While whitewashed, well-lit museum walls provide an orderly art-viewing experience, it's the chaos of unstretched canvases, paint-caked brushes and smudged sketchbooks in an artist's studio that tell the real story. For every matted and framed piece of art that makes it to a gallery, there's a pile of half-finished, cast-aside cousins cluttering the corners of an artist's workspace. To see those works-in-progress, along with crumpled paint tubes that helped create them, demystifies the artistic process and adds context to an artist's work. And this is exactly the experience the Boise Open Studios Collective Organization continues to inspire.
BOSCO was formed in 2003 by a group of local artists who wanted to provide the community with a behind-the-scenes look into their creative caverns. Fashioned after open studios events in cities like Portland and New York, BOSCO put out a call to local artists asking them to fling open the doors to their studios for a weekend so that curious collectors could come peruse their work spaces. Spearheaded by Eve-Marie Bergren, Lorin Humphreys and ex-BW editor Bingo Barnes, BOSCO corralled 29 artists to participate in the first open studios event.
"[BOSCO] really had three purposes. It was education, it was getting the artists talking to one another, it was helping the public understand the role of visual arts in the community," says Bergren.
In BOSCO's second and third years, the group continued to grow with 49 and 61 artists participating, respectively. Unfortunately, as the organization's membership increased, there was a concurrent decrease in the number of artists who volunteered to tackle the administrative minutiae involved in putting on the event. Recognizing the cultural value of BOSCO and not wanting it to dissolve, Boise Weekly offered to run the organization until it could be passed back to the artists themselves. In 2006 and 2007, the event was renamed Boise Weekly Open Studios and headquartered in the BW offices.
But this year, quite a bit has changed. Though BW is still a major supporter of BOSCO (see the map inserted in this issue), it is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization.
"Last June after our open studios [BW publisher Sally Freeman] said, 'Boise Weekly can't run this any more, the artists need to take it over,' which is the way it was designed in the first place," says painter, printmaker, photographer April Hoff.
With the help of some BOSCO veterans like Hoff and a new crop of eager volunteers, the event is once again back in the artists' hands. Painter and printmaker Amber Waite, one of the new members who has been instrumental in organizing this year's event, is excited to be a part of an organization that brings artists and art enthusiasts together in a more relaxed setting.
"I think what makes BOSCO different from other arts organizations, and what makes this open studios event different from going to a gallery or something like that, is you get to see how the artist works. You don't just see the artists' work on the wall, you actually get to see the process that they go through and how they get their ideas," explains Waite. "You can sit for an hour with the artist if you want and ask them questions about their process."
Waite was joined by a number of other BOSCO volunteers including Barbara Bowling, Amanda Richardson, Susan Valiquette, Barbara Michener, Sue Latta, Kay Seurat, Sue Rooke, John Moore, and BW's Tyler Bush. Together, the group wrote the organization's new by-laws, filed for nonprofit status and applied for a grant from the City of Boise Department of Arts and History. They also decided to move the event from summer to fall so that more people would be in town to participate. Though it has always cost money to participate in BOSCO, this year's fee structure has also changed.
"It's a $10 application fee, and that's non-refundable for new members," explains Waite. "And then if you're accepted into the group, because we have a jurying process, then it's $80 annually to be a member."
BOSCO is adamant about maintaining a certain level of professionalism in the group. Each new artist is required to submit three digital images, an up-to-date artist's resume and a 25- to 50-word artist's statement. The applicant's work is then carefully reviewed by a jury of current members before new members are selected.
"Even though we excluded some people, we still have a diverse range of artists," says Hoff.
The 34 artists opening their studios in this year's event include everyone from metalworkers Bernie Jestrabek-Hart and Irene Deely to fiber artist Betty Maguire-Hayzlett. Though Maguire-Hayzlett has been creating her colorful hand-felted wool wall hangings for years, she's thrilled to have joined BOSCO to network with other artists and bring higher visibility to her work.
"Less formally, it's a chance for artists to talk with other artists and tell them about what opportunities are out there," says Waite.
Though artists are sprinkled across the map—from Boise's North End to Caldwell—for the Treasure Valley's more well-known artists, location doesn't seem to have a huge effect on turnout.
"We have some locally well-known artists in open studios who lots of people come to see," says Hoff. "But for anyone around those people, location also plays a factor. The public loves one-stop-shopping."
But for those who aren't able to make it out to open studios this weekend, or just want a preview of what will be out there, the Idaho Historical Museum will have a show comprised of 40 BOSCO artists on display for the month of October. The show will open this First Thursday with a violin and cello trio from Boise State and appetizers catered by O'Michael's Pub and Grill.
"As a mission, [BOSCO wants] to get Boise excited about art," explains Hoff. "There's been a long history of people just being intrigued by the mystery of how an artist does their work. How many times do I hear, 'I could never be an artist'? Well, come and see how we do it and you can see you probably could."
Thursday, Oct. 2, 5-9 p.m., The Idaho Historical Museum, 610 N. Julia Davis Dr. For more information, check out the insert in this issue of Boise Weekly or visit boiseopenstudios.com.