Perhaps you've noticed all of the hip buildings and businesses sprouting up just west of downtown. Donnie Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine, Second Chance Building Materials Center, and the Visual Arts Collective (VAC) are only a few of the creative forces forging the Linen District. Providing a safe haven for art-lovers and progressive thinkers alike, these businesses immediately won community approval and haven't seen a dull moment since opening their doors. Now, just north of the Linen District, on the corner of 14th and Jefferson, the community is about to receive one more righteous arts collective: The Muse Building. Although the attributes of this collective are numerous, one highlight is that the artists involved chose to feature the work of Foothills School of Arts and Sciences art students. They may be young, but their talent is not to be doubted.
Heather Rae, a local filmmaker and one of the founders of the collective, tells Boise Weekly that the conception of the building came from Brandie Redinger, co-owner of the Holistic Therapy Center and longtime veteran of the local healing arts community. Redinger proposed the idea of a collective where people could come together to share and experience healing arts, visual art, media and more. The two women, along with each of their husbands, Frank Redinger and Russell Friedenberg, have brought the idea to fruition.
"The mission of The Muse Building mirrors that of the Foothills school--to bring art into our lives in both physical and creative forms," says Rae. She firmly believes in this mission and chose to include two paintings of plants completed by the primary art class at Foothills (kindergartners through third graders) because she feels they are the "spark of the whole intention." Rae's daughter attends Foothills, and one day after visiting the school and viewing the artwork, appropriately titled, "Circle Leaf Plant" and "Triangle Leaf Plant," she coincidentally went straight to The Muse Building. Upon arriving, it occurred to Rae that right in front of her was the perfect place to house the pieces she had just seen.
When the students first began the project of defining line and drawing plant parts, they had no idea that their art would one day be included in an arts collective. The school's goal for the project was to create a piece for the Foothills annual fund-raiser, which helps underprivileged children attend the school and also contributes to teacher development. When the children were asked if they were surprised at how different the final product was from their first drawings, the students confidently agreed that they all knew from the beginning what the final product would look like. Foothills art teacher Heather Bauer gave a different answer, saying she never imagined the project would turn out as it did. She had a completely different ending in mind but allowed the students to make important decisions and supported their ideas unconditionally throughout the entire process.
"At Foothills, we use art as a way to evaluate the students' understanding of what they are studying and the world around them," says Bauer. She incorporates her art assignments with what the students are studying in science to help them gain a deeper understanding of the material. Because at the conception of the art project, the area of study in science was plants, Bauer chose two of her classroom plants as the subjects for the paintings. Before the kids could start drawing though, she asked them to define the words "line," which they conceived as "a dot that leaves a trail," and "shape," "a dot that begins and ends in the same place."
Next, using their observation skills, the class did drawings of the plants using their "normal eyes" and "magnifying eyes" (the first exercise representing how we often look broadly upon our environment and the second exercise showing the children how to focus in and pay attention to detail). For some students, drawing with their "magnifying eyes" was the most challenging aspect of the entire project, and reasonably so, as it is always easier to view the world as swirly mists instead of tuning in to the small miracles constantly surrounding us.
Next in the process came the students' ingenious idea that forever changed the project. They decided to try drawing the plants using one long, continuous line. These drawings were then traced, reduced to transparencies, and projected onto two sets of three canvasses. After the class silently voted on the colors for the works, they began the painting process, with each student painting one leaf or one stem. With all 32 students working together to complete the paintings, they remain the perfect complement to The Muse Building which will join various artists including massage therapist Gean Doyle, chiropractor Meg Ryan, the offices of True West Cinema, an anonymous writer and so many more.
Bauer of course is delighted that her students' art will have an appropriate home. She says it will honor all the effort, challenges and victories the children went through during the process of making the plant paintings. She emphasizes the processes of art rather than the final creation though, because she prefers to think of art as a verb, not a noun. "At the birth of the word 'art,' it was a verb that meant, 'to put things together;' not a product, but a process," says Bauer. She furthers her point using the analogy of a period at the end of a sentence. The sentence is the process of creating art, a skill the children can learn and then apply to different aspects of their lives. It is ever-changing. The period is the finished product, and while it plays an important role, it won't serve the students as deeply in their futures.
The Muse Building is undergoing quite a process of its own these days, and many people are involved. Architect Cathy Sewell designed the new collective and according to Rae, "She brought elements of grace and practicality to the building." ` vision is being fulfilled by contractor David Hale (founder of the Linen District) and Sparks Commercial Construction. The 3,600 square feet is being revamped with as much of a green approach as possible using local materials when possible. It will include offices for the resident artists as well as an open studio, a high-tech conference room, a meditation room, and possibly a revolving gallery for local artists to show their work.
With completion planned for the end of the year, and a grand opening planned for February, the Muse Building will soon be "a dot that leaves a trail."