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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of November 13 - 19, 2002

Opinion Columns

The challenge 
for valley arts

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Few places as relatively small as the Wood River Valley can boast of such a large percentage of supporters nurturing so many arts and culture activities for so many months out of the year with so many events as the Wood River Valley.

This despite what pros in the field would consider a dreary lack of professionally equipped facilities to properly showcase performing arts and other events that need more than jury-rigged make-do quarters.

A week ago, a New York-based consultant tossed cold water on hopes of developing a centralized arts and culture complex on five acres owned by the city of Sun Valley next to Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church.

It’s not needed right now, the consultant concluded.

Maybe. But this is indisputable: existing facilities need vast improvement and/or expansion, and planning should continue for the eventual addition of a performing arts venue.

Fortuitously, the Sun Valley Arts Foundation, which has sort of become the conscience of the valley’s cultural future and spearheaded the study of facility needs, is in place and can maintain momentum.

The need for better facilities was never clearer than last weekend when the Caritas Chorale performed in The Community School gymnasium—a giant echo chamber suitable for crowds of howling sports fans, but acoustically a nightmare for showcasing 80 splendid voices and the 11-piece brass and percussion musicians providing intricate accompaniment.

These valiant performers gave two bravura concerts under trying, frustrating, makeshift conditions that included a temporary acoustical backdrop. In conducting themselves bravely as they did, chorale members set an example for the community to persevere in developing facilities that do justice to crafts of so many devoted participants and supporters of arts and culture.

Providing state-of-the-art facilities as a long-range goal should be a snap for this community, which has mastered the art of achieving the difficult. St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center, for example, materialized out of dogged local generosity and determination to have a hospital. And ambitious longtime plans for the Janss Community Center are slowly taking shape.

If the valley’s year-round arts and cultural activities already attract thousands of devotees, imagine the economic consequences and cultural fame for the area if first-rate facilities were developed to attract more of the nation’s finest performers, artists and literary figures.

A vigorous arts and culture program is not only the essence of a community’s soul, but arts and culture make good business sense.

Of all U.S. retail products, none is more vital to every home and business as electricity. Without electricity, simple household appliances, manufacturing industries and telecommunications can’t function.

California has just won a landmark victory over a major supplier of electricity and natural gas that should put the electric power industry on notice it can’t get away with gouging consumers, even if it does have a friend in the White House.

Williams Companies has agreed to pay California $400 million to settle charges that it conspired to drive up prices in 2000 and 2001, and also agreed to reduce by $1 billion the remainder of a 10-year contract for energy in the state.

California now will go after several other energy giants who’re accused of gouging and creating false shortages.

This was a moral victory for California as well. When California energy prices soared, Gov. Gray Davis’ claims that energy companies were conspiring to gouge were belittled by the Bush administration’s supreme energy czar: Vice President Dick Cheney claimed higher prices were only the result of oil shortages, and thus drilling should begin immediately in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The obvious conclusion is that the vice president (a) isn’t the energy expert he’s cracked up to be or (b) he’s merely another commonplace politician willing to exploit a public emergency for the Republican’s oil agenda.



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