Our Impact/History

Kessler-Keener Foundation: By bringing together peoples of diverse cultural backgrounds we are creating a new story in Idaho of respect, understanding, friendship and change.

We expand our reach of cross-cultural education through arts literacy and experiential interaction by hosting Native non-Native conferences and weekend retreats, by bringing together adult mentors and youth to engage in the Mentor Artists Playwrights Project and through the Cultural MAPPing Workshop, a place for safe discussion.

Our Promise

We give voice to those who are voiceless. Our programming in marginalized communities creates new leadership, new voices, new energy and hope.

Bridging Pathways

In spite of many generations of effective and innovative activism in the realms of social justice and human rights, we still live in a deeply divided country and world. Our Bridging Pathways program builds understanding and dialog through cross-cultural events, presentations, and informal gatherings.

By volunteering in our programming on Duck Valley Reservation dominant culture persons change their pre-conceptions and prejudices about Natives as we learn truth about Euro incursion in Native lands and peoples. How have Native cultures survived incursion and persecution? How have Native persons kept their way of life, their rituals and existence on their lands? How does land give meaning to their lives?

Let us know if you want information about this work: info@kesslerkeener.org.

We don’t expect wounds that formed over generations to be healed during a weekend retreat or evening discussion panel, but we do believe that, through perseverance, our work makes a difference in bringing people of different cultural backgrounds together to tell their stories. We increase respect and human connection by providing safe spaces, lively discussion, and good food.

Our Voices

As we seek a more just world where all persons are valued, we have great hope in the next generation. Today’s youth grow up more aware of diversity and more open to new ways of solving old problems. Our youth-centric programs and partnerships elevate the voices of young people, honoring their experiences and insights.


We regularly collaborate with Thomas Dean Kellogg, from Los Angeles. His Mentor Artists Playwrights Project (MAPP) leads teens on a creative journey to find their voices through writing one-act plays. Professional actors read the plays in a Performance Readings that honors the writers’ work in front of audiences including their family and community.


I look forward to continuing to work with MAPP as a Mentor and Actor and in whatever capacity my talents may benefit. As we already know, MAPP is making a significant difference in the lives of young people, teenagers, who have felt excluded and without a voice. It is also clear that this work can be deeply valuable for multi-generational and multicultural groups as well as the young artists. The exercises and inquiry provide a launch pad for surprising conversations and for connecting with and having compassion for each other. 

Cultural MAPPing Workshop

The MAPP workshop has crucial impact for this time in our society.  It is important we come together from many walks of life, from many different cultures and individual experiences, and get to know one another better.  For those who have participated in the past, you know the powerful connections we can make when, together, we sit in creativity.


I can’t recommend this workshop highly enough. We were fortunate to have Thomas Kellogg lead one at our diversity summit in November and there were rave reviews. Anyone in Boise interested in diversity and growing authentic connection to others should check out the details for these FREE events.
Angeli Weller, Executive in Residence
Director, Responsible Business Initiative Boise State University

Cultural MAPPing provided me with a powerful, interactive opportunity to consider a variety of my cultural identities and how those identities affect how I connect with other people. I left the workshop amazed by how quickly 2.5 hours goes by when one is surrounded by open-hearted people participating in thought-provoking activities and discussion. I also left with a heightened awareness of how our identities can help us expand our abilities to interact with others in thoughtful ways.
Professor Sara Fry, Boise State University, College of Education

Extraordinary Witness

Hear from those motivated by faith to take extraordinary actions for human rights and justice.

An Extraordinary Witness event amplifies the voice of an exceptional individual in the fields of social justice and human rights. Cooperating with other groups, we bring nationally and internationally recognized figures to Boise for an energizing and inspirational lecture. We sometimes offer workshops, receptions, and discussions in conjunction with lectures.

This has been our longest running effort, beginning with the forming of Kessler-Keener Foundation in 1997 (then called Kessler-Keener Lectures). Many in the Boise community remember when civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams or Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel spoke to packed lecture halls.

It can be a transformative experience to see an Extraordinary Witness in person. Their compassion, courage, and perseverance invoke our highest values. We hope that these events awaken a sense of social responsibility in audiences, inspiring them to work towards a more just and equal society.

Since 1999 Boise Valley residents have known Kessler-Keener Foundation for public events that educate and inspire through presentations and workshops by scholars, authors, clergy, and civil rights leaders. The focus has always been human rights and justice.

Currently cross-cultural understanding and respect creation is our goal.  We are privileged to gather peoples from many cultures to celebrate diversity and our common humanity.

Who were Harry S. Kessler and Julia Margaret Keener? Click here to find out.

Our History

2018 – Seventh Annual Spring Native Non-Native Retreats in Garden Valley, bringing together Native and Non-Native people in order to create trust and respect. Focus was on Cultural MAPPing.

2018 – Mentor Artists Three Day Residency in Duck Valley. Professional actors read student-written plays to the Owyhee student body, K-12. We then engaged each class in drama and creative workshops.

2018 – Mentor Artists Playwriting Workshop at Trio Upward Bound at Boise State University. Thomas Kellogg, Director.

2018 – Cultural Mapping Workshop Leaders Training.

2017 – Spring and Fall Native Non-Native Retreats in Garden Valley, bringing together Native and Non-Native people in order to create trust and respect. Focus was on Cultural MAPPing.

2017 – Mentor Artists three day residency at Owyhee School in Duck Valley.

2017 – Cultural MAPP workshops at Boise State University.

2017 – Mentor Artists Playwrighting Workshop, Thomas Kellogg Director, at Trio Upward Bound program at Boise State University.

2016 – Creation of the Cultural MAPPing Workshop to engage participants in cross-cultural dialog. We come together to hear one another’s stories.

2016 – Mentor Artists Playwright’s Project three day residency at Owyhee School in Duck Valley.

2015 – 4th annual Native Non-Native Retreat in Garden Valley, bringing together Native and Non-Native people in order to create trust and respect.

2015 – Native panel reflecting on Sherman Alexie and other Native writers and poets.

2014 –  Our second conference on Native American Presence in Southern Idaho Before and After European Contact held at Boise First Presbyterian Church. The meal was provided by Red River Powwow Association. There were two Native speakers each from Ft. Hall and Duck Valley reservations. The keynote was delivered by Angelique Townsend Eaglewoman, Indian College of Law, University of Idaho Law School.

2014 – 3rd annual Native Non-Native Retreat in Garden Valley, bringing together Native and Non-Native people in order to create trust and respect.

2013 – During Martin Luther King Week the Borah High young artist plays were read in Performance Readings at Borah High, The College of Idaho, BSU, and a month later for the Idaho Refugee Conference.

2013 – 2nd annual Native Non-Native Retreat in Garden Valley, bringing together Native and Non-Native people in order to create trust and respect.

2012 – We produced our first Mentor Artist Playwright Project (MAPP) workshop at Borah High School Students.  Teacher Molly O’Shea was the lead organizer of our first cross-cultural playwright experience.

2012 – 1st annual Native Non-Native Retreat in Garden Valley, bringing together Native and Non-Native people in order to create trust and respect.

2010 – Bridging Pathways Native Non-Native Conference featured Phill Allen, Nez Perce, speaking on Native life now; and Robbie Paul, Nez Perce, speaking about historic trauma among Native Americans. Thomas Kellogg, Director of the (MAPP), brought professional actors to present readings of one act plays written by Native students from Lapwai and Couer d’ Alene reservations. Meals provided by Red River Powwow Association.

2008 – Boise State University and First Presbyterian Church hosted Palestinian legislator, activist, and scholar Hanan Ashrawi for a locally controversial lecture. She is the first woman elected to the Palestinian National Council.


2007 – Episcopal priest, theologian, and progressive author Matthew Fox conducted a lecture and workshops at the Cathedral of the Rockies. Matthew was an early and influential exponent of Creation Spirituality.

2006Rabbi Arthur Waskow spoke at the Shalom Center with his wife, Rabbi Phylis Berman. He is an American author and political activist associated with the Jewish Renewal movement. 


2006 – We hosted both a lecture and three-day workshop from Joanna Rogers Macy, environmental activist, author, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is also the author of eight books.


2005 – The featured lecturer was Neil Douglas-Klotz, Ph.D. world-renowned scholar in religious studies, spirituality and psychology. He is also co-founder of the International Network of the Dances of Universal Peace.

2004 – We enjoyed a lecture from Dolores Huerta, labor leader and civil rights activist who was an early member of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW).


2003 – Our next Extraordinary Witness lecturer was Bruce Feiler, author of six consecutive New York Times nonfiction best-sellers. His book Walking the Bible describes his perilous, 10,000-mile journey retracing the Five Books of Moses through the desert.

2002 – Nobel Peace Prize winner, author, and activist Elie Wiesel spoke to nearly 2,000 at the Morrison Center. He also dedicated a tree for the Anne Frank Memorial in honor of Margaret and Keith Keener.


2001Morris Dees, co-founder and chief trial counsel of the Southern Poverty Law Center, followed as the next Extraordinary Witness. Just before the lecture in September of 2000, Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $6.3 million judgment against Aryan Nations, a white supremacist organization based in Hayden Lake, Idaho.


1999Myrlie Evers-Williams was the first speaker in the Extraordinary Witness lecture series. Myrlie is the widow of civil rights activist Medgar Evers who was assassinated in Mississippi in 1963. The lecture was held at First Presbyterian Church.


1997 – Pastor Mark Davis awoke in the night from a dream that Boise First Presbyterian Church and the Keener family could create a lecture series to continue the legacy of lifelong church member Margaret Keener. Through conversations with the family, Harry Kessler, father of Margaret was added to the name, and a non-profit was formed called Kessler-Keener Lectures, Inc.  The mission was to feature lectures and workshops by persons who are motivated through their faith to take extraordinary actions for human rights and justice.  The lectures series was named Extraordinary Witness.