Astute Boiseans may have noticed a fresh face among the Main Street storefronts--one they can count on staying fresh for an entire year. Squeezed between the former Blues Bouquet and Asiago's at 1008 Main St., the spot is home to the Sesqui-Shop, headquarters for the city's sesquicentennial birthday celebration, Boise 150.
"Every month, we'll have a new exhibition and a new opportunity to engage with it," said Rachel Reichert, Sesqui-Shop operations manager. "It's a fun way to engage with Boise 150."
Each month, the Sesqui-Shop will feature a different theme for its exhibits and events.
"We found that not only was this a great opportunity for local artists, but it was a great opportunity to revitalize a downtown storefront," Reichert said. "This space ended up being the perfect space, in kind of an underdeveloped part of downtown."
Monthly programming for the Sesqui-Shop will mirror concurrent community activities. For example, there will be a music theme tied in with the Treefort Music Fest during the month of March.
On First Thursday, Jan. 3, the Sesqui-Shop will debut a collection of community-curated family photos, antiques and relics, all of which tell stories of Boise's past. The exhibit will remain up through Saturday, Feb. 2.
The shop is also a place for Boiseans to participate in some of Boise 150's yearlong projects including Share Your Story, a Web-driven effort to collect true stories from the past, present and future of Boise. While most story submissions are done online, the Sesqui-Shop also provides an alternative way to share.
"We have this great collection of personal accounts of living in Boise, and the great opportunity in having the shop is, we can have people who want to share via typewriter or recorder or handwritten," Reichert said. "They can come into the shop and share their stories, and those will be transcribed and shared online throughout the whole year."
Reichert said many Boiseans have already participated in the project. Nearly 20 stories were submitted in the first two weeks following the website's launch. She hopes the shop will encourage more locals to get involved.
The Sesqui-Shop will also serve as a space for local artists who received grants for projects related to Boise 150 to display work, hold lectures or facilitate workshops. Nearly 40 local artists and organizations received a total of $98,000 in grant money for their Boise 150 projects.
Photographer Melanie Flitton Folwell will debut her contribution, A Portrait Made: Modern Boiseans and the Frontier Spirit, in the Sesqui-Shop in May.
"Boise defies stereotypes about Idaho," Folwell said. "There is this great community of people who are engaged in conservation, in the local movement, in growing, in creating in a way that's conscious and responsible. It's kind of a rejection of the suburban sprawl. They're in their city, making the city a better place by creating things."
That's the "pioneer spirit" Falwell hopes to capture in her photos. A photo from Boise's historical archives will inspire each image she plans to create for the project. One of her first subjects will be Brian Garrett, owner of the Saint Lawrence Gridiron food truck.
"I want to take his picture with a giant side of meat and his food truck. I have this really cool photo from the historical archives of a guy with his food truck in downtown Boise at the turn of the [20th] century," Folwell said. "With every image I do, I'm going to try to marry it to an image from the archives."
Folwell considers her photos to be less re-creations of historical images than modern images inspired by the "ingenuity and thriftiness" of Boise's pioneers.
"I thought about how a lot of the things people are doing now kind of mirror the things they were doing 150 years ago, when Boise was founded," Folwell said. "They're growing food in their yards. They're raising chickens, canning is really popular, buying local. The pioneers who came here had to be responsive to this environment, and I feel like people are doing the same thing now in the interest of us having a better future."
Local businesses also have opportunities to get in on the sesquicentennial celebration. Holly Funk, Boise 150 merchant specialist, is coordinating efforts to commemorate the year in an authentic Boise fashion.
"The merchant program was developed as sort of an alternative to traditional commemorative merchandise," Funk said. "We thought, 'Why not utilize local businesses and support our local economy?'"
Instead of mass-produced commemorative products, Funk is inviting local businesses to design products to be featured during the year including clothing from Indie Made, accessories from Fosterweld and limited-edition artwork and products from the likes of Sector 17, Usful Glassworks, Olive Wicherski and Morgan Wolf. The product lines officially launch in January, but a handful have been pre-released for the holiday season. Featured products will be available at the Sesqui-Shop each First Thursday, but Funk hopes to drive customers to the businesses where they are already displayed, like Newt and Harold's and Bricolage.
The merchant effort isn't leaving out Boise's food-lovers, either. Goody's is offering a Boise 150 hot fudge ice cream soda, Big City Coffee will soon sling a special Boise brew, and Tree City Juice and Smoothie Cafe concocted a BOISEnberry Rose smoothie for 2013.
"The question we ask these artists and merchants is, what they think represents this event and represents Boise," Funk explained. "The result is a spotlight of the creative minds we have. We'll promote their products but keep the sales with each merchant to support the local community."