Britt Udesen fell in love with Idaho on her first visit in the mid-1990s. The Minnesota native stopped in Ketchum to visit friends after college, with plans of moving to Alaska.
"I wanted to live someplace beautiful, be able to get away by myself and where I could fish," Udesen says. "When I got to Idaho, I realized I could do all that, and get good sushi, too."
So she moved to Ketchum in 1998.
Udesen worked at the Knob Hill Inn and became a volunteer at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, a position she turned into a job eight years ago when she became its director of education and humanities.
It was a dream job, she says. The only other job she ever desired was to head The Cabin, a literary arts organization in Boise that supports writers, literacy and the importance of story.
That came true this month. After The Cabin's national job search, Udesen became the executive director.
"I'm excited to tell The Cabin's story in the community, and look for new ways to communicate what we do," she says.
Many people are familiar with the Cabin's popular Readings and Conversations series, but Udesen also is eager to spread the word about other qualities.
"I'm so impressed with the way The Cabin serves all aspects of the community," she says. "The caliber of the Writers in the Schools program is impressive. We've got professional writers going into the juvenile detention center. What they're doing with those kids is amazing. People need to know about that, too."
Udesen moved to Boise and started her new position last week.
Having her at the helm offers the best of both worlds, says Alex Davis, The Cabin's board president.
"She's coming in new to the area with a fresh perspective, and she's got this wonderful local connection already," she says. "I think she'll hold The Cabin to a very high standard."
The Cabin started in Boise in 1995 as the Log Cabin, at the same historic site where it exists today on Capitol Boulevard. It runs a variety of programs, including Writers in the Schools, yearlong residencies for professional writers in schools across Idaho, and Readings and Conversations, a lecture series that brings nationally known writers to Boise. It also runs summer writing camps for kids and creates a forum for local writers and readers to meet and talk about books.
That's something that Udesen loves to do. Books have been a large part of her life.
"I'm not a writer, but I'm a passionate reader," she says.
Udesen grew up listening to the stories her parents told her, her brother and sister, and loving weekly trips to the library.
"My mom was very funny but my dad owned the stage when it came to stories. Both my parents love to read. They're part of the reason I love literature the way I do," she says.
Though she studied visual arts in college, she interned at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, helping to develop its school tour and education programs.
Her years creating literary programs at the Sun Valley Center put her in contact with some of the most intriguing literary minds in the world.
The Center creates multidisciplinary exhibits that examine a topic through visual, musical, performance and literary arts.
Over the years, she booked authors such as Salman Rushdie, Michael Pollan, Gloria Steinem and Tim O'Brien to speak in Sun Valley on topics that touched on the center's exhibits.
Those lectures are one of the elements that helped put the center on the national map, something that Udesen would like to see happen for The Cabin in Boise.
"I'd like to see the Cabin's profile raised - and really it's already there," Udesen says. "The Readings and Conversations series is as good as anything in Portland or Seattle. We received national attention for the summer writing programs. We're so lucky."
Coming from the center's multidisciplinary focus, Udesen sees a way to expand The Cabin's reach through collaboration with other arts groups. That's something that coming to a larger community offers in abundance.
"On First Thursday, I walked across the street to the Boise Art Museum and heard a great lecture," she says. "That's my neighbor. I would love to work on some programming with them. I don't know what form that will take yet, but there are millions of opportunities here. That's exciting."