by Lonni Leavitt Barker, photography by Jim Peterson
Stephen Douglas is a visionary. For years, he’s believed if he builds “it”, they will come. His “it” is a world class art gallery, the likes of which you would find in New York, San Francisco, or his hometown of Chicago. Last year Douglas, along with his wife Joy Strayer, opened Eagle Art Gallery—tucked in on 2nd Street off of State. The gallery feels more like a museum, with the wrinkled worn eyes of an old cowboy staring down from one wall, while vivid colors and bold shapes beckon you from another.
There is art everywhere: pastels, acrylics, watercolors, oils, plasters, and so much more—everything you could imagine. There are modernist cubes covered in miniature paintings juxtaposed with beautiful creations that transport you to a day combing the beach. The art beckons you to reach out and touch. As you wind your way through the gallery, there are surprises around every corner. Currently, creations from seventeen Idaho artists adorn the walls.
“Everyone has their own, individual tastes when it comes to art,” said owner Stephen Douglas, an artist himself. “We wanted to reflect that. Anyone who comes in here can expect to find something they will fall in love with.”
The gallery is only part of his dream. Douglas’ vision is to make Eagle the destination for art and culture in the Valley. “Downtown Boise is quite fragmented when it comes to art. We think Eagle could become the cultural hub for our community,” said Douglas. To kick start that movement, Douglas is pairing his visual art with what some might consider liquid art. He is teaming up with local vintner Ken Rufe of Cellar 616. The last Thursday of every month, the two men offer an open house where guests are invited to spoil their senses, to see some of the best Idaho artists have to offer and to taste wine made from grapes in Eagle’s backyard.
“It is the perfect marriage,” said Rufe. “People come to the gallery to aesthetically appreciate art the way it looks and then our art, the way it tastes.” Rufe, who grew up in a wine-making household, said it was only natural for him to follow in his father’s footsteps and start making his own. He’s been making wine for the past 30 years. In 2010, Rufe opted to share his passion and started making wine commercially. His label, Cellar 616, only uses local grapes from the Treasure Valley and since he is a boutique wine maker, Rufe said every batch is different and surprising, each with its own unique taste.
“Making wine is part art and part science,” said Rufe, which helps explain why the two men came up with the idea of putting a tasting room in the middle of an art gallery.
Whether you buy a bottle of wine or take home a painting, both men insist you are investing in art—original, handcrafted, one-of-a-kind art. They say their gallery and tasting room is a match made in heaven. Lucky for us, heaven is just down the street.