First Thursday: New Economy Style 

Rethinking the traditional gallery

The pop-up gallery phenomenon has taken hold. Since the start of the recession, developers and property owners sitting on empty space have opened their doors to artists thirsty to show their work. With some double-sided tape and a little hype, vacant meat-packing warehouses and unoccupied high-rise condos from Seattle to Chicago have been transformed into temporary art hot spots. In return, property owners have gotten increased visibility and some artistic street cred.

The 8th Street Marketplace's Artists in Residence program is a notable Boise pop-up success story. So is the recent one-night-only House of Art event at the Aspen Lofts and the frequent Gypsy Gallery gatherings. But pop-up galleries are only one of many ways artists have turned the recession to their advantage. This First Thursday, three new downtown Boise galleries are each adding a scrappy twist to the traditional gallery model.

The 4Q Gallery officially opened on Oct. 1 in the space that used to house the Eclectic Art Store in the basement of the Idaho Building. 4Q stands for fourth quarter, which is the amount of time the gallery plans to be open. Vicki Stevenson, an art student at Boise State, organized a group of 23 artists in less than a month. She hopes the space will provide a low-cost way for artists to sell their work.

"I thought by having an inexpensive cost and a short period, it kind of gives people who have not been in every gallery a chance to kind of test the waters, especially during the holiday season," said Stevenson.

The multi-roomed gallery features art of every variety--Darin Anderson and Mark Baradziej's blown glass pumpkins share a room with Allan Ansell's black and white photographic nudes and Lisa Flowers Ross' bright, wall-mounted textile pieces. For artist Bonnie Peacher, whose large-scale paintings dot various walls in the gallery, hanging work in 4Q is all about increased visibility.

"I'm in a couple other galleries--I'm in one in Eagle and one in Sandpoint--and so I just feel like it's a good opportunity to get more exposure in Boise, which never hurts in this economy," said Peacher.

In order to distribute the workload among the gallery's juried members, each artist is required to work four hours a month.

"That forces people to know their stuff and meet customers," said Stevenson. "I guess I'm of the opinion that artists should be around meeting their clients anyway. I'm more likely to buy from somebody that I have met and heard stories from. It's just a more personal approach."

In BODO, two up-and-coming artists are taking another approach to the traditional gallery model. When contemporary chair designer August Johnson noticed a large, empty hallway in the red brick building that houses Renewal, he asked building owner and friend Garrett Goldberg if he could turn the space into a gallery. Johnson recruited painter Ed Anderson to cart in some of his large-scale Styrofoam pieces and the Fulton Street Showroom was born.

"We're just getting started, and neither of us are full-time artists," explained Johnson. "[Ed] also helps run a lodge up in Donnelly."

For Johnson, a commercial real estate appraiser, turning the hallway into a gallery was a no-brainer. Not only will it provide a permanent venue for people to view his steel- and wood-ball chairs and recycled computer-board cityscapes, but it also requires a minimal time and money investment compared to a conventional gallery space. It's also an opportunity to draw more people into Renewal, which participates in the AIR program.

"My friend is just trying to get some use out of the space and get traffic in there," said Johnson.

Back in the basement of the Idaho Building, a more established gallery is undergoing a unique transition. Gallery Alexa Rose, which has shown a variety of contemporary multi-media exhibitions during the past two years, is having its second-to-last full-gallery show this month, Star Moxley's "Safe Passage." On Friday, Nov. 12, after a temporary Dia de los Muertos exhibit, local clothing and art store Bricolage will officially take over.

"We're managing Alexa Rose Gallery. It still exists so we're basically sharing a space," explained Bricolage co-owner and ex-BW employee Chelsea Snow. "Bricolage will be doing all of the curating for the Alexa Rose shows. It's Bricolage in Gallery Alexa Rose."

Though Bricolage has been using the cavernous Alexa Rose space as a storefront for the past couple of months, the store had to move all of its merchandise out for Moxley's previously scheduled exhibition. By taking over the curating and management of Alexa Rose, Bricolage will be able to offer more regular exhibitions and gallery hours.

"[Gallery owner Alexa Howell] was just looking for a way to have the gallery be open more," said Snow. "As it was, it was only open one day a month sometimes. She just felt like the space needed to be put to better use."

And Bricolage is gearing up to do just that. Not only will the store carry a variety of crafty retail items, curate monthly art exhibitions and host semi-regular concerts, but plans are in the works for opening a classroom/community gathering space with a letterpress studio.

"The building itself is sort of dictating what's going to happen there," said Snow.

But even though Snow and business partner Juliana McLenna are taking an ambitious, multifaceted approach to their retail/art space, Snow is hesitant to say it's a "requirement" to have so many irons in the fire in order to stay afloat in the current economy.

"I don't know that it's required, new economy style ... We're a handmade store, we're an art store, and we're going to have space for people to make things by hand and make art, so it's not like a restaurant that also has a mini-golf course."

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