Typically, BW takes focus on a single artist or the happenings of only one gallery in our First Thursday coverage, but this month, we're pulling back for a panoramic view of the whole enchilada. The most happening First Thursday of the year is in December, and this year, it's no exaggeration to say that this could quite possibly qualify as the mother of all First Thursdays. So just what is all the hubbub? For starters, the legal return of wine to First Thursday. Then there's the Winter Window Gallery Stroll, an outdoor art walk and brush-to-brush duel to number one played out on the windows of 16 downtown businesses. And carolers and local musicians strike a chord and belt out holiday favorites while you get elbow-deep in holiday gift shopping.
It's long been a tradition to paint windows for the holiday season, but this First Thursday, more than a dozen downtown businesses are amping up that idea with a passel of local artists and a cash prize at stake. Over the last few weeks, local artists went to work, palettes in hand, to embellish the windows of businesses in the downtown core. During First Thursday festivities, a panel of judges will wander from one end of downtown to the other in search of the most well-done set of panes.
Started last year with only seven teams of artists and businesses, the Winter Window Gallery Stroll has more than doubled in size with a total of 13 artists doing up the windows of 16 businesses this year. Downtown Boise Association executive director Karen Sander came up with the idea of an outdoor gallery stroll last year and enlisted Boise City Arts Commission to help solicit artist participation.
"Traditionally, downtown has always had these fabulous windows painted with holiday themes, winter themes or Christmas themes," explains Sander. "I wanted to start emulating something along those lines and get local artists to paint something that was spectacular."
And spectacular is exactly what the artists are shooting for.
These windows aren't your typical, understated white holly leaves or snowflakes. Heather Bauer's design on Mai Thai's windows is an ornate depiction of myth meets holiday. Mesa Taqueria's front window, painted by owner Wendy Blickenstaff, is a vibrant desert scene with layers of tactile paint. And last year's winner, Grant Olsen, stretches a nontraditional holiday scene across Flying M Coffeehouse's three front windows.
"What we ask is that the artist and the business collaborate to match the theme of the particular store to make sure the window is what the business wants and what the artist can do," says Sander. Hence a trolley in the picture city graphic designer Stephanie Olson painted for Old Spaghetti Factory, and Mesa Taqueria's cultural interpretation of Christmas by Blickenstaff.
"It would be weird to see something European on the window because we're all about Mexican culture and authentic food," says Blickenstaff. "We wanted something that was Christmasy, but also reflective of the restaurant's interior and something that would be of cultural interest."
Blickenstaff decided to depict the Mexican Christmas tradition "las posadas," nine consecutive days of candlelit processions leading up to Christmas Eve that commemorate Mary and Joseph's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The window, titled "Las Posadas del Desierto," is a rendition of that journey with two small figures in the winter desert, a mission church and a Mexican village in the distance. With strokes of gold paint, which Blickenstaff says she used to emphasize celestial light, the window literally glows once the sun has set and the streetlights are on.
Artist Miriam Woito, who took second place in last year's contest, enlisted the help of her two third-grade art classes at Highlands Elementary to complete a window at Old Boise's Travel Centre this year. Each of Woito's 39 students painted a miniature window pane, which are all incorporated into a larger painting of a Dr. Seuss house. Named "Oh the Places You Can Go, Let it Snow," Woito says the playful window is about the kids wanting to get out and play in the snow.
"Snow Play" was Edna Rey-Vizgirdas' theme, too, as well as the name of the window she painted for Shoe Fetish. A self-described snow lover, Rey-Vizgirdas says her enthusiasm for winter is easily evident in her design. Painted from the perspective of her living room window, a cat and dog both look on as a squirrel eats nuts on the outside of the window and two snowmen—one skiing, the other sledding—coast down the slopes.
"I'd never done a window before, but I love everything about winter—the colors, the lights, playing in the snow," she says. "So for me, the Winter Window Stroll was a way for me to do something outside the box and share my love of art with the community."
At window gallery locations throughout downtown, local musicians will provide the evening's soundtrack; and at a number of art galleries throughout downtown, local wineries will provide the evening's libations. Last year, local law enforcement prohibited galleries and businesses from distributing wine, citing licensing issues. However, for the first time since the ban went into effect, wine will legally be served to patrons over the age of 21 at several galleries thanks to a new partnership between the Idaho Wine Commission and the DBA. It may look like an obvious circumvention of Idaho statutes, but, as Sander points out, "It's legal; it makes sense; it promotes Idaho wine. It's a great collaboration." Sander says DBA hopes to continue the partnership, and if the effort bodes well for all involved, it could become a regular occurrence. Eight area wineries will offer tastings and sell their products at eight separate galleries throughout downtown.
Idaho Wine and Art Walk—Art Source Gallery, 1015 W. Main St. hosts Indian Creek Winery; Basement Gallery, 928 W. Main St. hosts Parma Ridge; Browns Gallery, 1022 W. Main St. hosts Fraser Vineyards; Cole Marr Gallery, 404 S. 8th St. hosts Koenig Vineyards; Gallery 601, 211 N. 10th St. hosts Carmela Winery; Lisk Gallery, 850 W. Main St. hosts Silver Trail Winery; R. Grey Gallery, 415 S. 8th St. hosts Pend O'reille Winery; Stewart Gallery, 1110 W. Jefferson St. hosts Bitner Vineyards.
Winter Window Gallery Stroll—American Clothing Gallery, 100 N. 8th St., Sandy Marostica; Flacon Tavern, 780 W. Idaho St., Kate Masterson; Brick Oven Bistro, 801 Main St., Michaela Frence; Connect Wireless, 755 Broad St., Roberta Chism; Dragonfly, 414 W. Main St., Kris Hudson; Ella's Room, 413 S. 8th St., Megan McJunkin; Flying M, 500 W. Idaho St., Grant Olsen; Hampton Inn and Suites, 495 S. Capitol Blvd., Julie Rumsey; Mai Thai, 750 W. Idaho St., Heather Bauer; Mesa Taqueria, 215 N. 8th St., Wendy Blickenstaff; Old Boise Travel Centre, 580 W. Main St., Miriam Woito and students; The Old Spaghetti Factory, 610 W. Idaho St., Stephanie Olson; Owyhee Plaza Hotel, 1109 Main St., Julie Rumsey; See Jane Run, 814 W. Idaho St., Julie Rumsey; Shoe Fetish, 310 N. 9th St., Edna Vizgirdas; TaCaBi, 800 W. Idaho St., Heather Bauer.