In 2008, the first year of Modern Art we felt like we were holding our collective breath as we prepared for the big day. We had invited artists, spent $100 on posters, and called in our favorite taco truck. What more would we need? (Outside of electrical hookups, tents, tables and chairs, trash cans, recycling bins, port-a-potties, liability insurance?). We didn’t know whether to expect 100 people or 300, so we proceeded cautiously. “You better make sure everyone’s family shows up,” warned a friend helping with PR, “because you’ll want a good crowd.” Little did we know that over 2,000 people would pass through our doors that day, drawn by the opportunity to see works of challenging, whimsical and moving modern art, as well as see their friends and neighbors out and about on First Thursday.
It was the beginning of the recession, so hotel occupancy was low. We needed to fill rooms and let people know we were here, so Owner Elizabeth Tullis watched as artists swarmed through the lobby asking for hammers, nails, ladders, and scotch tape. It couldn’t have been easy watching sixty artists have their way with her new hotel, so carefully appointed with Cherner Chairs, Nelson Bubble Lamps and Modernica furnishings, but she knew it was something special and exciting.
Since then many groups have asked to partner with us on Modern Art, but we’ve kept everything in-house and created the event on a shoestring budget. It takes an army of housekeepers to put the place back together after the annual onslaught of 3,000 visitors ranging in age from 1 – 100. We negotiate for permits, add staff, hire security and everyone’s favorite: new drink specials crafted by our amazing bartenders. It’s a crazy time, and each year brings it’s own risks and challenges.
Many people have helped Modern Art thrive over the years. We’d like to thank our neighbors, Idaho Power Company and Oakley Moody, who lend us the use of their parking lots after hours. Thanks to Metro Car Wash, who publicize Modern Art on their digital sign each year, and to the Promo Shop, who gives us those ‘stinking badges’— ‘cause we need ‘em. We also appreciate our volunteers, who help pass out maps and answer questions. To Rachel Reichert and Jennifer Wood, thank you from all of us for your help over the years with social media and awesome graphics. Finally, we couldn’t pull off this event without Amy O’Brien and Kerry Tullis, the curators who help bring the whole process together. Over the past five years Amy and Kerry have worked together, contacting and negotiating with artists and usually displaying their own work, too. They, and the many, many creative and talented artists that we have been so lucky to have participate in Modern Art over the years, have helped create a special community event for the Modern and for Boise. Thank you for everything!