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From the Vice President

Fine Arts at Boise State Matters to More Than Boise State

“Nothing replaces the authenticity of the object presented with passionate scholarship. Bringing people face-to-face with our objects is a way of bringing them face-to-face with people across time, across space, whose lives may have been different from our own but who, like us, have hopes and dreams, frustrations and achievements in their lives.” These are the words of Thomas P. Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He speaks of how looking at art and learning about art is a process that helps us better understand ourselves and make better decisions about where we’re going. Picasso said “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Perhaps this is why summer vacation is such a good time to visit art museums — we are restored.

What Picasso and Campbell are suggesting is that art is good for us — good for the soul. According to the first large-scale randomized-control trial study to measure what students learn from school tours of an art museum, art is especially good for young students. Reported in Education Next, the study shows that students exposed to museums, galleries and performance arts centers display better critical thinking skills and education memory — along with greater tolerance, historical empathy and other attributes we all want instilled in our children and grandchildren.

Appreciation of the role art plays in a student’s decision-making skills comes at a time when there has been a steep drop in the arts in our schools.  In the Treasure Valley we are fortunate to have many fine galleries, the Boise Art Museum and other organizations that provide exposure to art for our young people – and all people.  Boise State is a valuable partner in the educational and creative endeavor.  We want to do more to augment and create opportunities so students may experience the educational value of art that spins the narrative of our civilization.

One of Boise State’s strongest connections with the community is its role as a center for artistic expression and creativity that inspires and delights. Through its academic programs in the arts, including a renowned master’s degree program in creative writing, numerous art galleries and deep ties to Boise’s museums, drama companies, theaters and galleries, Boise State is deeply proud of its role as a leader in Boise’s cultural scene.

Boise State’s Fine Arts Building — and the World Museum within — will ensure that students in elementary, secondary and college classrooms across the Treasure Valley will experience an abundance of art and what it teaches us about our world.

  • Low income students are five times more likely to graduate when they receive arts instruction.[1 – see source]
  • The key is opening doors to the arts. Only 28 percent of school districts in Idaho consider the arts a part of the core curriculum, yet approximately 70 percent of Idaho schools participate in arts field trips.[2 – see source]
  • Idaho students need concentrated exposure to make up for fewer hours focused on art in the classroom. Average minutes studying visual art each week: Montana: 87, Wyoming: 83, Utah: 51, Idaho: 40.[2 – see source]
  • A quality experience is needed to augment a shortage of specialists in Idaho schools. Of 106 elementary schools surveyed, only 41 have arts specialists.[2 – see source]

Photo of Fine Arts Building

Rendering of the Boise State Fine Arts Building

The World Museum will be an innovative vehicle to transport our students to art galleries across the globe so they can see first-hand the role art has played in civilization. This new high-tech and interactive space will employ the latest virtual reality technology developed on Boise State’s campus so students in the Treasure Valley can tour renowned museums such as the Louvre in Paris, France; the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain — all in one day. Special programs can complement exhibits and educational programs at other local venues.  Here, technology will truly intersect with the arts, and the experience we can provide to students of all ages will be richer for it.

Renderings of the World Museum

Renderings of the World Museum

The World Museum will be a popular destination within the new Fine Arts Building — an environment where art lives and a place for students of all ages, community members, faculty members, artists and scholars alike to be immersed in the creation, exploration and study of art. Our aspiration — seen in the building’s purpose, design and location — is to create a nationally and internationally recognized center for arts education at Boise State.

The building and its programs will offer our community a true cultural hub and world-class opportunities for students of all ages to improve their critical thinking skills and become the educated and thoughtful individuals who will value the role the arts play in our communities.

  • People who participate in the arts are 20 percent more likely to vote.[3 – see source]
  • Social capital grows. People get involved, through the connection of organizations and experiences, to work with local government and nonprofits.
  • The community image and status improves and more people participate.[4 – see source]
  • Tourists, businesses, skilled workers and investors partake in the creative milieu spurring economic growth in creative industries.

The time is right for this state-of-the-art space specifically designed for the creation, exploration and study of art. A work of art in its own right, Boise State’s new Fine Arts Building will establish the university’s arts and humanities programing in their literal and figurative place in our community and on campus.

The $42 million project will bring all of the Department of Art’s visual art programs —history of art and visual culture, art metals, art education, ceramics, drawing and painting, graphic design, illustration, photography, printmaking and sculpture — under one roof. Consolidation of these programs into a single building will create unique opportunities for new multidisciplinary perspectives, collaborations and understandings among students and faculty. It also will foster a common sense of place, belonging and affinity among students, faculty and the community for Boise State and its arts programs.

Just like other notable arts projects in the community, this building and its impact, is dependent upon philanthropy and generous leaders stepping forward. Through its purpose, innovative design and high-profile location on Capitol Boulevard, this building will showcase Boise State’s role in the community’s celebrated cultural scene and complement its growing success in research and STEM-related academics.  It will enhance partnerships with local arts organizations and create a new academic dynamic among Boise State’s art programs, fostering a deeper identity and affinity for those programs among students, faculty and members of the public.

The Fine Arts Building will set the course for Boise State becoming a national and internationally-recognized center of scholarship and public service in the visual arts, while continuing its leadership role in the creative economy and culture of our region.

Learn more about how you can support fine arts at Boise State.


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

[1] National Endowment for the Arts, The Arts and Achievement to At-Risk Youth (2012) and American’s for the Arts Public Opinion Poll (2016)
[2] Report on the Status of Arts Education in Idaho, A joint project of the Idaho Commission on the Arts and the Idaho State Department of Education.
[3] National Endowment for the Arts, The Arts and Achievement to At-Risk Youth (2012) and American’s for the Arts Public Opinion Poll (2016)
[4] Mechanisms of Arts Impact, a typology. Kevin McCarthy (2002)


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