Boise State’s collaborative art collection to inspire learning and innovation – The Arbiter



Art lives everywhere. It’s in downtown Boise on traffic boxes decorated with murals. It’s on the sidewalks of Boise, where chalk artists are free to express themselves. It’s on the walls and in the classrooms of Boise State.

Wherever students come together to learn, whether from instructors or from each other, art can be a catalyst for creativity.

As part of its cultural mission, Boise State facilitates the public display of works of art for “the enjoyment and appreciation of students, faculty and the general public.”

First-year graphic arts student Hope Kiefner finds inspiration walking through the Boise State campus between classes.

“Visual art is important on a college campus because it brings a sense of the outside world to our local community,” Kiefner said. “Even the flowers that a gardener has planted help create an environment that makes me want to feel creative and sit down and do something with my hands.”

Fonda Portales has been a University Art Curator and Collections Manager since 2016. She directs all visual art programming on campus outside of the art department. Portales also holds art exhibitions on campus and manages the university’s permanent visual art collection.

[Photo of first-year MFA student Hallie Maxwell with one of her pieces]
Photo by Patrick R. Kauffman | The referee

Most of the university’s art collection comes from donors, Portales said.

Portales works with the university’s Art Advisory Committee to recommend acquisitions of works of art, which President Dr. Marlene Tromp has the authority to approve. Portales also collaborates with various university departments, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Alumni and Friends and the Office of the Provost, to integrate art into departmental spaces. Some departments also invest in a budget for the purchase of art, mainly from local artists.

Departments maintain exhibits that reflect the particular tenor of their culture or the type of research they pursue. Boise State conservation staff play a key role in helping to clean and maintain the university’s art collection.

The Blue Galleries in the Visual Arts Center building is a place on campus where students can view art exhibits created by professional artists and other students.

Kirsten Furlong is the director of the Blue Galleries, which is part of the art, design and visual studies department.

Furlong emphasized the cultural importance of visual art exhibitions as well as the need for students of the fine arts program to interact with professional artists.

“It’s one thing to do art in a studio, but it’s also important to learn how to present the art,” Furlong said.

Hallie Maxwell, a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) student studying ceramic sculpture and wire weaving, is currently exhibiting her copper and steel wire work titled “Ode to Ruth no. 5 “in the Blue Galleries.

“It’s important that students see different perspectives that can only be told through art,” said Maxwell.

Student access factors in the way art exhibitions are planned. Art exhibitions on campus often include educational material that can expand a student’s knowledge of a particular work or artist.

“What we want is for the art collection to lead to moments of curiosity,” said Portales. “Learning takes place in many different activities and spaces on campus. It happens when you hang out with your friends from the student union or when you wait for a coffee dreaming about your next invention.

Campus artwork is not available for purchase. However, Portales would like to develop an art lending program allowing students to request works of art to hang in their dorms and residences.

One of the results of the COVID-19 pandemic is that some museums have digitized their art exhibits so that they can be viewed online. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has made much of its art collection available on its Rijks Studio website, and the Louvre in Paris offers virtual tours through its exhibition halls.

Boise State will open the Keith and Catherine Stein Luminary inside the Center for Visual Arts in early 2022. The Stein Luminary will allow students to experience works of art from around the world through touch screens, surround sound and high resolutions.



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