When Boise’s Story Story Night began producing its popular storytelling performances last year at JUMP — Jack’s Urban Meeting Place — the group’s tale took a twist.
Moving from its smaller venue at the El Korah Shrine to the top floor of this urban creative center elevated Story Story’s presence in the community, says artistic director Jodi Eichelberger.
“JUMP is an amazing partner for us,” Eichelberger says. “We’re just able to do everything better.”
With its eye-level view of the Boise skyline and Foothills, the round Pioneer Room sparks a deeper sense of community and connectivity.
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“It says, ‘This is where we are. This is Boise.’ I don’t think we would have that anyplace else,” he says.
That adds to the sense of community that people seek when they’re coming to a live storytelling event.
Jodi Eichelberger, Story Story Night artistic director
“They support us in so many ways,” he says. “They come to us with great suggestions and are willing to let us use their technology. Like when Avery Shawler told her story about being rescued by Montana’s Two Bear Air when she fell 50 feet off a cliff at Idaho’s Devil’s Bedstead East. She had said she wanted to meet and thank the guy who actually came out of the helicopter and got her. So after she told her story, the big screen descended and we were able to live stream him in from Whitefish.”
JUMP also wrote support letters for Story Story Night’s grant proposals and made finding sponsorship easier.
This kind of community partnership is at the core of JUMP’s mission, says JUMP’s Engagement Director Kathy O’Neill.
“We’re always thinking of how we can benefit the community,” O’Neill says. “We focus on events that fulfill our mission to support nonprofits and benefit the greatest number of people. We’ve started reaching out more and finding ways to bring together all of these interests, resources and organizations to communicate and create something more than anyone could do individually. ”
Everything that happens at JUMP is carefully curated by O’Neill, executive director Maggie Soderberg, who spearheaded the project from the beginning, and the JUMP team that runs the Move, Make, Play, Inspire and Share studios.
And that makes it a bit of a puzzle to Boiseans and others who want to use the whimsical spaces.
There’s no exact formula for making a class or event happen. Each one is evaluated on its own merits. That’s intimidating for people who see the intriguing facade and hear about the mission but don’t know what goes on inside, says Boise comedian Megan Bryant.
“I’ve been watching the project since it broke ground, and it’s not as bustling a community destination as it should be,” Bryant says. “I wanted to do something to change that. I want to see it get to a point where people can catch up to it.”
Getting people in the door to experience what JUMP offers is the first step in getting the message out there. Bryant is collaborating with JUMP to create a performance to do that on First Thursday, Sept. 7. The show seeks to explain how JUMP works.
“It will have lots of different elements — multimedia, comedy, music, storytelling, dancing — and lots of interactive ways for the audience to learn what goes on here,” she says.
I think it’s been hard because it isn’t finished. It needs to be done for a while.
Megan Bryant, founder of Idaho Laugh Fest and JUMP collaborator.
In January 2018, Bryant will collaborate with JUMP to produce part of her Idaho Laugh Fest, an event she founded to give nationally known, regional and local comedians a stage.
By the time Story Story launches its eighth season in November, the JUMP project should be 98 percent complete. There are just a few final bits getting wrapped up, says Mark Bowen, JUMP’s operations director. He also was a project manager who oversaw the construction from the beginning.
“The only things left are bringing in topsoil, and some concrete work at the corner of 11th and Myrtle streets — and planting trees and grass,” Bowen says.
That last part will keep the outdoor amphitheater and some other spots in the park off-limits for a while. The grass is being planted from seed so it will be heartier but will take longer to grow.
And you can get excited now: They’ve been testing the slides. Kids from community groups have been going down the five-story slide that spirals down to the area by the new water feature. There’s also a shorter eight-person slide on the fifth-floor patio.
Why it took so long
Construction on JUMP began in 2012. In January 2017, Soderberg told the Statesman that JUMP would be fully open by spring or summer. So why is it just now near completion?
It’s not that complicated an answer, says Bowen: There were a lot of moving parts, and construction took longer than expected.
“It’s the most complex construction project I’ve ever been involved with,” he says.
It’s probably the most complex ever attempted in Boise.
Mark Bowen, JUMP director of operations
A project of the family of Idaho agricultural billionaire J.R. “Jack” Simplot, JUMP houses studios, event spaces, bright-colored interactive art installations, sky gardens and a world-class collection of antique tractors.
When complete, users will see an outdoor park that stretches between JUMP and the Simplot World Headquarters on the opposite side of the 7.5-acre plot. It includes Celebration Circle, a large outdoor community gathering place, a water feature with misting and bubbling fountains, a Jumbotron screen, a Greenbelt extension that leads to the Downtown core — and of course, the much-anticipated five-story slide.
The project began with JUMP, a small underground garage and a complex design by Adamson Associates Architects out of Santa Monica, Calif. In 2014, the project expanded to include the Simplot offices.
That required a larger parking garage, so construction was halted as Seattle-based engineers of Magnusson Klemencic Associates went back to the drawing board. Putting a public park on top of a concrete garage takes some work. MKA engineers used foam blocks to fill the space between the garage roof and the surface to lighten the load. In some areas, the foam is 8 feet deep, Bowen says.
Every time an element was added to the project, it needed to be re-engineered, and that took time.
Placing the 50 antique tractors in the buildings, landscape and parking garages took more time. There are a few in the upper-level garage that still need to be protected. Once that’s done, that parking facility will be open. Bowen expects that to be ready by the end of the year.
The Deck is the most recent addition. The rooftop patio and large event space opened in late July.
“The construction is taking longer than I thought, but that’s good in a way because it’s given us time. There’s just been so much to figure out,” Soderberg says.
JUMP’S EVERCHANGING MISSION
Soderberg and her husband, Scott Simplot, created JUMP to reflect J.R Simplot’s visionary and creative spirit.
The couple traveled the country to find inspiration. They started with the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Ill., that also houses a tractor museum, but that was too narrow. So they kept traveling and adding elements. The large open lawn at the corner of 9th and Front streets is a nod to New York’s Bryant Park. The intimate view in the Pioneer Room reflects elements of New York’s Lincoln Center, and the slide idea came from artist and entrepreneur Bob Cassilly’s imaginative City Museum in St. Louis.
All these parts make a very interesting and unique whole, Soderberg says. “I don’t think there’s anything exactly like it anywhere,” she says.
The eclectic combination allows flexibility for JUMP’s mission.
“JUMP is an experiment in urban centers and in creative placemaking,” says Scott Simplot, the eldest of the Simplot family and chairman and CEO of the J.R. Simplot Company. “We’ll see how the public responds to JUMP, (and then) we who run JUMP will respond to however people respond, and this thing will evolve.”
That free-flowing definition is a new model that allows for creativity to happen as opportunities present themselves, Soderberg says. That’s a philosophy she hopes will keep JUMP relevant into the future.
“JUMP is not about permanence. Times are changing so quickly (and) we want JUMP to be able to change with them,” Soderberg says. “It’s a very complex thing to achieve. You have to put a structure in place but you have to keep it fairly loose, because the things that come through the door are incredible, and you have to be able to adapt to make them happen.”
The tractor factor
It all started with the multimillion-dollar tractor collection J.R. Simplot bought at auction in 1998 from Oscar O. Cooke’s Dreamland Museum in Billings, Mont. The collection is filled with many one-of-a-kind prototypes and examples of early American ingenuity that draw people from around the country, says Rob Bearden, JUMP’s Tractor Doctor and an expert mechanic who keeps those babies tuned up — and maybe running one day.
“This truly is a world-class collection,” Bearden says. “I wouldn’t want to guess what they’re worth today. They really are national treasures.”
Out of the box and on the job
Each of the studios is headed by one of JUMP’s dynamic young coordinators. They’re as much a creative force behind the operation as the colorful art installations, but perhaps the most unusual job description is Happiness Coordinator Allie Talboy-Haller.
Talboy-Haller’s job is about creating “surprise and delight,” she says. Talboy-Haller regularly shakes up routines, hides gifts around the building for people to find and organizes field trips to create spontaneous events. On World Smile Day on June 15, she and the JUMP team chalk-bombed sidewalks Downtown and left chalk for people to contribute responses.
“We want to have play come back into the world,” she says, “so there is more creativity. It’s so cool because it aligns with the mission of discovering people’s talents and approaching things differently all the time.”
When Story Story Night celebrated its seventh anniversary, Soderberg suggested that Eichelberger talk to Talboy-Haller.
“I was like, happiness coordinator? That’s a position that exists?” Eichelberger says. “She was great. She showed up with cake, confetti and party games. It all happened without me having to stress about it. That was a great surprise.”
How it works
JUMP is owned and managed through the privately held J.R. Simplot Foundation. It earns small profits from space rental and catering, and there is a fee for most classes, but JUMP is not expected to be profitable, O’Neill says.
“We have an endowment that fluctuates, so we’re not sharing the amount,” O’Neill says.
Space rental costs are competitive, O’Neill says. “They’re on par with other places, like the Boise Centre.” Nonprofits receive an automatic 25 percent discount. Teaching classes or engaging with the community in other ways can bring deeper discounts.
Proposals are considered and brainstormed, and then a decision is made.
Marisa Weppner and Celeste Bolin, who organized Yogafort as part of the annual Treefort Music Fest realized they were outgrowing their space at the Rose Room.
The year before Celeste and I had this clear vision that we would do Yogafort at JUMP. It couldn’t have been any better.
Yogafort co-founder Marisa Weppner.
“We were nervous about being at such a new place,” Weppner says. “We thought there would be red tape and hurdles, and there is a process and they’re particular about how they do things.”
Yogafort was a complete success at JUMP, Weppner says, attended by hundreds of people from across the region.
During the event, each yoga class in the Pioneer Room had more than 100 participants, but it still didn’t feel crowded, she says. “Our people loved it,” she says. “It’s the perfect place for us to grow.”
Many other Treefort events took place at JUMP, too, including Hackfort — with all things tech related — and Band Dialogue, a free-form musical performance orchestrated by musician Seth Olinsky that happened in Celebration Circle. Weppner and Treefort hope to make it happen again in 2018.
In its first year, JUMP hosted more than 350 classes taught by community members or directors of JUMP’s studios.
Now we’re cooking
Rochelle Heathcock had an idea to teach children to cook. She started the Children’s Culinary Institute in the Share Studio kitchen. Heathcock and her husband, Alan, run monthly classes that teach kids to cook everything from fresh-fruit pie to lamb burgers.
“It’s pretty amazing to have access to something like this,” Heathcock says. “They (JUMP) bought all these little kid-sized knife sets. It’s pretty great.”
Dancer Miranda Palacio wanted to teach hip-hop. Hers was one of the first classes in the Move Studio. She got more involved and now is the Move Studio coordinator. “I feel like I manifested this place,” Palacio says. “I had this vision of a community place that would provide a space for people to reach their potential. And here it is.”
Now the goal is to go beyond the obvious, O’Neill says.
“What we don’t want is to duplicate what Boise Parks and Rec and YMCA do so well,” O’Neill says. “What distinguishes us is our ability to create great programs that utilize all the studios or several at one time, and that offers opportunities for collaboration with other organizations.
“Because we’re not defined or boxed in, it allows us more flexibility and nimbleness, allowing for events to expand and contract as needed in a more organic, grass-roots way.”
Dana Oland is the editor of Treasure Magazine.
Jack’s Urban Meeting Place
Where: 1000 W. Myrtle St., Boise