Arts & Culture » Visual Art

First Thursday: Swell Artist Collective Drops Quarters for Second-Annual Arcade Show at Spacebar

The event starts at 6 p.m. on First Thursday


Vintage arcade games have a visual style all their own, and if that style has a home in Boise, it's at Spacebar Arcade, where the glory days of 8-bit graphics never ended. For the second year in a row, Spacebar and Swell Artist Collective will team up for Arcade, a show and auction set to take October's First Thursday event.

From 6-10 p.m., 30 Swell-affiliated artists will take over Spacebar. Each artist was given a 6"x8" substrate on which to create a piece of video game-influenced art. Bids start at $50, with all of the money going to participating artists. Last year, the event attracted approximately 300 people to the downtown watering hole and arcade, which serves beer and wine, and stocks 32 arcade games ranging from Pac-Man to Tron and Frogger. Some of the pieces last year sold for as much as $500.

“I’m always trying to identify a show that’s going to work and be successful and grow every year,” said artist and Swell Founder Noble Hardesty.

Ann Boyles, a member of Swell since late 2015, participated in the 2018 show, where she sold a Ms. Pac-Man-themed piece. This year, she reimagined the “Welcome to Idaho” rung through the Nintendo ringer, pixelated and bedecked in glitter.

“Spacebar lends itself well to an event like this,” Boyles said. “The crowd that attends an arcade-themed art show is there to have a good time, not to drink wine and snack on room-temperature cheese.”

Artist Adam Rosenlund, also a Swell member since 2015, created a cyber-punk interpretation of Mega Man last year. This year he is doing a similar take on Metroid.

“The nice thing about Artcade is having that video game background you can lean on,” Rosenlund said. “Video games are a shared experience from childhood so that’s something someone has to latch onto. It immediately takes people back to being kids in front of the TV getting to the next level. It’s a nice switch from deeply personal stuff. It’s still personal but it’s a shared personal experience that everybody has.”