James Castle is Idaho’s artist, although he never knew it. He spent his entire life in a rural valley, teaching himself to make things out of whatever he could find: small sculptures made from cereal boxes, drawings from soot and spit. He was an expert in creative innovation and resourcefulness, despite being profoundly deaf, having limited communication abilities, and being educationally and artistically isolated. During his lifetime, he was never recognized as an artist, until recognition by gallerist Jacqueline Christ helped propel his work into the broader art community.
Today, the J Christ studio is a modern building in an unassuming area of Boise, Idaho. You could say that it’s where the magic happens, if you consider art to be a sort of magic (which I do). But really, it’s where logistics of art happen: where gallery representatives arrange which art pieces will go where, and when. It’s where James Agenbroad ensures that every artwork is framed, packaged, and protected. Although Agenbroad spends most days in the workshop of the gallery, his job also takes him around the world- he’s contracted to physically accompany art to faraway galleries and museums-and install it on site. He is the protector of art- and the story, the meaning, and the man behind it.
|Left and middle, James Agenbroad's workplace. Right, fireplace soot used by James Castle to make art.|
WHAT IS YOUR JOB LIKE?
It’s a mixed bag. I work at the preparatory for the gallery, which means I generally work on the general maintenance of the building, I make sure things are in order and working fine. I also work as the picture framer for custom framing for James Castle works. As well as for contract we have for Saint Alphonsus Hospital for the contract we have with them for providing their waiting rooms and patient rooms with framed art. I also work as an art courier. We send our artwork around the world and around the country for exhibits and to other galleries. I travel with the art to make sure it gets there safe, and I’m under contract to handle the art and install it on site.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WORK WITH AMAZING ART EVERY DAY?
It absolutely inspires me and it’s a dream come true to work with the quality of art- we work with one artist in this collection, and he’s a fantastic artist. It’s an absolute honor to work with it. When I envisioned working with arts when I was younger, this is exactly what I shot for. You know, I wanted to work with original art, with unique art, something that I had a connection with.
|Tools and artifacts used by James Castle.|
WHAT PIECES INSPIRE YOU THE MOST?
There are so many diverse pieces, I don’t think I could put it down on one piece. It’s mostly the story of the artist himself. He’s deaf, self-taught, uneducated for the most part, and prolific. He spent his day every day making art. And as far as I’m concerned that's the epitome of an artist.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
My family. First and foremost. Having a good job with some stability. My downtime, my leisure.
TELL ME ABOUT A MOMENT OF CLARITY IN YOUR LIFE.
A moment of clarity was when I was about 20. I had been fairly irresponsible going to school as a teenager, and I had to prove to myself something, so I went back to school. My life changed when I was 20 when I moved to Eugene and started delving into my education and the art world.
|Tools used by James Agenbroad.|
WHAT DOES ART MEAN TO YOU?
Oh, I can’t answer that. I really can’t. I know that I’m passionate about it. I love diverse amounts of art. Art embodies life in that there are aspects of it that you love and aspects that you don’t necessarily like.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ART IN RURAL, WESTERN PLACES LIKE IDAHO?
I perceive art in Idaho as a little slow. I know there are a lot of artists here, but it almost seems like a subculture. It doesn’t seem like, on a political level, that this state is really prevalent in the arts. We still are limited and it seems like even in 20 years, there hasn’t been a lot of progression, at least in the arts.