The nation’s perception of Boise doesn’t necessarily match up with reality. We’re more than blue turf and the capital of the potato state. Since 2010, Mayor Dave Bieter’s office and the Department of Arts and History have worked to change that by creating a Cultural Ambassador designation.
“We are a culturally lively city, and that’s not something people in other places know or think about us,” Boise spokesman Mike Journee says. “These groups add huge value to Boise.”
Bieter announced that the Velma V. Morrison Center, the state’s largest proscenium theater and main performing arts venue, and Global Lounge, a nonprofit that uses music to promote diversity and inclusiveness in our community, at the Mayor’s Awards for Arts and History on Thursday evening.
“Both organizations truly capture the essence of Boise’s vibrant and diverse cultural community and contribute to making Boise the most livable city in the country,” Bieter said.
Both groups will represent the city for a two-year period and split $10,000 that they will use to create free community events, so stay tuned.
The Morrison Center opened in 1984 after a huge grass-roots fundraising effort. Today, it is one of the leading entertainment venues in the country.
The Morrison Center is at its heart a community meeting place, says its executive director, James Patrick.
“It’s where people come who want to see all different kinds of arts and culture events,” he says. “We try to offer something for everyone both in volume quality and genre.”
About 150,000 people walk through the Morrison Center doors each year to see a touring Broadway musical, such as “The Phantom of the Opera”; a comedian, such as Jerry Seinfeld; a concert by the Boise Philharmonic; a lecture; or some other program.
In the past few years, through its foundation, the center has created more opportunity for people to access events for free with performances by groups such as the U.S. Army Band, the Five Browns, Canadian Brass and Peking Acrobats.
It also lowered ticket prices for the Velma V. Morrison Family Theater Series to $10 each, including fees.
“With all those things in play access and opportunity is at an all-time high,” Patrick says. “In 2016, 30,000 people saw a free performances here. I don’t see any other performing arts venue in the country doing anything like this.”
Dayo Ayodele, a native of Nigeria, founded Global Lounge in 2006 to inspire and educate people about cultural diversity.
“When we moved here from California, I would take my daughter to the park,” Ayodele says. “I saw how some of the other kids reacted to her because she is biracial and it hurt me. I stopped taking her to the park but then I thought, this is an opportunity.”
He used his skills as a drummer to bring people together and educate others about diversity in our expanding community.
Global Lounge created cultural programs at the Downtown YMCA, in the Boise School District and the Boise and Ada County libraries. For the last three years, the organization has put on World Village Festival, a free three-day celebration of multiculturalism, music, dance and food in Capitol Park.
Past Cultural Ambassadors include Treefort Music Fest, Idaho Shakespeare Festival and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr.