Arts & Culture » Visual Art

Silent Toy Saviors

The Record Exchange, local artists raise funds for a much-needed detox center


No mother should outlive her son, but Charlotte Lanier did. Lanier's son, Jack, died of a drug overdose two years ago on Thanksgiving Day. The same drug mixture (heroin and cocaine) that knocked John Belushi off the planet in 1982, killed Jack on a day when most people are hanging out with family and friends. It was a loss that Lanier says could have been prevented if there had been a place for Jack to go for help with his addiction. After her son's death, Lanier knew she had to do something.

"You can take your grief and get lost in it, or you can do something with it," she says.

Lanier's focus for the last two years has been the creation of a detox center in Boise, something she says our area desperately needs. "Boise is one of the only metropolitan areas in the country not to have a detox center," says Lanier. When someone in Boise decides to get clean, their options for detox are scant. Some choose to go to the ER, others (who can afford it) go to privately run rehabilitation centers but most, however, choose to go it alone which is a risky and difficult option. Getting off of drugs like cocaine and heroin entails horrific psychological and physiological consequences, Lanier says.

Since 2004, Lanier has helped lead the Community Detox Coalition, a group that has been working to get a detox center built in Boise--a place where folks struggling with addiction can take the first steps toward recovery. Recently, the group has jumped a lot of hurdles. "The city has a place where they plan on building the facility ... up on Allumbaugh. We also have some government dollars to help with its construction," says Lanier. "We still have a long ways to go."

With the help of a local record store, a popular vinyl toy, and some of Boise's most creative artists, the Coalition will get a step closer to getting the center built.

The store is The Record Exchange and the vinyl toy is called a Munny, a 7-inch-tall blank slate made by urban action figure company Kidrobot. For around $20, anyone can pick up a Munny, take it home and decorate it however he or she likes. A few weeks ago, folks at The Record Exchange hit upon a novel idea. They would donate some Munnys to local artists, have them decorate the little figures, and then auction off the Munnys to raise funds for the Detox Coalition.

"The idea first came from a discussion I had with my son, Ian. He and his brother Eric are way into the plastic toy thing," says Jil Sevy, co-owner of The Record Exchange. "We started talking about how cool they were and how cool it would be to see what local artists could do with them. The Record Exchange always [gives to a] charity in the fourth quarter, so we put two and two together and realized we could use the Munnys as a fundraiser." So Munnys were donated to 18 local artists, and the RX staff eagerly waited to see the finished results.

On December 4, during The Record Exchange's annual Bonus Club party, the Munnys were unveiled and the silent auction books were opened up. "We had a hard time choosing artists to do the Munnys," says Sevy. "There are so many talented people!" The list of artists is indeed diverse. Ben Wilson did one, as did Tim Johnstone. Mike Flynn gave it his best shot, and so did Doug Martsch, his wife Karena, and his son Ben. Shelly McCarl, who usually creates two-dimensional landscapes, found inspiration in the work of the famous Belgian artist Rene Magritte. Lisa Pisano and her son Eli decorated their Munny with reflective tape. Ben Wilson made his into the "spinhead" figure used by The Record Exchange as a logo, which Sevy says has an enduring likeness to Michael Bunnell, except it comes with a hinged head that opens up to reveal a record player spinning Built To Spill's Perfect From Now On.

About the experience, Wilson says, "I love vinyl toys. I have a few vinyl characters on my computer that keep me company while I work. Every Munny comes with surprise accessories and I happened to get some glasses that made me think of the 'spinhead' character." After getting some help from his father to cut the head open, Wilson created his Munny spinhead. "I have seen substance abuse rob people of their lives. One of the worst things that chemical addictions can do is destroy families. I'm so glad The Record Exchange invited me to take on the challenge for such a good cause," says Wilson.

Good luck bidding on Wilson's Munny by the way. Rumor has it that Michael Bunnell has vowed to keep it in the store no matter what the cost.

Local artist Grant Olsen, whose Munny features a two-dimensional comic book character on the front, says, "The [Community Detox Coalition] was my main reason for participating. I thought that it would be interesting to do a flat painting on a round surface, removing the obvious illusion and replacing it with an alternate one. Too many people have been directly affected by the devastating consequences of addiction."

Sevy says of her experience with her son's Munnys, "We spent the weekend decorating the boys' Munnys and it was amazing. The project did everything we hoped it would do--it brought us together as a family to talk about art, the need for a detox center in the valley and our responsibility to contribute to causes we believe in. Ian's Munny is full of images about the fight against evil and the triumph of good. I'm really proud of the boys for all the thought, creativity and time they put into the project."

So how will the auction of a few toys help with establishment of a detox center? "There is always going to be a need for support. Even when we get the center built, there is going to be a need for dollars to keep it going. All the money we raise goes into a designated account," says Lanier. She couldn't be happier with the works of art offered up the local artists and The Record Exhange. "They are so amazing! Each and every one of them is such an incredible piece of art."

The Munnys will be displayed at The Record Exchange until December 22. But don't get lost in the moving, artistic pieces for too long. The Munnys, these silent pieces of vinyl and paint, are, in their unique steadfastness, helping Boise move toward a goal it so urgently needs to reach. And in doing so, they are bringing families together, bringing smiles to customer's faces and pointing the way for Boise.

"A lot of people think that being an addict is all these people are," says Lanier. "There is a lot more to people struggling with addiction than drugs ... Jack left behind a son. He was born a few months after Jack died. He looks just like Jack. I am doing this for my grandson and my son."

The auction for the Munny's is silent and runs through Dec. 22. If you're interested in bidding on a Munny or two, stop by the Record Exchange at 1105 W. Idaho St. Instructions for bidding are located on the case where the Munny's are housed (right inside the entrance) or you can go up to the counter and ask for assistance.