Boise Sesquicentennial events will live on

Boise preparing to keep its popular programs and tours going another year through its Sesqui-Shop

awebb@idahostatesman.comSeptember 30, 2013 

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Rachel Reichert, manager of Boise’s 150th-birthday-themed Sesqui-Shop, removes exhibit items from the “Local Food and Farm Month” installation Monday to make way for October’s theme: performance. The city will keep the popular shop open through 2014 as a cultural meeting center.

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

  • SIGN UP FOR A PLAT TOUR, VISIT THE SESQUI-SHOP

    Free walking tours of Boise's original 10-block plat will take place on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and Saturdays at 1:30 p.m.

    The first is Wednesday, Oct. 16.

    Call Brandi Burns to reserve your spot: 433-5676.

    Tours leave from the Sesqui-Shop, 1008 Main St. 384-8509.

The city celebrated its 150th birthday in a big way in 2013. The Sesqui-Shop, an airy, loftlike space on Main Street, has been home to many of the festivities.

To date, 90 free events and programs have taken place there. They've included map-making workshops, lectures on the Spanish flu, showcases for local nonprofits and a public art academy. September offered programs and exhibitions about local agriculture with longtime Boise business Edwards Greenhouse. Visitors got free tastings of local salsas and beer — and a lecture about the history of cocktails.

Close to 15,000 people have come through the shop's doors to date.

The good news for lovers of history and local culture is that the shop, which is supported through the city's general fund, will remain open for another year, even after the sesquicentennial has ended.

"We had been talking for a long time about having a 'home base' for arts and history," said Terri Schorzman, director of the Department of Arts and History, the department that runs the shop. "We had been advocating for it. The Sesqui-Shop has given people a chance to see how great that can be."

In 2013, it has offered a different themed program each month, often collaborating with unexpected partners. The department has collaborated with 136 local groups and individuals. Local nonprofits hosted a series of day-long "pop-up" shops at the Sesqui-Shop in May, for example.

Idaho Rivers United presented two programs there, one on the Boise River during May's pop-up month and another in September on 150 years of irrigation in the Boise Valley.

"We think that having a community space to look at these far-reaching issues of such importance is excellent," said Liz Paul, of Idaho Rivers United. "We had a lot of fun because people don't always associate environmental issues with the cultural, historic landscape. It was a nice surprise for people and something different."

October is performance month. Free music, theater and dance programs are planned. The full schedule should be online this week, shop manager Rachel Reichert said.

The shop will continue to offer similar programs, Reichert said. The proposals for the public art for City Hall plaza will be on display at the shop Nov. 12-30, and the public will be able to comment.

While the Department of Arts and History always has interacted with the public, it hasn't had the kind of physical "hub" offered by the Sesqui-Shop.

"That's been good for us," said Reichert.

TAKE A WALK THROUGH HISTORY

Along with a longer life for the Sesqui-Shop, the department will offer walking tours of Boise's original 10-block plat.

City Historian Brandi Burns organized plat tours during the city's 150th birthday celebration weekend in July. She and other staffers expected about 400 people. But more than 1,000 people showed up over two days.

"And that was on 100-degree days on a holiday weekend," said Schorzman.

Like other offerings, the tours are free. Walkers must sign up ahead of time.

Burns said she has a growing wish list of walking or biking tours she plans to organize in the future. Those include the Greenbelt — home to new historic signs recently installed through a Boise 150 grant — and a tour of the Vista Village area on the Bench.

Vista Village, built in 1949, was one of the first "strip malls" in the country. Its development included space for parking but also a small, walkable neighborhood built on two half-circle streets directly behind it.

"At the time it was built, some called Vista Village 'the most scientifically planned shopping center in Idaho,'" said Burns.

She's also working on a walk/bike tour of the Oregon Trail through Boise.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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