Spotlight on Josh Olson - Coordinator for the City of Boise, ID

In 2008 the Department of Arts and History was established by the City of Boise to enhance the Boise community by providing leadership, advocacy, education, services and support for arts and history. One year later this newly created department agreed to incorporate the National Arts Program Exhibit into their schedule of events.

Josh Olson

Immediately, Josh Olson, Public Art Specialist- Conservation and Education, stepped in as Coordinator of this inclusive art exhibit. Approaching the opening of his third annual showing, it is already apparent that he was the right man for the job. Participation this year has increased tremendously and we are looking forward to a phenomenal show of the “people’s” art. 

When a talented artist like Josh, who has a true commitment to the community and his fellow employees, is leading the way, the NAP is sure its sponsorship dollars are going to be well spent. We thank him and his co-workers for their time and energy in helping to bring forth the visual art talents of those in their community.

The NAP recommends that you visit to see the artwork of the talented Mr. Olson.

Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit put on by the Boise City Dept of Arts & History?
A. We primarily work to provide Boise's infrastructure with large scale public art pieces. That involves everything from artist's concepts and fabrication to installation and preservation. Our city owns a framed collection, but we rarely, if ever, exhibit and celebrate it like the NAP show. We don't offer commissions or awards to employees or their families because there would be a legal conflict of interest to specify our own funds for something like this. So it is truly a unique opportunity.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
A. First of all, it is a great way to interact with colleagues and their families. Now that we are on our third year with NAP it has become very important to me that they get a chance to display it. Displaying the work is the difference between a participant simply being artistic and being and artist involved in the arts. I also think that a creative employee is an important thing to foster for any employer. You need energy and innovation to effectively solve new problems and I think art helps people achieve this.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork in the professional gallery setting?
A. People really enjoy it. They love seeing their children's artwork or their own work on the walls, and then there's the added bonus of a chance to win awards. This year we have had our biggest turnout yet. That tells me a lot.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in a gallery setting is so important?
A. It adds a level of professionalism, and that stirs up a sense of pride. To go from the refrigerator door or your living room wall, to a gallery setting with nice lights surrounded by other artwork is a great feeling. A big part of the creative process can be this type of experience and interaction. Professional artists have to do this all the time. They know that putting themselves out there like that is never easy, and they strive to display their work professionally in order to be successful. These artists may only do this part time, but we owe it to them to display it correctly.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
A. The awards ceremony. It's a lot of fun and it creates such an inclusive community around the exhibit. It is a big sigh of relief once its all done and everyone is smiling, eating and talking.
Q. Do visitors to the gallery respond to the employee exhibit?
A. Yes, they love it. The venue management receives a lot of great feedback.
Q. How has utilizing online registration made the process easier for you?
A. It has saved me days of work. At times it was difficult deciphering handwriting and then of course finding time to start typing in the forms one by one. It has also allowed me to reach everyone a lot easier and encourages them to sign up and/or spread the word.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
A. I am a printmaker and painter ( -shameless plug) and I have found art has helped me my entire life. It calms and balances me. It provides me with moments of introspection and purposeful awareness of my surroundings. Thru art I remain open minded and that keeps me younger. Being an artist helps me be a better role model for my children too. That may seem like a stretch, but they have a desire to be creative all the time and I want those qualities to stay with them. If I don't encourage them by example, then they might not find value in it. I want them to dream and to find confidence in their ideas and I think art is a great way to do that.
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts? Are you an artist yourself?
A. I really enjoyed it as a young child and somehow just started nurturing it within myself. I went on to study arts for my undergrad and eventually found that I had fallen into a career in public art. So, now that I am nearly forty years old, you could say that I have been an artist or in the arts for nearly 39 years.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Comments about the program, etc.
A. Thank you for providing this opportunity for City of Boise employees. It is a great program and we feel fortunate to take part. I also want to say that I do not do this alone. I have tons of help from my coworkers: Terri, Karen, Janelle, Amy and Ricardo.
Josh Olson Giving a tour