They have a couple of paintings showing past scenes in Boise, and I really want more. They should at least have one permanent gallery devoted to Boise art, because who else is going to do that? For those of us who love this town and want to see it depicted in art, a dedicated gallery would be a big draw. Just because it's local doesn't make it low-brow. And if they claim there's just not a lot of that stuff out there, they should find a passel of college art students and have them sit in Julia Davis Park, smoke some dope, and paint stuff. Those foothills of ours are pure visual poetry on a summer eve, and I'm sure they could somewhat capture nature's majesty. It's worth a try, at least.

The best time to get a taste of the Boise Art Museum is on the first Thursday of the month, when admission is free. Although you'll surely have to fight a crowd, you'll be able to see if it's your kind of place. Then you can make plans to go back for a proper visit. Just take my advice and watch out for Dale Chihuly and his ilk.

Place worth visiting: Boise Art Museum
Where: 670 Julia Davis Drive
Boise, ID 83702
(near the main entrance to Julia Davis Park)

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Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm
First Thursday 10 am to 9 pm
Sunday Noon to 5 pm
Monday Closed
Cost: General: $5
Senior (62 and over) $3
Full-time Student: $3
Children (Grades 1-12) $1
Children Under 6: Free
First Thursday: Donation Day
Website: Boise Art Museum
Possibly fabricated fact: The Boise Art Museum turned down a chance to take possession of a thirty-foot plaster representation of J.R. Simplot's duodenum.