In December 1948, four local artists got together and formed the Idaho Falls Art Guild. Their purpose was to promote the arts in the Idaho Falls area, to encourage artists, and to meet together regularly to paint. Their goals soon included regular art shows for the public to enjoy.
The founders were Helen Aupperle, a high school art teacher, accomplished pastel and oil painter; Fred Ochi, owner of Fred's Sign Shop, a watercolor artist; Suzanne Fonnesbeck, a commercial artist recently from France, and watercolor and ink artist; and Ina Schwartz Oyler, a local junior high art teacher and talented oil painter.
The Guild began meeting every Thursday evening and soon began to actively recruit interested persons to join them. Their first meetings were in the basement of the A.B.C. Gift Shop on Park Avenue and then moved to the art room at O.E. Bell Junior High School. When Idaho Falls High School was built in 1954, the Guild began holding meetings in the large art room there. The Guild also worked closely with the Idaho Art Association and nearby colleges.
In 1963 the post-war babies began high school. The Idaho Falls School District went to split session in order to accommodate this unusually high influx of teenagers. Using the overcrowded high school as a meeting place was no longer an option. A search for a new meeting place began. Working with the city’s Recreation Director, the “Log Hut” in Highland Park came under consideration. The “Log Hut” was built as a W.P.A. project in the 1930’s on land donated to the City of Idaho Falls by the Lingren family. Although it was slated to be torn down, the director agreed to allow the Guild to use the building while they looked into other facilities.
The “Log Hut” had bare logs for walls and oil heaters for heat. The two west rooms were cleaned-up to provide the Guild with a meeting place while the Guild continued renovation work on the rest of the building. A “gallery fund” was started to cover renovation costs and display panels. The hut was sufficiently repaired in 1964 for the 15th Spring Show to be held there.
After a sponsored contest to name the “Log Hut,” the Guild chose Eagle Rock Art Gallery. The city granted a long term lease for the entire building to the Guild with two requests: That the Guild sponsor and instruct art classes in conjunction with the Parks and Recreation Summer Program, and that the city have use of the building for elections.
The “Log Hut” was home to the Art Guild for 19 years. During that time, the Guild sponsored many events including the Spring Show on Easter weekends, numerous one-man shows by Guild members, workshops by renowned artists, and the Holiday Show around Christmas. Meetings at the “Log Hut” were similar to the open-studios of today. Members brought their art supplies, and there was usually a model, a still life set-up, and slides of landscapes to paint.
In 1991, the City finally condemned the “Log Hut” and tore it down. The loss of the “Log Hut” initiated a new purpose for the “gallery fund” and a new direction for the Guild. In 1993, the Guild approached the City of Idaho Falls to ask their assistance in building an art museum for the community of Idaho Falls. The city pledged some help if the Guild raised the money, built the building, and then deeded it back to the city so they could maintain it. A Guild team was formed to locate property and begin construction planning.
Initially, the potential site for the building was property near John's Hole Bridge, gifted to the Guild by the Federal Land Bank. Although this seemed a likely site, the City of Idaho Falls requested the Guild locate the proposed museum on the Green Belt on the east side of the Snake River, south of the City Electric Building on South Capital Avenue. They were concerned about having to move the annual 4th of July Fireworks event if the museum building were located near the Johns Hole Bridge. In 1997, through negotiations between the Guild and the City of Idaho Falls, the building site was relocated to the proposed site on the Green Belt.
The estimated cost spiraled from $225,000 in 1993 to nearly a million dollars by the year 2000. Fund raising accelerated in 1996 to obtain the estimated $ 1,000,000 projected to build the proposed two-story museum and education center. By March, 2000, $550,000 had been raised from grants, donations, auctions, and membership fees. Included in the estimated one million dollars was the value of the land gifted to the Guild by the Federal Land Bank near John's Hole Bridge. This land was gifted from the Guild to the City after the art museum was constructed, and placed under the ownership of the city.
Construction of Eagle Rock Art Museum and Art Center was completed in 2002, and deeded to the City of Idaho Falls as agreed. The Guild held meetings and shows at the Art Museum until 2006 when a site was located to establish their own art gallery. The museum’s name was changed in 2007 to the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho.
Today, the Eagle Rock Art Guild, holds meetings, community events, and shows at the Eagle Rock Art Guild Fine Arts Center & Gallery located at 287 Cliff Street in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
- Compiled with thanks to Goldie Hales, MaNell Piccolo, Alice Foster Trumblee, and others who wrote histories of the Eagle Rock Art Guild.