By Makenzi Dunstan, City of Boise Arts & History Department
The 2023 AASLH Annual Conference, “I, Too, Am America,” places diverse communities, histories, and sites centerstage, reflecting the multifaceted identities of Americans past, present, and future.
One space you can explore this theme while visiting Boise, Idaho is the James Castle House, a historic site that preserves the legacy of deaf and self-taught artist James Castle.
Born profoundly deaf in rural Garden Valley, Idaho, Castle developed a great love for drawing at an early age and dedicated his days to his creative practice. He created thousands of artworks during his lifetime, the majority of which were made while he lived in Boise between 1931 to 1977.
As a result, Castle’s massive body of artwork provides us with an unparalleled glimpse into twentieth-century Idaho life and American material culture. And although there is much we will never know about Castle’s deaf experience; it seems his deafness, artmaking, and surrounding environments are inextricably intertwined and offer continued opportunities for research and exploration for Deaf and hearing researchers alike.
Today, the James Castle House is operated by the Boise City Department of Arts & History and is responsible for managing Castle’s historic living and working spaces, art and artifact collections and offering public opportunities to engage with the site. Visitors can engage with a variety of programs exhibitions, tours, artist residencies, and a variety of experiences led in American Sign Language.
Join us for in-depth tour of this incredible site, “Made in Idaho: James Castle and his Legacy” on Thursday, September 7, from 1-3:30 p.m.
Editor’s Note: You can still sign up for this tour, even if you have already registered for the conference. Use these instructions to add this tour to your registration. The City of Boise Arts & History Department also operates the Erma Hayman House, which is included in “A More Complete Story: Exploring the City of Boise’s African American History,” a tour on Saturday, September 9 from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. The pre-registration deadline for the conference is Friday, August 18.
Historic Image: Image courtesy of Tom Trusky Papers, Special Collections and Archives, Boise State University
Artwork: James Castle, Untitled, ca. 1931-1977, found paper and soot, courtesy of the James Castle Collection and Archive
Contemporary photograph: Courtesy the Boise City Department of Arts & History