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Boise Scenius Brings Together Creative Leaders

Town hall-style meeting examines creative placemaking First Thursday

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"Scenius," a term coined by musician Brian Eno, refers to "the intelligence of a whole operation or group of people."

The Muse Project's Brandie Redinger says Boise is brimming with scenius--or as she puts it, "the embedded genius that is active and making things happen here."

Redinger is working to bring Boise's scenius to light. Through the Muse Project, she has held a series of town hall-style meetings exploring different local issues. Previous meetings covered such topics as local food, green energy and women in leadership.

"The town hall meetings are a really basic hybrid between the democratic idea of an old-fashioned town hall meeting and a Ted Talk," Redinger said.

Their purpose is to open communication between experts and community members by addressing ideas as an engaged group, rather than individuals.

"Agreed-upon value systems are what really create culture, so the town hall meetings encourage a progressive dialogue," Redinger said.

When a group of people moves together in a certain direction with their conversations, that can open new possibilities. It's not a new idea, but Redinger has a new way of putting it into practice for the betterment of the Boise community.

The next scenius meeting, scheduled for First Thursday, Feb. 7, will open a dialogue about Boise's creative culture and how arts and technology go hand-in-hand to make the local economy thrive.

The idea is borrowed from Richard Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class.

"We're going to talk about arts and culture in a way that was inspired by Richard Florida's work that says, basically, 'If you don't have enough Bohemian culture and high creative class and creative technology, you can't have a growth economy,'" she said.

Redinger has compiled a panel of speakers that represents the different facets of Boise's creative class. Treefort Music Fest producer Lori Shandro will speak about Boise's Bohemian culture, Boise Philharmonic Music Director Robert Franz will represent the city's "high creative class" and entrepreneur and MarkMonitor co-founder Faisal Shah will talk about creative technology in the Treasure Valley. Other presenters include John Michael Schert, executive director of the Trey McIntyre Project, and Joseph Gifford, a Boston-based master teacher of musicians and conductors.

"Finding these speakers is always a process of scenius, where opportunity arises through creativity and people connect me with people," Redinger said.

Each speaker is bringing his or her own take on the ideas of scenius, art, economy and how they are interconnected in a community. According to Redinger, the creation of Treefort was a perfect example; it was built on the shared ideas of a group of involved Boiseans, and by spreading art and creativity, it helped grow the economy. Shandro's presentation will explore how Treefort was created and the many ways it has contributed to Boise's economy.

"There were just a certain number of people who were all in the same place regarding [Treefort]. ... This sort of synergy happened to make the project come together rather easily," said Shandro. "With scenius, there's the thought of trying to put the right people in the same place at the same time, and then things will happen. That's really how Treefort happened. Everybody had the same vision that the Boise music scene is ready to develop and be a force on its own two feet."

Gifford's presentation takes a broader look at scenius.

"The talk is about how we order our individual lives and how they have a great influence if they resonate at a high level of great optimism. It influences the family, the community, the city and resonates outward," Gifford said.

Following the series of presentations, audience members are invited to create a conversation.

"Something different occurs when someone is giving to an audience that is engaged," she said. "Generally, what we find is that there are really brilliant people in our audiences that bring a point of view that needs to happen."

Previous meetings were held in the Muse Building's yoga studio, forcing Redinger to cap attendance at about 60. The upcoming event is in the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy Annex, allowing for a bigger audience. Redinger hopes this will provide for a wider range of perspectives and ideas.

Redinger equates Boise's potential scenius with Florence, Italy, during the Renaissance. The people of Florence planned the construction of the Duomo, a domed cathedral, without knowing how they would construct the arches to create the ceiling, she said.

"How that community confronted that was they said, 'We have more genius behind these gates, here in Florence, that by the time it comes time to build the ceiling, we will have that technology,'" said Redinger. "There's a confidence toward the new that arises when people engage one another. It creates hope. That's what these town hall meetings are about: creating social hope."

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