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A History of Arts and Opportunity

Lifelong learning with the Idaho Falls Arts Council

Published online: Jun 27, 2022 Articles, Arts & Culture, Education And Arts, Lifestyle Corey Taule
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For those interested in the arts, history and the concept of lifelong learning, Idaho Falls provides an extraordinary range of opportunities. From concerts to comedy, dramas, exhibitions, galleries, museums and interactive activities, this small city in the southeast corner of Idaho offers residents and visitors events and activities normally reserved to those living in large, metropolitan areas.

The history of the arts in Idaho Falls dates back more than a century. But the modern arts scene began when a small group of residents came together to create an organization dedicated to enhancing Eastern Idaho’s culture and expanding access to the arts.

The Idaho Falls Arts Council was born in 1990. Four years later, in 1994, a local businessman’s generous donation of three downtown buildings provided a foundation for events and activities enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors today.

The Arts Council raised approximately $4.5 million to renovate these facilities, which today host hundreds of events annually, serve as a gathering place and offer children throughout eastern Idaho the opportunity to experience the arts, both as spectator and participant.

Willard Arts Center

Located in Downtown Idaho Falls, the Willard Arts Center hosts a variety of events, including film festivals and live productions. Within the center, the Carr and Hall Gallery feature regularly rotating art exhibitions, showing off a variety of works created by notable artists.

The Willard Arts Center also hosts community events ranging from business conferences to weddings, anniversary celebrations and birthday parties.

Colonial Theatre

Adjacent to the Willard Arts Center, the Colonial was founded in 1919. For 10 years, the Colonial staged plays but was converted into a movie theatre in 1929. For seven decades, Eastern Idahoans saw the latest films at the Colonial and, located a few blocks over, the Rio. 

The Colonial eventually closed its doors but was renovated and reopened after being donated to the Arts Council. Today, the 988-seat theatre hosts between 16 and 18 events annually. It remains one of only four historic theatres operating in Idaho.

Those who have performed at this historic venue include Ray Charles, Kristina Chenoweth, Reckless Kelly, Taylor Swift, Lyle Lovett, Richard Marx and the Oak Ridge Boys. 

The Idaho Falls Civic Center for the Performing Arts

The residents of Idaho Falls demonstrated their commitment to the arts when, in 1949, they approved a bond to create an 1,800-seat theatre. Three years later, the Idaho Falls Civic Center for the Performing Arts opened to the public.

Over the last 70 years, the Civic has hosted a variety of events, including rock concerts, operas, ballets and, on a regular basis, the Idaho Falls Symphony. The list of performers who have played this historic venue range from Buck Owens to Mötley Crüe. Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash, Burl Ives, and many others also played the Civic, which is renowned for its comfortable seats, incredible acoustics and great views from top to bottom.

ARTitorium on Broadway

Located on Broadway Avenue in Idaho Falls, the ARTitorium’s roots lie in one of the community’s historic venues. 

In 1924, the Broadway Theatre opened its doors. It was soon renamed the Fox and, during the Great Depression, took on the name generations of Idaho Falls residents would become intimately familiar with, the Rio. 

When the Rio closed in 2001, the building sat vacant until it was donated to the Idaho Falls Arts Council with the purpose of providing a place to provide children a fun and interactive arts experience.

In August of 2014, the ARTitorium opened to the public. Since that time, thousands of children have enjoyed the kinds of hands-on, interactive adventures that create incredible memories and allow for maximum access to a variety of experiences.

Every day children of all ages develop their own art at the facility’s creative stations, dance at the green screen, build something new at project tables and put their ideas into motion at animation stations.

And while these incredible facilities are a vital part of the Idaho Falls arts scene, they do not tell the entire story. 

During the summer, Idaho Falls features regular concerts at some of its more than 50 parks and an outdoor concert venue located downtown. Residents and visitors enjoy access to a renowned art museum located on the banks of the Snake River, as well as the Museum of Idaho, a premier history and science center located a few blocks from the ARTitorium.

This small western city’s unique dedication to the arts, history and lifelong learning is an integral part of daily life, today and into the future. 

Click here to read more of Destination Idaho Falls.

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