The gold rush town of Atlanta sits in a valley east of Boise at the base of Greylock Mountain on the Middle Fork of the Boise River. Running water and electricity are scarce. Solitude, rough-hewn timbers and big pines are not.
Now, visitors will have the chance to experience its history for themselves while picking up skills. The Atlanta School, headquartered in a cabin so picturesque it recently popped up on a website devoted to the most enticing woodsy structures across the globe, will host its first workshops this summer.
Topics range from writing poetry, to learning to lay a floor with reclaimed wood, to preserving Atlantas historic cemetery, to building an entire small structure using salvaged windows, hardware and other materials.
The Atlanta School is the brainchild of Amy OBrien, the schools principal, and Rachel Reichert, vice principal. The two spent time in Atlanta together in 2013 and started brainstorming about creating a school that would use the historic town as inspiration.
This year is our testing the waters to see what people are interested in studying, said Reichert, whose day job is working with the Boise Department of Arts and History.
LEARNING BY IMMERSION
Reichert and OBrien are offering four workshops in June and July, two focused on writing, two on building.
We are starting with classes we would want to take ourselves, said OBrien. She will co-teach Small Structures and Small Projects classes with architect and public artist Byron Folwell.
OBrien spent many years as a professional dancer in New York City. She started coming to Atlanta in 1998 to work alongside artist Kerry Moosman, the guiding spirit of Atlanta. Hes worked for years to rehabilitate a number of historic structures in the town.
Kerry is the master of perseverance. He moves slowly through the town, year after year. Things get done, said OBrien.
She learned building skills from Moosman through intensive on-the-job training. Shes rebuilt four structures, which involved digging them out of the dirt, taking them apart, figuring out how to put them together again and re-roofing, insulating and wallpapering.
The full Atlanta School experience will include letting students lodge in rehabbed cabins.
Each building is like a little art installation, said OBrien.
She owns the 1863 cabin that once belonged to Boise pioneer Ira Pierce. OBrien and crew took it apart, tagged the logs and hauled them to Atlanta from Boise. It took her four years to restore the cabin to its current state sturdier than it ever was, except maybe when Pierce first built it, she said.
OFF-LINE, LOW-TECH, HANDMADE
Reicherts connection to Atlanta is through her friendship with OBrien. She fell in love easily with Atlanta, she said, but acknowledges the town may be too quiet and rustic for some tastes. Atlanta has around 30 year-round residents, no gas pumps, no hospital. Theres one cafe with irregular hours and a driver who delivers the mail and who will shop for groceries for a small fee.
Atlantans are on their own, but not completely isolated, say Reichert and OBrien. The Schwans food truck makes regular runs. Residents queue up.
For the past four or five years, Reichert has researched the goings-on at crafts schools across the country.
Its always been an interest of mine, small crafts schools in remote, beautiful areas, finding out what theyre doing, how theyre bringing communities together, said Reichert.
Her research revealed that instructors of old-style crafts often travel a circuit from school to school.
There isnt always a lot of new programming, and not a lot of programs that are geographically unique, she said.
She and OBrien see the Atlanta School as an opportunity to be place-specific and authentic. The towns character and past, its lack of modern features the school has no running water, for example, but does have an outhouse will directly shape classes. Future workshops are likely to remain utilitarian and low-tech: metal work, rug weaving, furniture making.
Even this years writing workshops are place specific. Poet and performance artist Adrian Kiens poetry class will explore the layers, literal and figurative, of Atlanta. Greg Hahn, who oversees communications and marketing at Boise State, will teach a writing class. Its title, Solitude, Setting and Story, hints at the Atlanta sensibility.
Visitors to Atlanta take note: The town is hosting a parade and music festival on July 4. All are welcome.
Anna Webb: 377-6431