The Flying M is always bustling. The baristas never fail to welcome customers with eye contact, offering a sincere hello and a genuine smile. There's an orderly chaos heightened by tables and chairs that have been mended, coddled back into function and saved from the alternative: a discarded furniture pile. Warm tones cover the walls--hues of purple, green, beige, red and orange, which accompany an equally textured and colorful flooring. The space is a haven for art, community and coffee-fueled comfort.
Starting next Thursday, February 1, Flying M coffee shop and art gallery will transform everything from the walls to the gift shop into a backdrop for artwork, housing pieces created by artists from every skill level, varying in medium, size, content, presentation and aesthetic. But all will have one important similarity. The art that will cover the walls is made by artists who have been invited to participate in Flying M's annual Valentine for AIDS art auction, an event now in its 14th year. Created to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic, the auction brings together over 200 artists who contribute pieces that are sold in a silent auction that runs February 1 through 11. All proceeds from the auction benefit SNAP (Safety Net for AIDS Program), which has been the beneficiary since the event's second year. SNAP uses the money to fund various departments within the program: housing assistance, utility bills, groceries, medical insurance and other costs.
"My husband Kevin and I created Valentine for AIDS in our first year of business as a way to bring a positive, loving awareness to those living with HIV/AIDS through the community of artists, family and friends," recalls Flying M owner Lisa Myers. After moving into the space at 500 W. Idaho St. in July of 1992, gears for the event were already in motion, and Valentines for AIDS became a reality the following February. Now, 14 years later, artist participation has skyrocketed from around 40 artists to over 270. In 1993, the auction raised $3,600, a considerable amount that sits shyly next to last year's total, just over $26,000.
The idea behind the event makes it an easy sell for buyers interested in artwork, while providing inspiration for artists creating the pieces. What can viewers expect? "The strength of the show is that all pieces are valentines; pieces are being created specifically for this event, and the love and passion put into these pieces is very apparent," says Myers. As for parameters, there are few. Myers asks that artists limit the size of their submissions to 18-inches by 18-inches and create works "with the understanding that Flying M is a family establishment." Aside from that, the possibilities are open and artists take advantage of that. Past submissions have included a wide variety of mediums: fiber art, sculpture, glass, oil, acrylic, pencil, jewelry, watercolor, photography, mixed media and more.
Though only a few pieces had come in by early last Wednesday, there was already quite a diversity among them.
Pieces included Joe Kimmel's stunning watercolor and ink piece of a couple lounging in a love-seat, the man sunken in, the woman leaning in toward him on the armrest, both concealing what appear to be bottles of love potion behind their backs.
Amy Westover's love knot drawn with charcoal, simply displayed in a 2-inch-thick black frame is a solitary line twisted into a knot in the middle of the page: a simple, defined portrayal of the constancy of love.
Diane Shelton's Cutie Pie #2, the second in a series begun last year, is done in ceramic and is a heart-shaped face with bulging blue eyes complimented by puckered, bright-red lips and a vintage side-hat adorned with three little red cardinals and textured flowers.
Artists create functional pieces as well, such as Margaret Erskine's Heart Tote, a plaid pattern, felted wool purse with a red heart outlined in white, and Molly Gray's Got Me Twisted necklace made with Oregon sunstone, precious metal clay, freshwater pearls, sterling silver and glass.
Over the years, variety and quality have increased, a result of the artists' competitive edge, which tends to develop the more they become involved with the event. While final bids range anywhere from $10 to more than $500, everyone is eager to see which piece will get the highest bid. And the bids do go high. Last year's high bid capped out at $650 on a piece by Jerri Lisk. Other consistently high-bid artists include Chris Binion, Wil Kirkman and Kerry Moosman (to name a few), so be sure to check in on your bid frequently.
Meeting with owner Lisa Myers last Wednesday, confidence in this year's success of the event was evident in her enthusiasm, saying each year it "grows in numbers, community awareness and money raised." And for the first time this year, Flying M will present a People's Choice Award with a gift donated by Boise Weekly.
Fourteen on the 14th: time for a grand celebration, and this year is already proving to be nothing short of just that. For a location whose creation stems from a thirst for community, there couldn't be a more appropriate place to view over 200 sentiments of love.
Thursday, Feb. 1 through Sunday, Feb. 11, FREE, bidding hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Bidding ends promptly at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11. Flying M, 500 W. Idaho St., Boise, 208-345-4320.