Tucked behind the Women of Steel art gallery in Garden City may be the Treasure Valley’s best kept secret – the Visual Arts Collective. Referred to simply as “the VAC” by its visitors, the collective combines visual art with musical and theatrical performances to give patrons an experience that is unique for Boise.
Walking into the VAC for the first–time can be overwhelming; the massive sculpture Siddhartha Gotama in Gas Mask greets patrons as they walk through the red curtains that separate the foyer from the cavernous main gallery. The open ceilings provide an airy atmosphere to the large, but welcoming, central room.
All forms of art cover the interior, including the bathrooms which feature murals by Erin Ruiz.
The current visual exhibition, “Relics and Derelicts,” features art by Patty Payton, Phil Bell, Michael Wyatt and Sean Wyatt. The automobile themed exhibit, sponsored by the Farm Boys Car Club, will run through Nov. 29.
The ‘Collective began in 2005 when a group of artists wanted a venue for a one-off art show. Since the exhibition featured large sculptures, most local galleries were unable or unwilling to accommodate. Taking matters into to their own hands, the crew of artisans rented a space in downtown’s linen district.
The one-time stint morphed into a Treasure Valley art-scene staple.
When the lease expired, the VAC moved to its current location – just two miles away. In addition to moving to Garden City, the VAC made another major change in the spring of 2008 – becoming a 21 and up establishment.
“It’s a bummer, but our state is really weird and we can’t survive without selling booze,” said co-founder Samuel Stimpert. “We do make some money on art sales, but it’s not enough to keep a huge 9,000 square foot building up and running.”
The new and improved space the VAC calls home is becoming well known for more than just visual art.
“The original thought was for it to just be a gallery. Maybe we would have called it ‘Arts Collective’ because we do a lot more than that (visual arts) now,” Stimpert said.
Like the art displayed, the VAC host bands from a variety of musical backgrounds. Acts ranging from Portland-based space rockers “No Go Know” to the bombastic Israeli power trio “Monotonix” to the folksy “Mirah” have played the VAC on separate occasions.
Local rock legends “Built to Spill” have even used the building as a practice studio on multiple occasions. The definitive Boise rockers will return to the VAC’s stage Nov. 23 to play a show benefiting Boise Community radio.
Performance art also has found a home at the VAC. Events ranging from poetry slams to theatrical shows are common.
The VAC’s sense of intimacy is what makes the establishment so special; the organization is building a community by bringing artists and supporters together.
Theater major Matt Baltzell performed a skit called “Skit/Skit” twice at the collective.
“It has a cool level of intimacy,” said Baltzell. “Since the stage is so low, it feels like the crowd is part of the show.”
For more information of on the Visual Arts collective check out their Web site, www.visualartscollective.com or visit them at 3638 Osage Street in Garden City.
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