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“Last Light on Aspens” painting by ICL artist in residence Carl Rowe.

The Idaho Conservation League has operated its artist in residence program—which, being an environmental organization, it abbreviates AIR—since 2013. The sixth such artist, Carl Rowe, began his yearlong residency at the beginning of 2019 and is nearly ready to wrap things up now as the year, to say nothing of the decade, approaches its inevitable conclusion.

Rowe, now a resident of Boise, moved to Ketchum in 1979. Here, he lived and worked for 12 years, and the artist credits this time as being particularly formative for him, creatively and aesthetically.

“I started painting when I lived in Ketchum because it was so beautiful there,” he said. “I would wake up in the morning and be enchanted and thrilled by the landscape. It’s not just ‘postcard pretty.’  The lines and colors and texture of the land are so evident in the Wood River Valley. I think that’s why it’s such a popular place. You pick up Baldy and drop it in a desert, it wouldn’t draw as many people. Ketchum’s just beautiful.”

Ketchum will be welcoming back this esteemed painter this week for a one-night-only popup art show at the Gail Severn Gallery.

The artist in residence program stipulates that the artist must exhibit his or her works at the end of the term. In the past, artists have typically done this in their respective hometowns. Since ICL is a statewide organization—and since Rowe traveled far and wide across Idaho to paint its varied landscapes—he thought it would be best to take his show on the road.

Beginning today, Wednesday, Nov. 13, Rowe is embarking upon a nine-city tour of Idaho, with stops in Pocatello, Twin Falls, Ketchum, Challis, Boise, McCall, Lewiston, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint before the end of the year.

His travels took him to those locales and more in 2019, during which time he produced around 50 paintings. The entire body of work will be displayed for the Boise exhibition, but when he takes to the road, he will adapt the collection to reflect the nearby landscapes of each area.

“ICL is a statewide organization, so I decided to be as statewide as I could for the year,” he said. “I’ve been travelling all over, trying to create a body of work that reflects the diversity of the landscape of Idaho and encourages a sense of pride and wonder at what an amazing state we have.”

While on the road, Rowe will be recording a new edition of ICL’s recurring podcast series “Wild Idaho.” Listeners can stay tuned and expect that to be uploaded online soon at idahoconservation.org/about/videos.

Since its inception in 2013, the residency program has provided ICL with countless new opportunities to expand its purview and its community outreach statewide, approaching new demographics and delivering its message along innovative avenues.

“The ICL wants to communicate in new ways with new audiences, and art is a powerful way to do that,” Community Engagement Assistant Hannah Smay said. “These are places we work to protect, and Carl’s art captures them in a manner that shows why.”

Rowe echoed Smay’s remarks.

“The conservation league makes many great arguments for conserving land,” he said. “They touch on matters of health, economics, society. They’ve gotten very good at working with different constituents and stakeholders who have different views, making the case that it’s really good for everyone involved to treat the land well.

“One case that they often don’t make directly themselves—and what I think is kind of my job as artist in residence—is to make the case for conserving land from an aesthetic point of view. It’s worth protecting the natural world simply because it’s beautiful. We get pleasure and satisfaction from living in such a world, and when someone disrupts that vista, when we lose that beauty to a mine or a development or whatever, we feel a genuine, physical sense of loss. My job is to keep showing how beautiful the natural world is and how many different ways we have of looking at it.”

With threats to Idaho’s wilds always on the horizon, conservancy organizations can never have too many allies or well-wishers. The ICL certainly has its fair share of supporters in the Wood River Valley, and those parties can demonstrate that support in person this Friday, Nov. 15, at 6 p.m. by attending the free, one-night-only pop-up exhibition of Rowe’s work at the Gail Severn Gallery.

Those in attendance will enjoy some complimentary light hors d’oeuvres and libations. Rowe will speak on his time as the artist in residence, his artistic process and the breathtaking Idaho landscapes he had occasion to explore during his engagement with the conservation organization. Art and nature lovers—Smay noted that there is considerable overlap between the two groups—may converse casually with the artist as they enjoy his work.

The Gail Severn Gallery is at 400 First Ave. N. in Ketchum, a convenient 300 feet from the Idaho Conservation League’s Wood River headquarters.

Rowe is funding much of his exhibition tour out of pocket and will be donating 25 percent of any sales to the Idaho Conservation League.

The exhibition series marks the end of Rowe’s residency, but the ICL will soon announce the 2020 AIR. The application period for that position just closed on Nov. 8, and the ICL will notify Rowe’s successor of his or her appointment by Dec. 6.

To learn more about the Idaho Conservation League, its artist in residence program and its innumerable environmental undertakings, visit idahoconservation.org.

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