Mayor’s Awards showcase Boise’s culture

Visual and performing artists, historians, others receive civic honor

September 5, 2013 


    5-9 p.m. Sept. 12, Boise Plaza, 1111 W. Jefferson St. Performances by Frim Fram Four and poet laureate Diane Raptosh. $35 at

  • Other honorees:


    • Boise Rock School

    • Rick Jenkins, Fort Boise Art Center recreation coordinator


    • Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation

    • Susan Smith


    • Treefort Music Festival


    • U.S. Bank


    • Friends of Jesus Urquides


    • Kurt Zwolfer, education manager at the Idaho State Historical Museum


    • Community: Phil Kushlan;

    Enterprise: Idaho Statesman;

    Environment: Don Belts and Eric Jensen

Meet this year’s recipients of the Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts and History. Every two years, the community nominates groups and individuals, and the mayor and staff at the Boise City Department of Arts and History make the final selection.

Here is a sampling of those who will be celebrated at a dinner and ceremony next week.


• Boise Contemporary Theater grew out of the vision of actor and director Matthew Cameron Clark. In 1997, he put together a scrappy group of theater artists to produce plays in Downtown storefronts.

By 2000, he had established a brick-and-mortar theater with the support of his father, developer Rick Clark. Together they transformed a former Downtown warehouse at 854 Fulton St. into a theater complex that includes a black-box performance space, rehearsal and dance studios, classrooms, costume and set storage, and offices for BCT creative staff and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

Since its first official production at the Fulton Street Theater, now referred to simply as BCT, Clark’s vision has become one of Boise’s core arts groups, producing challenging dramas, ironic comedies, a music series, an arts education Theater Lab and more.

Clark and BCT have played host to award-winning novelist and playwright Don DeLillo, as well as actor Matt Damon and film producer Frank Marshall, who both helped raise funds for BCT and also became personal donors.

Clark also commissions original plays by local and national playwrights, and most recently from BCT artistic associates.


• Ceramic artist Kerry Moosman is one of the city’s most iconic artists and one of the state’s most thoughtful historic preservationists.

A former student of John Takahara at Boise State University, he makes hand-built ceramic vessels with a technique that dates back 4,000 years. He hand-rolls clay into long snakes, then coils them to form the object. He smoothes and burnishes the outside surface with a polished stone, then dung-fires them. The smoke subtly influences the look of each piece to make it one of a kind. One vessel can take up to two months to complete.

Moosman’s vessels are in the Boise Art Museum’s permanent collection. The current exhibit, “Origins: Objects of Material Culture,” includes dozens of ancient pots and ceramic objects from Moosman’s personal collection.

Moosman also is the artist behind two of the most popular pieces of Boise public art — the ceramic murals “Healing Waters” on the alley side of the Idanha Building and “Alley History” in the alley off 9th Street between Bannock and Idaho streets.

These original works are like torn pages from historical artifacts, beautiful images separated by spaces to represent the part of the story that’s always missing.

When he is in Boise during the winter months, he makes his headquarters at the Fort Boise Community Center’s pottery center, where he works on vessels and teaches alongside longtime friend and fellow honoree Rick Jenkins.

The rest of the year, he’s in the mountain town of Atlanta, where he grew up and now owns several historic buildings. He’s worked for years to restore much of the town’s architecture, including five houses, a lunch counter and barbershop.

When Atlanta was threatened by fire, Moosman has stayed and battled the flames over the years to protect his town.


• When National Endowment for the Arts chairman Rocco Landesman held a meeting with Treasure Valley arts groups in 2010, it was Esther Simplot who asked about arts education and stopped him in his tracks.

With her quiet voice, she drove home her point that support of the arts means less if you don’t first and foremost support arts education. It’s a question that Landesman later said caused him to re-evaluate and recommit the NEA’s funding to arts education at the local level.

Simplot is more than an arts supporter and philanthropist. She’s a force of nature.

The widow of potato pioneer and billionaire J.R. Simplot, she’s done everything from answer phones to write checks in her more than 50 years in Boise supporting her arts community. Today, she continues to push the city’s arts and culture forward.

She has touched nearly every group through the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy and Annex. The restored buildings create the heart of Boise’s Cultural District at 8th and Myrtle streets.

The complex houses offices, rehearsal and educational studios and performance spaces used by Ballet Idaho, Opera Idaho and the Boise Philharmonic.

In 2006, Simplot spearheaded the effort to establish a new Ballet Idaho under artistic director Peter Anastos after the dissolution of the alliance with Eugene Ballet. At the time it was the longest lasting two-city ballet company partnership in the country, which Simplot originally had forged.

It’s ending was the realization of her ultimate wish for a strong, independent company.


• Pug Ostling came to Boise in 1971 from California to entertain and help manage the Sandpiper Restaurant. Though that establishment long ago closed, he stayed and became a cornerstone of Boise’s culture.

With his quick wit, Ostling became a known personality around town as he worked to build Boise’s Downtown nightlife and arts culture.

At his own restaurant, Noodles, and his wine bar, Grape Escape — which closed this summer after 20 years — he created a social meeting place. He helped elevate the discussion of art, history and civic involvement in Boise with Verbose City, a forum for local writers, and Fettuccine Forum, a community symposium that continues today bringing issues of history, art and community to light.

At Noodles, he started the Starving Artist Gallery, giving many Boise artists their start. He helped found First Thursday and run the Beaux Arts Societe Wine Festival that supported the Boise Art Museum for many years.

Ostling supported and help nurture the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, created the Gene Harris Block Party that closed off 8th Street for a jazz concert with the world-class jazz pianist, and helped found the Gene Harris Jazz Festival.

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