Boise is throwing itself a big birthday party, and Terri Schorzman is its hostess with the mostest. By no means is she pulling off this Herculean effort solo, she says. She has a legion of volunteers and a dedicated staff who come up with creative ideas and organize, arrange, set up and tear down events. She is the conductor of this yearlong symphony, working behind and in front of the scenes to make it happen.
The Boise150 - the official name of Boise's sesquicentennial celebration - will be filled with community events, art projects, music, literature, dance, a slate of special Boise products and more.
Schorzman is in many ways the perfect person to helm Boise's sesquicentennial because her aesthetic and personal experience are grounded in art and history. She took the reins of the department in 2008 as the new city department's first director. She sees this year as an opportunity.
"We tried to make it a grassroots effort and really listen to what people wanted," she says from inside the Sesqui-Shop, the Downtown headquarters for Boise150. "That's why we went to our merchants and said, 'Please participate.' We gave grants that touched different segments of the community, and we heard from people we've never heard from before. I think this will bring people together in a really important, valuable way because they can connect through their art and history, and create a stronger identity as Boiseans."
The Sesqui-Shop is the hub of things, and a place where Schorzman spends time these days helping set up the rotating themed exhibits that explore Boise's past, present and future. It's appropriately located in the historic Gem Block. Even though some facades have been modified over the years, none have been completely destroyed. Developer Gary Christensen donated the space - once Nick's Shoe Shop - for the year.
The early 1900s architecture, with exposed brick, high ceilings and wood beams, makes a great backdrop for the celebration, she says. "This is an important part of Downtown, and we hope we're bringing some energy back to it."
So far it is. More than 1,000 people came through the shop in its first few weeks.
How is this year changing the department?
This is the biggest project we've undertaken since becoming a department. It's a chance for us to show the possibilities of what we can do and where we can go. We have a lot of things we want to do for the city. This is a great way to showcase that and how this is really about the community.
What have you learned about Boise's history that surprised you?
Nothing much surprises me. Community history is made up of many pieces and parts, and the stories don't change that much over the years, even those that might appear shocking, scandalous or unique to a place or situation. What has really amazed and surprised me is the outpouring of support we've received from the community. I mean, we did a call for artifacts from Boise's past, and so many people brought us their beautiful, irreplaceable things to show. This generosity of spirit is really touching.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I have the best job! I enjoy the variety and complexity, the many topics and many things we do in support of the city's cultural life, and the terrific people we get to work with. They are creative, curious, committed to good things. Our work shares with Boise residents and visitors what they (and we) love about our city and our sense of place in the West.
How did you come up with the Sesqui-products that are coming out?
We knew we didn't want to do the typical. We didn't want to do a mouse pad and a pen. So we came up with two categories of products for Boise150. There is core merchandise, which are products we've created, including a pin, a limited-edition poster series, a forthcoming book by Boise writers and poets, and a CD by local musicians. Then we wanted to turn it over to the community. So our merchant program allows local businesses to develop an array of merchandise to sell at their place of business. We'll showcase them in the Sesqui-Shop as well as our website, Boise150.org. I'm excited to see the items. We wanted to make this something unique that would also support our local merchants and make it something special. We'll have new stuff coming out all year long.
Where does your connection to arts and history come from?
It was always about doing. My earliest art memory is sitting at the kitchen table at 3 years old with paper, pencils, crayons and my mother teaching me how to draw mountains. I took dance lessons, piano lesson and plenty of art classes for many years. My love of studying history was also nurtured at an early age - from exploring historic sites, talking to old folks, reading most anything on an historic topic I could find. Art and history: the perfect combination.
How do you see art and history working together in civic life?
Civic life is viewed through the lenses of art and history. And to have these both in abundance gives our daily civic life meaning and relevance. In A&H, we like to say that a unique city is defined by the quality of its arts and the richness of its history. Without these, what do we have? What makes our place special? Why do we care? Why do we want to do better in the future if we don't value what we have now and don't understand how we got here? This is the essence of sustainability writ large. How can we create an environment that is welcoming and livable without art and history being meaningful in our civic life?
Do you have a favorite piece of public art?
I love the traffic boxes. There is such an array, and they're immediate. They're a daily presence. You don't have to think about art. It's right there, and it's a great way to nurture our local artists. I love things that are about place, like "Aero Agoseries," the dandelion sculpture at the Foothills Learning Center. It's such a clever metaphor for air. You can see the dandelion bits on the roof. It's great place-making. Watch for a number of wonderful public art pieces this year that are place-based, culturally relevant, commemorative in some way and tell great stories.
Where do you take out-of-town guests?
I like to take them to the cultural facilities in Julia Davis Park (Idaho Historical Museum, Boise Art Museum, Zoo Boise, Memorial Rose Garden), Hyde Park ... the Greenbelt and ... the Idaho Botanical Garden.
What's in your MP3 player?
It's a bunch of random stuff. Really, eclectic and weird. There's Beatles, always, Dixie Chicks, John Denver, Renaissance (prog-rock group) from the '70s. The other day some rap popped up that my son put on there. Yo-Yo Ma, Dire Straits. Sometimes I have my own "Losing My Religion" dance party. I like to put it on shuffle and be constantly surprised by what I hear.
What piece of advice helped you the most, and who gave it to you?
My late father always said, "You can do any *@*%# thing you want to do." I always valued this because I knew that I had a big endorsement from my parents to explore the world as best I could, and while failure was always an option, it sure provided the extra dose of confidence to try.
What is your motto?
Treat others as I want to be treated.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate. Always chocolate.
Dana Oland is a former professional dancer and member of Actors Equity who writes about performing and visual arts for the Idaho Statesman. She also writes about food, wine, pets, jazz and other aspects of the good life in Boise. Read more arts coverage in her new blog at Blogs.IdahoStatesman.com/ArtsBeat.