As Boise grows, our cultural stew gets richer and richer. Theatre companies present gutsier plays; dance troupes layer movement and message; musicians play their own music and visual artists dabble beyond the watercolor landscape. But if one thing is true for every arm of the arts community, it's that not nearly enough of the talent gets recognized. The audience is there, but artists struggle to fit into traditional concepts and the scheme of established venues. Especially in galleries, there is a "style" of work that, while valuable and viable, does not include what Christophe Guigon, Corrin Olson, Samuel and Anneliessa Stimpert call "progressive" art.
These four individuals have much in common. They all work in professional design and have a fierce love for art that doesn't bow to anything but its own soul. They are part of a growing community of artists who want to share work that may not be "appropriate" for many of the viewing spaces available in Boise.
"Boise is full of very talented artists and musicians who have been plugging away for many years. Unfortunately, art typically has to be embraced by the mainstream to be highly successful. Galleries need to have income to survive and therefore market what the public demands. This limits contemporary art in the area," says Anneliessa Stimpert.
So Anneliessa and her husband teamed up with Olson and Guigon to create the Visual Arts Collective (VaC), a large space in the Linen District that will combine an urban design firm and a unique gallery space where work from local, national and international artists will be shown on a regular basis. The building is a former Napa Auto Parts warehouse on Grove between 14th and 15th streets, and in a few short months, the concrete floors will be sealed, the exposed beams varnished and every edge turned into a graceful curve. The opening is planned for the beginning of September and will include live music, refreshments and a fine collection of sculpture.
While the art will be edgier and more interactive than a lot of Boiseans are used to, perhaps the most interesting aspect of VaC is its balanced promotion of functional and purely aesthetic creation. Part of the gallery space will be devoted to Guigon Olson Studios and Good Boy Rufus Designs, established design firms that offer commercial and residential builders an "alternative spatial design service."
"We would like to utilize the talented people that we have in the valley to create new designs in wood, metal, plastic, glass, etc. Like the Bauhaus, we want to bring that uniqueness back into our everyday lives by using creative individuals to mesh the fine arts with functional design," Olson said. "VaC's purpose is to act as a catalyst for change in Boise and embrace the urbanization of the area. By bringing together creative individuals and sharing this with the public, we hope to offer new ideas on what art is, as well as what design can encompass."
Despite being the unofficial unruly stepchild of Boise's gallery community, VaC's mission is not to defile what has come before or to create a piecemeal co-op.
"Really, ultimately, we want VaC to be a place that people think of when they think about seeing some great art, or hearing a great band or where they will go when they want a cool new design for their home. VaC is about the experience of all of these elements," said Stimpert.
"We want people to do something they don't do every day-interact with a piece of art and have a reaction," Guigon echoed, addressing both potential criticism from the old guard and the definitive spirit of VaC. "Any reaction is a good reaction. If there isn't one, you didn't do your job."
For more information on the Visual Arts Collective, visit www.visualartscollective.com.