Exterior of the James Castle House.
Guests at the James Castle House viewing the current exhibition “Ways of Knowing.”

Exterior of the James Castle House.
Guests at the James Castle House viewing the current exhibition “Ways of Knowing.”

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Contributing to the Boise Art community since 2017, the James Castle House preserves the astonishing and beautiful work of Castle, while enriching the local community and providing support and opportunities for artists both locally and nationally.
According to the website, Castle was born in 1899, and created thousands of artworks during his lifetime, the majority of which were made while he lived in the house and its near surroundings. He was born deaf, never learned to speak, read or write, but Castle was a revolutionary artist, whose unique approach to art and creativity produced a massive body of work. He was self taught.
Through residencies, the James Castle House offers artists the chance to stay in the home where Castle lived, and to soak up the wisdom and beauty of his perspective and apply it to their own practice.
“With the residency [program] we really wanted to not only keep that legacy of daily creativity that James Castle practiced on site, keep it alive, but also make it visible for visitors to see,” said Kristen Hill, cultural site manager at the James Castle House.
Residents provide an opportunity for mutual learning, where they come into the space and get curious about Castle and his work. Through their new perspectives on Castle, they have unique questions or ideas about things that might otherwise have been overlooked, according to Hill.
“They take us with them a little bit; we get to see what they’re curious about. And that’s not always things that we already know about,” Hill said.
Through public events and exhibitions, the James Castle House works to ensure people in Boise and beyond can connect with Castle’s remarkable story, and gain appreciation for the history and significance of his contributions.
“Part of it is focused on preserving and sharing the parts of the house that show the history of the family there. We’ve got like exposed rafters and the little back bedroom that has all of the materials that went into the building of the house. And those are things that people connect with so deeply,” Hill said.
Much of Castle’s work is best appreciated when you can see the beauty in everyday things around you, it only makes sense to approach honoring his legacy with the same spirit.
“He created so much, he lived this exceptional life, but he also lived it from a very humble place,” Hill said.
When Boise city purchased the James Castle House it needed lots of work before it could function not only as a house museum but as a home for the residency program participants. Castle’s many pieces depicting his house and surroundings were used by the team to restore the home down to the most intimate details, Hill said.
“When I think about James castle, and the huge amount of artwork that he created in his life, it’s difficult to really wrap your mind around a life that is dedicated to that level of creativity,” Hill said.
With the residency program and beyond, the goal is to create a space with mutual learning and benefit, for artists and the local community, Hill said. Residents at the James Castle House are not required to sell any of the work they engage in during their stay at the house. They live off a provided stipend, which makes a residency there a rare opportunity to freely engage in the creative process without any monetary or commercial expectations attached.
“In my mind, I think of it as being free mess up, take risks and take this as an opportunity to just explore,” Hill said.
Going forward, the James Castle House will continue working to share Castle’s story and work with the local community and the rest of the world. There is so much beauty to be found, and with each person who engages with Castle’s work there is a new chance for insight and connection.
“I hope that we are able to continue to expand in our community as far as people’s awareness and interest in James Castle and his legacy,” Hill said.
The James Castle House is free and open to the public Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. A gallery tour hosted by staff occurs at 1 p.m. during operating hours, no reservation required.
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