Like any thrift store maverick will tell you, one person's discarded velvet Elvis painting is another's mantelpiece treasure. For those who spend their Saturdays sifting through mothball-tainted clothing racks and stacks of old vinyl, the thrill of a bargain can be all-consuming. It was with these garage sale scourers and thrift store conquistadors in mind that Second Chance Building Supply developed the "Recycled Art Show." Now in its second year, the show invites local artists to refashion their thrifty treasures or unwanted household items for a higher goal: benefitting substance abuse recovery.
Second Chance Building Supply in the Linen District was opened in 2005 by Supportive Housing and Innovative Partnerships, a nonprofit that provides housing and jobs for people in recovery. The store runs on tax-deductible donations from individuals and corporations who opt to skip the trip to the dump and recycle the scraps left over from construction and home remodeling projects. The space provides a low-cost alternative for remodelers on a budget by selling household items like cabinets, windows, tiles, appliances and lighting at much less than they would normally retail for. In addition, most of the staff at Second Chance are recovering addicts who have gone through the SHIP program.
"It's a daily testament that people can recover their lives," says SHIP Executive Director Melanie Curtis. "Almost everybody that works here is in recovery."
Last year, after hearing of recycled art shows put on by other used building materials stores in Seattle and Phoenix, Curtis teamed up with Will Spearman to bring one to Boise. The show was a success, with around 100 submissions, a silent auction that raised money for SHIP and a juried competition with a coveted $1,000 purse. Kay Seurat, a local jewelry designer, took home Best of Show with her piece called The Measure of Man that she had worked on with her grandson.
"Since I won, it opened up the floodgates ... I kind of became a yard sale addict," explains Seurat, laughing.
Seurat submitted another creation this year, titled Elegant Weapons for a More Civilized Age, comprised of random objects she's collected over the past year. The piece features a brass light fixture with dangling metal, Transformer-type toys and glued-on yellow rhinestones. Seurat even removed the sound device from an old musical birthday card and attached it to her creation so that Darth Vader's "Imperial March" plays whenever a lever is pulled. Though Seurat only pursues recycled art as hobby, she looks forward to this annual creative event as an excuse to justify her garage sale jaunts.
"I think it's great that they're doing this because it gives me a deadline and some motivation to get something done," says Seurat.
This year's "Recycled Art Show," which will take place as part of First Thursday on Sept. 4 in the Linen Building, has some pretty staunch submission requirements. Each piece must contain a minimum of 75 percent recycled, reused or found materials. They also ask that artists not use dangerous chemicals or natural elements like wood or bones. In an attempt to stay in line with the event's mission, Curtis and Spearman opted to cut out printed waste and send out most promotional materials for the show in PDF format.
"This year we tried to create less of a footprint. We didn't print a lot of materials," says Spearman.
Another well-known artist with a piece in the show is mixed metals sculptor Zella Bardsley. Bardsley's Isolde is a teardrop-shaped, freestanding sculpture comprised of bolts, old bike chains, gears and metal piping that her husband salvaged from his job as a heavy equipment mechanic.
"It's called Isolde after the tale about Tristan and Isolde. They were great lovers," explains Bardsley. "I just felt like it was real curvy and feminine—that was the name that popped up for me."
This is Bardsley's second year participating in the "Recycled Art Show." Last year, she submitted two pieces: a screen made out of an old aluminum sign and a planter made from a recycled beer keg. Bardsley, who is the visual arts chair for the annual Celebration of Women in the Arts benefit for the Women's Crisis Center, tries to give back to the community any way she can.
"I thought it just sounded like a great cause, and being an artist, I can't always give financially, but if I can donate a piece of art, I feel like I'm doing my part," says Bardsley. "I really admire what they're doing."
Another member of Boise's artistic establishment, Randall Brown, owner of Brown's Gallery, has entered something in this year's show. Brown's piece is a mixed-media collage called Cre8 made of used paint tubes, pencils and magazine clippings. In addition to these traditionally recycled pieces, John McMahon's Saint Peter at the Gate will be in the show. McMahon's father purchased the piece then recycled it by donating it to Second Chance.
This year's show is notably more scaled down than last year's—with only 30 artists committed to submit pieces and a smaller grand prize—but Curtis and Spearman are confident the event will be a success. The First Thursday art show will be free, but the following evening's gala will cost $15 per person or $25 per couple. The gala will also include the CASTLE ceremony during which awards will be given out to community members who've been pioneers in Boise's recovery and sustainability movements.
The art show will also coincide with another huge First Thursday event put on by Second Chance: Rock 'N' Recovery. This Linen District-spanning block party will be a drug- and alcohol-free event with resource booths from organizations like the Boise Rescue Mission, Women's and Children's Alliance, Ada County Sheriff's Office and National Alliance on Mental Illness. Rock 'N' Recovery will also have live music from The Very Most and Triple Threat, along with fire dancing, recycled craft booths for kids and food vendors.
Though Curtis and Spearman are still tying up loose ends for this year's event, they've already started planning for the third annual show. Next year, Spearman hopes to partner with neighboring boutique Foxtrot to do a recycled fashion show. And even if backless shifts made from milk cartons and super-glued robots don't seem to have much in common with substance abuse recovery, Curtis insists both processes are arduous, yet equally rewarding.
"Art can be very therapeutic to the recovery process. It's very therapeutic for people to express themselves," says Curtis. "All of us are impacted by addiction, and it gives us a way to promote the recycling that we do but also honor the artists who contribute."
4-9 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 4, The Linen Building, 1402 W. Grove St. For more information, visit shipinc.org or call 208-331-2707.