There are places in the U.S. mountain west and western Canada that are so stunning, they can’t help but inspire brilliance. The Rocky Mountain backdrops and vivid contrasts of seasons have long drawn artists who come to spark their imagination. Meeting planners also can stimulate inventiveness by hosting gatherings in these three communities of varying sizes where creativity thrives.
Boise, Idaho Boise is a curious combination of WestCoast hip and small-town charm. With much of the metropolitan area situated on a broad, flat plain along the Rocky Mountains in southwest Idaho, the hamlet is a magnet for visual artists and performers. That’s due in part to the city’s commitment to hosting creatives through various artist-in-residence programs.
Home to the Boise Philharmonic and Opera Idaho, the town is a regional hub for jazz, live music and theater and hosts the Gene Harris Jazz Festival each spring. Groups also can enjoy the visual arts in galleries, through public art and at the Boise Art Museum, which has the indoor Sculpture Court appropriate for 80 seated and 200 standing and outdoor Sculpture Gardens for up to 300 guests.
If performing arts are the ticket, consider booking a property such as Velma V. Morrison Center on the Boise State University campus. The center is the main venue for concerts, ballet, opera and theater.
Other art-focused options include Boise Contemporary Theater, which can accommodate 231 in the theater and also has three classrooms, and Idaho Shakespeare Festival Amphitheater and Habitat Reserve.
Venue options are the 1,180 square-foot Interpretive Center, patio and plaza suitable for up to 400 people. The amphitheater, including the grassy hillside can accommodate 770. Those looking for a truly unique location should consider the Egyptian Theatre, an elaborate example of 1920s experiential theater. The lobby is perfect for small groups up to 100, while the theater has 746 seats.
Boise even has a hotel that fits the motif. Hotel 43 is a former Travelodge that has been remodeled into a hipster hotel that showcases art. Although it doesn’t have an art focus, the Grove Hotel is a lovely property with 12,000 square feet total of gathering space, including the 6,800-square-foot Grand Ballroom.
Banff, Alberta, Canada
The resort town of Banff, Alberta, resides within Banff National Park and offers some of the most stunning scenery in the world. In the late 1880s, the region’s first superintendent oriented Banff’s main street to showcase the magnificent Cascade Mountain, one of the many peaks that frame the view. Painters, sketch artists and photographers have attempted to duplicate Banff’s beauty—however a postcard, painting or photograph can’t replicate the actual experience of catching a whiff of pine and watching the landscape transform throughout the day. It doesn’t stop them from trying, which makes this an artsy town worth visiting.
Meetings can be planned around a celebration such as Alberta Culture Days, allowing visitors to better appreciate First Nations culture, or the Ice Magic Festival showcasing ice carvers from around the world. The annual Banff Summer Arts Festival features free performances of dance, opera, film, live theater, authors and visual artists, while musicians take the stage during Performance in the Park.
Guests should take a day trip to Lake Louise, which is 45 minutes northwest. Its stunning azure waters contrast beautifully with the surrounding glacier-clad peaks. Rocky Mountain Photo Adventures offers group tours throughout Lake Louise and Banff if guests want to flex their creative muscles.
Large groups can book the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, one of Canada’s leading art institutions. The facility houses 60 meeting rooms, theaters and auditoriums, accommodating up to 1,000 participants. Guests also can plan an event in a cabaret-style club, a television studio or in the Walter Phillips Gallery. Aysun Lynch, meeting architect for Banff Centre, says, “We specialize in convening impactful, creative meetings. Our conference connector programs relate to arts-based principles. These programs utilize mediums of visual imagery—photograph and clay—to actually curate creative analysis of why people are convening. So we may use some message mapping, we may ask people to think about the current state of their organization, and then use clay as a medium to think about what a future state might look like.”
The world-renowned luxury hotel, Fairmont Banff Springs, partners with a local gallery to host artist-in-residence programs. For a week, an artist represented by the gallery stays at the hotel and works in a reserved studio space. Hotel guests are welcome to interact with the artist from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This could be a good chance for groups to tap into the artist being onsite and utilize 76,000 square feet of flexible space. Another great choice is Rimrock Resort with its art deco interior and 18,000 square feet of meeting space.
Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
When he was on the verge of becoming famous, word painter Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, visited Lake Tahoe. He wrote, “I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole world affords.” He wasn’t the only talent to fall in love with the region. Hollywood royalty Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe sojourned there, along with captains of industry. They came to marvel at the hue-shifting, rock-studded body of water, which is hemmed in by white-capped mountains.
Naturally, so much outdoor beauty lured artists of all types who now live and work in Tahoe—a generic term that encompasses all the communities around the actual lake, as well as towns a few miles inland. The inland sea is shared by California and Nevada, and for tourism purposes is divided into North and South Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is a prime performing arts event that’s staged in an open-air amphitheater framed by pine trees. Located in Sand Harbor State Park, the festival produces Shakespeare’s well-known works under the stars, just as the Bard envisioned. The festival’s community engagement manager, Rae Matthews, has seen many corporate groups book the Stageside Cabana for drinks and appetizers before the show and during intermission. She says, “Art is tied to its environment and this location is so pretty—the stage overlooks the lake and you can watch the sun set.”
Contemporary theater, philharmonic and ballet performances, and a Monday Night Showcase of local talent are also on the calendar along with live concerts and the annual Valhalla Art, Music and Theatre Festival in June. Groups can book the picnic pavilion, which holds up to 40.
For add-on activities, Painted Rock Pottery & Mosaic will bring crafts to groups of 10 to as large as 100. Or pair wine and creativity at The Painted Vine, which overlooks the lake. Artists will come to you with supplies for 60 or visit The Painted Vine’s studio, which accommodates 30 in two rooms. You also can plan an ARTour self-guided tour of North Lake Tahoe galleries and artist studios.
There are a number of unique venues and hotels in Tahoe, and while none of them are art oriented, they are in locations that are sure to inspire. The Chateau at Incline Village is located near the Shakespeare Festival and offers 5,200 square feet of flexible space. The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe stretches across a private beach and features 50,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. North Tahoe Event Center on Kings Beach has flexible meeting space both inside and out that can handle anywhere from 25 to 350 attendees.
A meeting in any of these three communities is sure to elevate originality, evoke ingenuity and call forth creativity.
GET CREATIVE IN THESE MOUNTAIN TOWNS
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA: Learn about traditional native crafts and dances at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, attend the Alaska Native Arts and Crafts Fair, or set up workshops to learn an ancient craft.
BIG SKY, MONTANA: Free Thursday concerts, classical music and film festivals, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and a summer conservatory are just a sampling of the vibrant arts scene.
ESTES PARK, COLORADO: Home to 26 art galleries and museums, summer concerts and theatrical productions.
LEAVENWORTH, WASHINGTON: This hamlet hosts a summer theater, Icicle Creek Center for the Arts and murals around town painted by German artists.
RUIDOSO, NEW MEXICO: Offers plenty of art-focused events, 50 galleries and a theater for the performing arts.
SHERIDAN, WYOMING: This art hub in the Bighorn Mountains features museums, galleries and a theater.
TUBAC, ARIZONA: A small town with more than 100 art galleries and tag line that reads, “Where art and history meet.” It’s also home to the longest running annual gathering of artists in the United States.