Helping Works

Boise honors artist, pioneer, social critic Mary Hallock Foote

This drawing by Mary Hallock Foote accompanied an 1889 piece for Century magazine called “The Pretty Girls in the West.”
This drawing by Mary Hallock Foote accompanied an 1889 piece for Century magazine called “The Pretty Girls in the West.” Provided by Idaho State Historical Society

Mary Hallock Foote, a gifted writer and artist, was among Boise’s cultural pioneers. She arrived in Boise in 1884 with her husband, irrigation engineer Arthur Foote. The city will celebrate Hallock Foote’s life and contributions with a day of activities at Boise Public Library’s main branch, 715 S. Capitol Blvd., on Saturday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Footes lived on a homestead in an area that’s a bit remote, even today, near Discovery State Park and Diversion Dam. Their home, known as “Canyon House,” was built of natural lava stones, financed primarily by royalties from Hallock Foote’s novels and short stories. During her roughly 12 years in the Boise area, Hallock Foote took inspiration for her work from Idaho life and landscape. Her work appeared in national publications, including Harper’s Monthly and others. Hallock Foote is even the subject of an intriguing literary scandal, detailed in an L.A. Times article in 2003. Many say celebrated writer Wallace Stegner borrowed too liberally from Hallock Foote’s writing for his own book, prize-winning “Angle of Repose.”

In any case, Hallock Foote was a great talent, a keen, sometimes critical observer of Boise and its environs at a formative time in the city’s and area’s history. Now, thanks to the efforts of Boise residents Janet Worthington and Mary Ann Arnold, as well as Boise Public Library staffers Jody Vestal and Ellen Druckenbrod, Hallock Foote is getting her due with this free, variety-packed program at the library. The location makes sense, said Vestal, since Hallock Foote was a member of the Columbian Club, the still-operating Boise service club that founded the city’s first public library in Boise City Hall in 1895.

The library’s Mary Hallock Foote Centennial Celebration on the 11th is a centennial marker because in 1916, 100 years ago this summer, then-Boise Mayor S.H. Hayes declared a Mary Hallock Foote week at Boise’s Carnegie Library (which still stands, inhabited by law offices at 815 W. Washington St.). Current visitors to the library’s main branch may be familiar with prints made from Hallock Foote’s drawings that hang on the third floor. Hayes donated the prints to the library in 1916.

Here’s the lineup for the big day:

▪  10:20 a.m. and 2:05 p.m.: Fashion show: Historical Fashion and Mary Hallock Foote We Wear Idaho History

▪  11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Rediscovered Books tatting demonstration

▪  11 a.m.: Talk by Dr. Christine Hill Smith: “Mary Hallock Foote: Writer, Pioneer, Illustrator and ...Snob”

▪  11:40 a.m.: Talk by Judy Austin: “Mary Hallock Foote’s Idaho”

▪  12:45 p.m.: Panel with Dr. Melody Graulich, Dr. Christine Hill Smith, Dr. Tara Penry: “Mary Hallock Foote and Wallace Stegner: Should I Read One or Both?”

▪  2:45 p.m.: A unique dramatic presentation by Nancy Rushforth, Dr. Kim Abunuwara based on the artist’s correspondence: “In Her Own Hand: The Life and Letters of Mary Hallock Foote.”

Events will take place in the library auditorium and Bingham Room. In addition to the listed events, programs on the Foote Park restoration project, making notecards and prints, screen printing, drawing, the Columbian Club and model trains will take place throughout the day in the auditorium. In addition artists will offer a charcoal drawing station, pen and ink demonstrations, and personalized bookmarks. Members of the Idaho Inkspots Calligraphy Guild will also demonstrate the Spencerian and Copperplate handwriting styles in vogue during Hallock Foote’s prime. A special attraction: Ann Brillhart, a Foote descendant who lives in California, has loaned several items from the family collection including paper dolls, a Valentine, examples of Hallock Foote’s tatting work and more. The items will be on display.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter has declared June 11, 2016, as Mary Hallock Foote Day. And if that’s not enough, the Columbian Club, say organizers, is baking cookies.

On a related note: Program organizers Janet Worthington, a retired history professor, and Mary Ann Arnold, a retired project controls engineer with Morrison Knudsen, have been working on a project to restore the old Foote homesite near Lucky Peak for a year and a half. Not much remains besides a few remnants of the Canyon House’s foundations. But Arnold and Worthington have already raised about $47,000 of their $70,000 goal to build an open-air interpretive center at the homesite. The Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the site, has already made numerous improvements.

“This is a real endeavor that’s getting closer,” said Worthington, “but we still need help from individuals, organizations and grants.”

The June 11 public event is not a fundraiser, but attendees can pick up a brochure to learn more about supporting the homesite project. The Foundation for Idaho History, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is accepting donations for the project. Make donations or read more online at footeparkprojectboise.org.

Visit: The homesite is in Foote Park at the base of Lucky Peak Dam on the south side of the river across from Discovery Park on Idaho 21.

‘Literacy in the Park’ begins in Boise and Garden City

Literacy in the Park, a summer learning initiative created by the Idaho Commission for Libraries, is now in full swing through Aug. 5, offering kids storytime, activities, and books to borrow from traveling lending libraries. What’s really cool is that the program coincides with the Idaho Foodbank’s Picnic in the Park program and the Idaho State Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program at 26 summer-feeding locations in Boise and Garden City. Like those food programs, Literacy in the Park is free and open to all children in the community, ages 18 and younger. Find the full schedule online at libraries.idaho.gov.

Free community screening: ‘Destination Idaho’

‘Destination Idaho,’ a “visual journey of the Great Gem State,” premiered at the 2016 Sun Valley Film Festival, where it drew standing-room-only crowds. Filmmaker Karen Day, along with the Idaho State Historical Society and other local companies and organizations, host a free screening on Tuesday, June 7, at The Egyptian Theater, 700 W. Main St. in Boise.

Seats are first-come, first-serve. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The film begins at 7 p.m.

Boys & Girls Clubs opens its new gym and teen center in Meridian

The expansion of the club, at 911 N. Meridian Road, has doubled capacity for sports and recreation opportunities while providing a separate space for teens, a population that the club is focused on attracting and retaining. In addition to a $1 million gift from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, the club received substantial donations from the city of Meridian and many local companies and foundations. Find details about programs, donation and volunteer opportunities online at adaclubs.org.

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