Boise & Garden City

Neighborhood meeting helps spread the news about the James Castle homesite

Staffers from the Boise City Department of Arts and History hosted a neighborhood meeting Wednesday in Castle Hills Park in West Boise to tell neighbors and the larger community about plans for the James Castle homesite on Castle Drive.

The city bought the house and grounds, the former home of Castle, the celebrated Idaho artist, for $200,000. Plans include transforming the home into a space for permanent and temporary exhibitions, and an ongoing artist in residence program. Plans include opening the site to the public two days a week. Programs at the site will be free, or low-cost, say city staffers.

The extensive restorations will begin immediately with work on the old bunkhouse where Castle is said to have worked. The anticipated opening for the site and the first artist-in-residence is some time in 2017.

Byron Folwell, an architect and public artist who is working on the restoration, said the restoration work will begin with archaeological digs and other explorations in case remnants of Castle and his work remain on the the site.

“We want to be even a little too cautious,” said Folwell in anticipation of what he called a “careful dismantling” of the old structures on the site.

Rachel Reichert, community relations manager for the Arts and History Department, said that the project’s budget is not yet set, except for $20,000 each year that Arts and History has dedicated to the artist-in-residence program. An artist will live and work on the site and also serve as a caretaker of the property. Other organizations, including Boise State University, the James Castle Collection and Archive and the Smithsonian Institution have all committed to future support of the site and its programs.

Several neighbors attended the neighborhood meeting on Wednesday. Julie Cox, a 13-year resident of the neighborhood said she’s optimistic about the restoration project because the old house has been an eyesore for years. She wasn’t aware of Castle’s prominence in the art world until she attended the meeting on Wednesday, but has a new appreciation for the local artist.

“It’s amazing to learn. Boise’s famous,” Cox said.

Lou Landry, retired director of Head Start also supports the project. He owns a rental property in the Castle neighborhood and lives himself in Garden City, not far from Surel’s Place, a nonprofit that offers artists’ residencies throughout the year. Such residencies, like the one planned for the Castle home, bring cultural vibrancy to neighborhoods, he said. He plans to speak to city leaders about creating Castle-related activities and programs for young art lovers in Castle Hills Park.

The Castle home restoration, he said, “Gives us just one more way to fall in love with where we live.”

Though many neighbors who attended the meeting had positive things to say, others were concerned about increased traffic and activity in the area. The city plans to encourage visitors to the Castle home to park in Castle Hills Park. The site itself will offer two handicapped parking places.

The city is accepting public comments on the restoration plans until Aug. 12. Leave comments online at boiseartsandhistory.org.

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