BOISE, Idaho (KLIX) – A renovation team found a surprise recently while working on an old house in Boise.

Eleven pieces of art was uncovered behind walls at the James Castle House. The artwork will be display for the next year at the house once it opens to the public on April 28.

“It is super cool,” said Rachel Reichert, cultural sites manager for the Boise City Department of Arts & History, the organization that manages the house. “It’s been an interesting twist to the project.”

Castle, a world-renowned artists who moved into the house with his mother and family in 1931, created detailed art of the house that led Reichert and her team to believe their might be artwork hidden in the walls. Why he placed art there is anybody’s guess, but Reichert said it may very well have been because the house was so small and he did it to utilize space.

“Castle worked daily, he worked often and his entire life. Being so prolific he likely produced thousands and thousands of artwork,” she said, noting the original house was only about 1,000 square-feet. Reichert’s team expanded the house with two new wings to about 2,000 square-feet for museum, retail and resident artists’ space.

Photo courtesy of Boise City Department of Arts & History
Photo courtesy of Boise City Department of Arts & History

With the renovation work her team is doing, she called the house a “super small space with a big aggressive” attitude. “It’s a lot of different things.”

The city of Boise purchased the house in 2015. Any art found in the house belongs to the James Castle Collection and Archive, Reichert said, and the 11 pieces were turned over to that organization. “But,” she said, “in a very generous move they were gifted back to the city along with 50 additional pieces of art.”

The collection of 61 pieces of art is estimated at a value of more than $1.1 million.

Castle, who was born deaf, created his unique “soot and spit” art by taking ashes from woodstoves or fireplaces and mixing it with his saliva. Most of his drawings were of landscapes or architecture, Reichert said.

Does she believe any additional art will be found hidden behind the walls or other places of the house?

Probably not – “the house has been pretty well-explored now,” she said – but Reichert said she likes the mystery of thinking she could be wrong, that there very well may be uncovered pieces of art somewhere on the property.

“The house at one point likely had a lot of art in it,” she said.

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