Living la Vida Local 

"Under the Grid" at J Crist celebrates community, culture

With rising gas prices, a dragging economy and a general move toward eco-friendly and sustainable consumption, the "buy local" phenomenon has become ubiquitous during the last year. From supporting emerging artists at the Saturday Market to buying locally-grown produce at Boise Co-op, people are beginning to see the benefits of skipping that trip to Wal-Mart and investing in Boise's economic and cultural bounty.[image1]

That's where the J Crist Gallery comes in. This past December, gallery owner Jacqueline Crist and executive assistant Jessica Ramone started bouncing around ideas for an exhibition that would provide a platform for emerging local artists, performers and farmers. Yes, farmers. Not only will "Under the Grid" feature work from 16 of Boise's most talented creative minds, it will also include a garden dinner event with entirely locally grown food.

click to enlarge BY SABRA COMINS
  • by Sabra Comins

"This whole project came from the idea of appreciating what was here and what was local," elaborates Crist. "I come from a background where if you used the term 'local,' it was to ghettoize whoever you were talking about. Now, local has become a positive term and something to celebrate."

Since J Crist opened at its current location on the corner of 17th Street and Fairview Avenue, the gallery has built a reputation for representing an array of artists who are generally established with a broad appeal. Their approach to "Under the Grid" shows a marked departure from their previous exhibitions. Ramone first put out the artists' call for the show by hanging fliers at Boise Co-op and at Flying M Coffeehouse. This open invitation method courted submissions from a variety of local artists, both new and well-known.

"We've been trying to tear down some of the barriers, in a way, by doing this exhibition. We're not looking at what's on an artist's resume," says Crist. "We want to show a slice of what's going on in Boise right now."

click to enlarge BY BRENDA GORDON
  • by Brenda Gordon

And the hodgepodge of artists selected to participate in the show couldn't be more reflective of that ideology. From Erin Weathers' elaborate gown constructed from recycled paper and electrical tape to Ben Wilson's assortment of 20 odd illustrations and prints, "Under the Grid" promises to be a visual feast.

"It's one of the nicest galleries in town and they're having people show there that haven't shown anywhere before. It's cool that they're giving people that opportunity," notes Wilson. "It feels just as cool for me, too, even though I've shown at other places around town."

click to enlarge BY ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Another artist excited to be a part of the show is musician and filmmaker, Noel Weber, who has composed a film piece that will be projected at the gallery's opening celebration. He is also performing at the closing night party alongside local band Hillfolk Noir. Though Weber spent a handful of years in the Boston arts scene, he appreciates the nurturing environment that Boise creates.

click to enlarge BY TODD NEWMAN

"Local art has more meaning in a place like Boise because Boise's a bit more isolated than places like Boston or New York," observes Weber.

  • by Erin Weathers

Other artists who will be participating in the show include Erin Cunningham, Will Kirkman, John McMahon, Grant Olsen, Jenny Rice, Ali Ward, Brenda Golden, Sabra Comins, Lance Brown, Alta Rehkugler, Star Moxley, Todd Newman and Noble Hardesty. The involvement of so many artists has kept event organizer Ramone on her toes trying to find space for everything. And the art is just one component of this exhibit. Ramone has also worked closely with local-foods proponent Susan Medlin to coordinate the July 3 "Grill Under the Grid" event.

click to enlarge BY GRANT OLSEN

"I wanted to take this moment when I had the attention of the community to promote local and organic food," says Ramone. "There's a larger part of the community that doesn't understand what's going on. My hope, as a big picture, is to bring people together: brilliant artists and people who love to collect art. They're two different worlds sometimes."

And bringing people together is precisely what Medlin, founder of the Foothills School and culinary director at the Boise Urban Garden School, is passionate about. Medlin works within her network of area connections to link up organic farmers and ranchers with people who want to buy their products. Though she's an advocate of community education and hopes this project will expose people to the benefits of eating local and organic products, Medlin has no illusions of changing the world in a day.

click to enlarge BY JENNY RICE

"It may be that five people can hear something that they've never heard before," says Medlin. "But if it's just you and me then, hey, that's all right."

Because the event will take place in the garden at J Crist, Medlin has concocted a menu suited for grilling and easy transport. The dinner will feature a fresh beet salad, spinach soup with a tahini swirl, Caesar salad with anchovy toasts, grilled potato salad and Meadowlark lamb chops. For dessert, Medlin has teamed up a local vineyard with downtown confectioners, The Chocolat Bar, to create delectable Tempranillo-port bonbons. Her emphasis on building partnerships between people and businesses in the community is evocative of the butcher, baker and candlestick maker days of yore. As American consumers become increasingly detached from those who produce our food and, oftentimes, what we're consuming, this return to a simpler way of life begins to look more appealing.

  • by John McMahon

"I know it makes me feel really good when I make a meal for friends and am able to recognize the folks who produced the ingredients," explains Weber. "Most of the artists I know, whether they're architects, designers, musicians, chefs, bakers or painters, are progressive, early adopters for new ideas. Or in this case, old ideas that make more sense."

Events like "Under the Grid" are helping the term "local" shed its previous associations with landscape portraits, cover bands and greasy spoons. Though local culture is often assumed to be sub-par to the glittering spectacle of big city imports, each art exhibition, benefit concert and farmer's market asserts Boise's support for our growing creative community.

click to enlarge BY LANCE BROWN
  • by Lance Brown

"Culture is here and it's stimulating and it's experimental and it's dealing with current ideas," says Crist. "For me, the criteria for good art is that it asks the hard questions and doesn't give you the answers, necessarily. I think that's what we've got in this show is people that are doing that."

click to enlarge BY NOBLE HARDESTY

"Under the Grid" opens Thur., June 19, with music by Breccia, Slow Moon and an appearance by The Jokers. The "Grill Under the Grid" event is Thur., July 3, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $65 and seating is limited. E-mail for reservations. Closing celebration is Fri., July 18, with music by Hillfolk Noir and Nollifur.

click to enlarge BY ALI WARD
  • by Ali Ward

click to enlarge BY WILLIAM KIRKMAN
  • by William Kirkman
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