California Arts Council

State of California

Celebrating community identity: how a dance company reached out to a tight-knit ethnic group in Boise

Published: 09-19-2013

Exciting examples of using the arts for community involvement in small and medium-sized cities are popping up nationwide. Boise, ID, is known for a few things - its role in Idaho's agricultural industry, its large and robust Basque community, and more recently, its dance troupe.

The Trey McIntyre Project (TMP) is an award-winning nonprofit that has received accolades both for its work in the arts and its engagement with communities and audiences, especially in its hometown. John Michael Schert, former co-founder and executive director (and now a guest professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School), notes that TMP's success lies in its mission of becoming part of the community.

"It's not just about the programming and production of art," said Schert. "It's that the artists are creative thought leaders."

TMP works within the community and asks their company members to interact via social media. The company initiates collaboration projects, like one with local visual artists that resulted in a sell-out of artwork-during the recession, when most visual art never made it off gallery walls.

Collaboration with the local Basque community strengthened TMP's bond with Boise. TMP dancers studied and trained in traditional Basque dance, then created a modern interpretation.

"We weren't sure how they would receive it, but it was hugely successful," said Schert. Proceeds from some performances went to support the local Basque Museum, further endearing the company to Boise's residents and making TMP a core part of the city's culture.

This article was originally written by Arts Council staff in February 2013 and updated on September 19, 2013.

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