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City of Art

The Boise Visual Chronicle hits 10 years

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I wouldn't know where to start to put together a collection of art work. Who would I ask?

Now, where would I go to see a collection of art work? Totally different question and, luckily, one with an easy answer. There is an underground art collection right here in Boise, and it's getting bigger each year. The city-owned collection is called The Boise Visual Chronicle and to date, the collection includes 60 works by 33 artists.

To see the collection, you won't have to expend too much leg work this week trying to get around to each building that houses each separate painting, photograph, drawing, print, or two-dimension work in the collection, because the Boise Visual Chronicle is coming to you. The Boise City Arts Commission (BCAC) is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the collection by hosting a special weeklong exhibition of all the works in the Boise Centre on the Grove lobby, October 2 through 6.

Ten years ago, "The Boise Centre on the Grove was just opening its doors, and rather than have common posters adorn the convention center's walls, the partners wanted to have original art by Idaho artists that reflected what makes Boise a special place," says Karen Bubb, public arts manager for the BCAC. Kris Tucker, the BCAC's then-executive director, facilitated a partnership between Boise City and the Greater Boise Auditorium District and The Boise Visual Chronicle was born. The collection was intended to accomplish certain goals: It would preserve local art created by local artists, it would complement other public arts sponsored by various local civic agencies and it would continue to provide a "rich visual document of Boise's changing landscape, people and perspectives."

Every year since the collection's inception, new works by Idaho artists are purchased or commissioned, funded by Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) and Boise City. Many artists' works are represented in the collection, including pieces by Noble Hardesty, Jan Boles, Surel Mitchell, Jim Talbot, Cate Bridges, Holly Gilchrist and Glenn Oakley. And it continues to grow.

Each year a different selection panel convenes to review artist applications and make decisions about what goes into the collection. On the panel are representatives from Boise City Council, Capital City Development Corporation, the BCAC board, and an artist, arts professional and community member. Artists are invited to submit either existing works for direct purchase or proposals for the creation of new works. Artists may be commissioned for specific projects. The BVC project is open to all Idaho artists, though the purchased work must be about Boise. About the criteria for choosing a piece to add to the collection, Bubb says, "The chosen works must have some reference to Boise City and be a work of high quality. The collection is fairly diverse aesthetically with paintings in different styles, photographs, poems, and prints."

All the works of the collection are exhibited at the Boise Centre on the Grove, City Hall, Boise Airport, and CCDC offices. The idea here was to put local art by local artists in buildings where tourists spend time. Even if non-locals are unable to get out of meeting centers to explore Boise, viewing the collection's pieces provides a touch of local interpretation and color.

"[The collection] is important because as a city, we are collecting and displaying works that represent local artists' perspectives about Boise," says Bubb. "Many of these works have become historical artifacts as the places they depict have changed significantly over time. Ruth Wright, one of the artists represented in the collection with photographs and poetry passed away this past week. Because of this collection, we are able to carry on part of her legacy, sharing what she saw as special in Boise with generations to come."

When the BVC began, Boise was on the cusp of the boom that seems to be sprawling, pushing and pulsing around us today. Even so, if Boise isn't a metropolitan art capital, perseverance had led its arts community not only to survive, but to thrive. This is one of the true achievements for the Boise Visual Chronicle--its continued strength and fortitude after 10 years.

Just reading about the work in the collection is an immense undertaking; the descriptions of the work seem somewhat environmental in feel, and one has to wonder if the art of preserving art of a certain place is an environmental preservation in and of itself. Asked how she felt about having all the work under one roof after so many years, Bubb says, "I'm excited to see it all together; it's unfortunate we don't have one place large enough to display the collection." It will be interesting to see all in one place, at least for a few days, the overall "faceted perspective of what defines Boise" and what the collection has become over the years.

This Thursday, October 5, the BCAC will hold an anniversary reception honoring the artists included in the first 10 years of the Boise Visual Chronicle at the Boise Centre on the Grove lobby (850 W. Front St.), from 6 to 8 p.m. Several of the artists will be in attendance.