Fighting Back 

Boise Naval Base makes art fun again

Boise Naval Base is waging a guerilla action-and their weapon of choice is performance art.

Flint Weisser, creative director for Boise Naval Base, said the group's name is "a joke on Boise being a landlocked place devoid of art." This collective of painters, sculptors and photographers seeks to combat that void with performances staged on sidewalks and makeshift venues around the city.

"It's great to have your work showing in a gallery," said member Russ Wood, "but you reach a very limited audience that way. And I feel like art has so much more to offer and (can) enrich the lives and lifestyle of the community as a whole."

Founded in 2004 by Weisser, Wood and Isaac Grambo, the collective currently has 11 members. Only two have formal theater training, but acting skills are secondary to a desire to engage the public with provocative and entertaining work. "Everything we've done up to this point," Wood said, "has always drawn (the audience) in in some way and made them a participant as much as the artist."

Boise Naval Base offers an unconventional perspective on what art is and can be. The collective's performances have emphasized improvisation over scripted dialogue and dealt with contemporary political, social and economic issues.

Winner!, performed a few weeks ago in a vacant building, examined the modern craze for flash-in-the pan celebrity. Boise Naval Base members granted entry to audience members one at a time. They proclaimed the individual a winner, presented him with a keepsake trophy and escorted him to a podium where he could give a speech or field questions from the "press corps." As soon as the next person in line arrived at the podium, Boise Naval Base members directed the previous "winner" to an area out of the spotlight.

In Election, a commentary on the American political process, Boise Naval Base performers debated on a stage set up on 8th Street. At the same time, other performers circulated in the crowd and "campaigned" by handing out stickers and repeating slogans. Audience members could then cast ballots for their favorite candidate.

Boise Naval Base members develop the shows in group brainstorming sessions. Members may also submit a formal proposal to the collective for review, Wood said. Either way, the artists refine and strategize for months before presenting a one-night-only show to the public.

The group recently found a permanent home with the Visual Arts Collective, an urban design firm and art gallery slated to open in September. Boise Naval Base plans to celebrate the opening with a traveling disco party in downtown Boise.

In the meantime, they have organized a tailgate party timed to coincide with the June 30 opening of the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at the Boise Art Museum. Weiss said the troupe intends to set up outside the museum and whoop and scream and indulge in beer and weenies. Art openings are "always a very stuffy affair," he added. "There's not supposed to be any fun in it. We're fighting back."

Check out Boise Naval Base online at www.boisenavalbase.com.

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