For years, the flow of Downtown Boise came down 8th Street, and then hit a wall. Not a literal wall, but one of fast-moving, one-way traffic that created a hurdle for pedestrians crossing Front Street.
Though the First Thursday scene is lively in the Downtown core, two creative clusters one in the heart of BoDo, the other at 6th and Myrtle streets now are drawing significant numbers of people to the south side of Front Street. Both are becoming destination locations that offer a new vibe in town that you can explore this First Thursday.
BODOS GALLERY DISTRICT
Robert Kaylor, owner of R. Grey Jewelry Gallery, was one of the first to venture across Front Street in 2005. That was before the BoDo development project was announced.
He bought the building at 415 S. 8th St. and planned to move his upscale art/jewelry store there from its spot on Idaho Street in the Downtown core.
People thought I was crazy, and frankly so did I, Kaylor says. I used to come down to the building and sit for hours drawing jewelry designs and watching the foot traffic, and it scared the heck out of me. There was no foot traffic.
Today its a different story, he says, and you can explore this new creative area on First Thursday, July 5.
There are people out on the street all the time and not just on First Thursday and its not just workers going to and from lunch, he says. Now this is becoming a little gallery district.
Kaylors R. Grey is one of several art-based businesses now in BoDo, a market district at 8th and Broad streets between Front and River streets.
The turning point happened when the citys Artists in Residence program started planting artists in empty office spaces in the 8th Street Marketplace in 2009, says Karen Bubb, Boises public arts manager.
That brought people into the area for First Thursday. Though its just one day a month, it established a new character for that block, Bubb says.
As that program spread to the Northrup Building and other spots, the area became more attractive for business.
In the past year, the popular Lisk+Rowe Gallery migrated from Main Street to 405 S. 8th St. Startup galleries Lee (409 S. 8th St.) and NfiniT (405 S. 8th St.) opened along the 400 block of South 8th in the past few months.
I wanted to be in an area good for First Thursday. It has a nice character, like the old part of Boise, says Lee Gallery owner Gary Lee Daugherty.
They join the Cole/Marr Gallery in the basement of the 8th Street Marketplace, Snake River Winery tasting room and Caffe dArte, and the newest addition, VanDyke Frame Shop, 733 Broad St., which opened last week.
I like the area. It has this feel to it, this vibe that made me feel comfortable right away, Randy VanDyke says. Im close to the Boise Art Museum, and Im making connections with the galleries in the neighborhood.
Now that looks to intensify as Boise Department of Arts and History, Capital City Development Corp. and Idaho Greenworks put a focus on energizing the 8th Street Corridor from Main to River streets.
The goal is to tie the street-scapes together and make them an interesting place for people to be, says architect Bruce Poe, president of Modus Architecture Collaborative, who the CCDC commissioned to do a study of the area.
What you have to do is have something on each side that is interesting enough to make people cross the street, then you create an new identity for the entire street.
The result will be three new public art pieces that focus on ecology at the intersections of 8th and Main, 8th and Front and 8th and Broad streets.
The goal is to use urban design elements to move people and businesses across Front Street and explore the question of what it means to be a liveable and sustainable community, Bubb says.
6TH AND BROAD
When Classic Design Studio opened at 6th and Myrtle streets in 1989 there was not much around. Owners Noel and Lucy Weber and Noel Weber Jr. bought the Ming Building 15 years ago.
It didnt happen overnight.
I think people often dont realize that we have been working diligently on this place, as a business and creative venture for quite a long time, Weber Jr. says.
Now, Classic Design, Wil Kirkmans Rocket Neon, Filip Vogelpohls Boise Art Glass and Bricolage, a hip fiber-arts, craft and fine-art gallery, occupy the Ming.
Its been happening organically, Weber Jr. says. So its been really slow. Now, we have a great creative core group that is expanding.
During the day-to-day operations, the business owners interact, bounce ideas off each other and are influenced and inspired by the work around them.
Boise Art Glass and Bricolage are a draw on First Thursdays, and twice a year they produce a First Thursday together that brings hundreds to the corner.
However, one of the challenges is dealing with the southbound, one-way 6th Street. You drive by and see the colorful Ming Building, but you cant turn in to stop by. There is little available parking, and the flow of 5th Street carries traffic to Fort Street.
I think someone makes that wrong turn onto 6th street a couple times a day, says Bricolage co-owner Chelsea Snow. I think if it was easier to stop, more people would.
Webers goal is to grow this creative community.
I would love to have more people around, he says.
Little by little its working. Close by on Broad, between 2nd and 3rd, woodcraft artists Annie and Brandon Henderson recently opened their Heirloom and Vine art furniture studio.