Last year the Treefort Music Festival drew thousands of music fans to several Downtown venues to hear mostly unknown indie bands.
It grew out of a convergence of energy in the local music scene that sparked and caught fire when producer Lori Shandro met musician Eric Gilbert and co-producer Drew Lorona at the same time Boise Radio hit the airwaves and created a forum to bring fans together.
It was a cultural moment that could only have happened in Boise, Shandro says.
I think thats why Treefort happened when it did, she says. We were all working on our paths and we came together at the right time, in the right place, in a community that wanted it to happen. It was serendipitous. You couldnt force it.
Thats also an example of scenius, says Bandie Redinger, one of the organizers of the Muse Project, a budding cultural forum that operates out of the Muse Building, 1317 W. Jefferson St.
Scenius is the new buzz word in the planning, development and creative economy circles. Coined by electronic music pioneer and producer Brian Eno in 2009, it refers to a communal kind of genius that drives culture forward.
You can hear about Shandros experience at a town hall-style meeting The Cultural & Economic Value of Creative Placemaking on Feb. 7 set up by Muse to talk about and discuss this phenomenon.
Muse hopes to foster a wider community discussion about what it means to live in a creative community. It also includes Redinger, Boise Philharmonic music director Robert Franz, tech entrepreneur Faisal Shah, Trey McIntyre Project executive director John Michael Schert and Boston-based creative guru and master teacher Joe Gifford.
Scenius happens when fertile and fluid scenes pop up in a community and involve a variety of artists, theorists, collectors, trendsetters and other community leaders. Together they create an ecology of talent that can give rise to great ideas. Its those ideas in turn that will come to define a place.
This is the fourth town hall meeting the Muse Project has organized on the theme of Cultivating Social Hope.
The first three on the topics of local food, green energy and women in leadership all happened at the Muse Building. But the interest in this topic lent itself to a larger space.
For this talk, Redinger drew on a diverse group of artists, creative managers and entrepreneurs for the panel.
I looked to local geniuses who I think can be more active when theyre connected to each other, she says.
Creative economy refers to a civic planning trend that gained international attention in Richard Floridas 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class. Florida puts forward the idea that inspiration and creativity are a way to drive development.
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter embraced the idea in the early 2000s and the city produced workshops and civic forums on the topic.
By 2008, the city was ranked the sixth most creative city of its size in the nation, and 30th overall nationally, according to Floridas creative economy index. Boise continues to pop up on the radar.
That rating played into choreographer Trey McIntyres decision to move to Boise and found his dance company here, said company co-founder Schert.
We didnt use the typical metrics, like ticket sales and audience numbers, Schert says. We wanted almost to run an experiment to see how much an arts group could become part of the community and help drive culture.
And so far, so good.
TMP is in its fifth year in Boise and its third as Boises official Economic Development Cultural Ambassador.
Its been an incredible success, Schert says. We really love being here and want to do everything we can to integrate and have cultural experiences that shape our community.
The arts in Boise are a $48 million industry that supports 1,602 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $4.5 million in local and state government revenue, according to an Arts & Economic Prosperity study in 2010.
Being creative isnt just about working in the arts. Its about generating ideas. That can come from any field, but especially technology, Shah says.
Ideas are at the heart of a creative culture and thats what tech entrepreneurs do, he says. They come up with ideas, simple and complex, to change the very way we live. These tech creationists are playing a critical role in our overall economy.
Shah sold the tech company MarkMonitor, which he co-founded with James Hepworth, to Thomson Reuters in 2012. They recently co-founded Nebula Shift, a software company incubator to help develop the tech industry in Boise.
Arts and creative tech thrive side by side because they both strive to foster a healthy culture and creative jobs, Shah says.
We will be part of a renaissance that will inevitably transform our community, he says.
The first Treefort was a smashing success in 2012. In March, the Treefort trio will try to recreate their success and keep the scenius going.
We hope we dont screw it up, Shandro says. There are so many people who want to be involved now, its now in a place where it can be influenced in different directions. Were trying to grow, but only to the extent that we have the audience for. You have to really define your core intentions and hold true to them.