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Sun Valley Museum of Art Looks at the Damming of the West
Friday, August 26, 2022


There’s been much to-do of late about dams, whether addressing the plight of the salmon or the plight of man as rivers dry up throughout the American West.

The Sun Valley Museum of Art is addressing the history of dams in the Pacific Northwest with its new BIG IDEA project and exhibition. And it will throw a free opening celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, at The Museum in Ketchum.

Participating artists will speak at 6 p.m.

“DAMS: Reservoirs, Reclamation, Renewal,” as the exhibition is called, looks at the effect of dams in this region and reimagines the future for rivers and the lives dependent on them. For more than a century, dams have shaped Idaho’s landscapes, and ecosystems and infused the economy with dollars from recreation, tourism, fishing, agriculture and energy.

This exhibition coincides with the dialog about the possibility of breaching dams throughout the Columbia River Basin.

“Congressman Mike Simpson’s announcement last year that he supports the removal of four dams on the lower Snake River has generated a huge amount of discussion in our state about the pros and cons of dams and breaching,” said Courtney Gilbert, curator of Visual Arts and co-curator with Kristin Poole, SVMoA’s former artistic director, of the exhibition. “This feels like an important moment to be exploring the issue as a community.”

The Museum commissioned four artist to consider local and regional dams through new bodies of work, which will be on view through Nov. 12

  • Carolina Caycedo made a site visit, visiting dams, interviewed biologists, spoke with members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the Nez Perce Tribe and investigated their traditional fishing practices for an installation that will include a new film along with a sculpture and other two- and three-dimensional elements.
  • Photographer Eirik Johnson has produced several bodies of work that look at the places where human activity and wilderness intersect, including the restoration of the Elwha River, where the Glines Canyon Dam and Elwah Dam have both been removed and the river once again runs freely.
  • Artist, writer and naturalist James Prosek created a large-scale mural and several watercolor paintings to help visitors understand the effects of dams on Idaho’s salmon and other fish, insects, birds, mammals and flora.
  • Painter Rachel Teannalach recently painted landscapes of the Salmon, Snake and Columbia Rivers from the headwaters of the Salmon just north of Ketchum to the mouth of the Columbia to illustrate the fragility of ecosystems along these rivers. For this exhibition, she created four large paintings of the dams along the lower Snake that were recently proposed for breaching.

In addition to the opening celebration, The Museum has planned a series of events around DAMS:


GALLERY WALK--Fri, Sep. 2, 5-7 p.m. The Museum, Ketchum. FREE



Thu, Sep. 8, 4:30pm, and Thu, Nov. 3, 4:30 & 5:30pm. The Museum, Ketchum. FREE, pre-registration recommended.

ARTIST TALK: Jock Reynold in Conversation with Artist James Prosek. Mon, Aug. 29, 6 p.m. The Museum, Ketchum. FREE, pre-registration required.

Author David James Duncan, author of “The River Why” and “The Brothers K,” on Dams. Wed,
Aug. 31, 6 p.m.
Forest Service Park, Ketchum. $15 member / $25 nonmember / $7 student.

LECTURE:  Historian Bob Reinhardt, a Boise State University professor of history, will discuss “The Atlas of Drowned Towns.” Thu, Sep 8, 5:30 p.m. The Museum, Ketchum. FREE, pre-registration recommended.

PANEL DISCUSSION: The Future of Rivers and Dams in Idaho. Wed, Sep 28, 6 p.m. Sun Valley Community School Auditorium. FREE, pre-registration recommended. Panelists include artist Carolina Caycedo; Nic Nelson, Executive Director of Idaho Rivers United; Craig Quarterman, Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources; a representative of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

ARTIST TALK: Carolina Caycedo: Be Dammed. Thu, Sep 29, 5:30 p.m. The Museum, Ketchum. FREE, pre-registration recommended. Caycedo will discuss her ongoing project investigating the impacts of dams on indigenous communities throughout the Americas.

FILM: River of Return and post-film discussion with Filmmakers Jessica and Sammy Matsaw, who are working with Shoshone-Bannock yuth on the Middle Fork o the Salmon River.. Thu, Oct 13, 6 p.m. The Community Library, Ketchum. FREE.

FILM: “DamNation,” which explores the change in national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering marvels to growing awareness of unintended consequences. Thu, Nov. 3, 4:30 p.m. & 7 p. m. Magic Lantern Cinemas, Ketchum. $10 member/ $12 nonmember.

Fanciful Felted Fish with Betty Hayzlett.
Sat, Aug 27, 9:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Hailey Classroom, Hailey. $45/$55 nonmember.

TEEN WORKSHOP: Fishy Felting Fun with Betty Hayzlett (for students in grades 6–12). Sun, Aug 28, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Hailey Classroom, Hailey. $10, pre-registration required.

ADULT CLASS: Geology Outing—Field Trip to the Headwaters of the Salmon River and the sabotaged Sunbeam Dam with Paul Link, retired geology professor at Idaho State University and author of 2021 Roadside Geology of Idaho. Will include mention of the Cape Horn earthquakeSat, Sep 17, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Meet at Sun Peak and drive to Sunbeam Dam and Yankee Fork of the Snake River. $70 / $80 nonmember.

The Museum, at 191 Fifth Street East in Ketchum, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Admission is free, and private tours may be arranged at 208-726-9491.

To register for events, go to

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