BOISE, ID – Tonight, Boise City Mayor Lauren McLean and members of the Boise City Council unanimously approved a $100,000 award to sculptor Vinnie Bagwell for the development and creation of public art at the Hayman House, the former home of prominent African American community member, Erma Hayman, located in the historic River Street Neighborhood in downtown Boise.
The purpose of the public art is to celebrate the life of Erma Hayman, who moved into the one-story residence located at 617 Ash Street with her family in 1948. Erma lived there until her death in 2009 at the age of 102. Boise City Council authorized the conveyance of the approximately 900 square-foot home between Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) and the City of Boise on May 1, 2018. The property was transferred to the City on May 15, 2018. The artwork will be installed on the property’s North boundary on the South facing wall of the adjacent property’s (Ash Street Townhomes) parking garage.
Bagwell is a New York-based sculptor with an extensive background working in the public art realm. Her robust portfolio includes figurative and memorial sculptures that honor cultural legacies in public settings for both public and private institutions. Anchored in naturalism, her three-dimensional and low-relief sculptures are cast in bronze and bronze resin and often portray and elevate People of Color and other marginalized communities. Examples of her work include The First Lady of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald (1996) in Yonkers, NY; Frederick Douglass Circle (2008) in Hempstead, NY; and the Immortals (2018) in Washington, DC.
"Commitment is what turns promises a reality,” says Vinnie Bagwell. “Thus, I am very grateful to the City of Boise for its continued advocacy of the telling of Erma Hayman's story to balance the narrative in your city through art in a public place. I look forward to creating artwork that will make her family proud and remind viewers that artistry is a powerful and useful tool of social transformation; one capable of condensing our thoughts, distilling our minds, and renewing our hopes and aspirations."
Along with Bagwell’s selection, direction has been affirmed to commission multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker and writer Crystal Z Campbell to develop a secondary project that will center on the diverse history of the River Street Neighborhood when future resources become available. Campbell is a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based artist working in a contemporary, research-driven and socially engaged practice. The selection panel was drawn to her extensive experience researching, unearthing and developing site-specific, historical narratives and translating them into performance, sound and film installations that engage archives and collective memory, such as her ongoing work around the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
“I greatly enjoy serving as the Boise City Department of Arts & History's Council liaison, where I have had the opportunity to share my perspective as the first Latina to seek and serve as a member of the Boise City Council, says Boise City Councilmember Lisa Sánchez. “As someone who has worked on social justice and human rights issues in Boise for the past 30 years, I am particularly honored to approve Vinnie Bagwell's commission for the Hayman House public art project. I believe that one of the best ways to bridge diverse cultures is through cultural sites like the Hayman House, where the space can be used for ongoing education, conversations and reconciliation. I commit to helping more BIPOC artists and thinkers to apply for calls to artists, as well as to help create an environment at the City of Boise where more BIPOC feel welcome.”
The Boise City Department of Arts & History’s Cultural Sites program is tied to the goals of the City of Boise’s Cultural Master Plan. The preservation and interpretation of the 617 Ash Street property are critical components for representing those whose stories are often omitted from standard historical research. The home’s architecture also provides insight into stylistic and construction trends of the era and how these intersect with different demographic groups. Major components of the site design were initially developed by Broad Approach, who was selected in 2018 to develop a master plan for site improvements and public art investment. Elements that were carried over include Erma's Wall public art, historic plat lines and heritage plantings. The department of Arts & History, through the City’s Department of Public Works, is currently developing plans with local architecture firm Trout Architects to stabilize the house and site. Construction will begin summer 2020 and the house is slated to open in 2021.
"The Hayman House and other cultural assets in Boise are rich in our city's history and architectural legacy,” says Boise City Mayor Lauren McLean. “Restoring the Hayman House and activating it through public art is undeniably a unique opportunity for us to learn more about a historically diverse working-class section of our city. Above all, it is our responsibility to work with and amplify those whose stories, like Erma's, have been omitted from history and to provide a physical space for our community to come together to reflect and engage with the diverse voices that make up the fabric of our city."
In September 2019, the department of Arts & History convened the Hayman House Task Force Committee, composed of community members, Erma Hayman’s family and Arts & History stakeholders to provide guidance and feedback for staff as the project develops. Select members from the task force along with members from the Arts & History Commission, the Arts & History Advisory Team and members representing the local arts community served on a selection panel to assist in the development of the call-to-artists, review applications and make an artist recommendation.
The call-to-artists was released in fall 2019 and resulted in 20 applications. Three finalist artists were identified through the initial selection process and were invited to visit Boise, the project site and present to and be interviewed by the selection committee. Bagwell received the selection committee’s recommendation which was supported and approved by the Arts & History Commission in May 2020. The selection panel also directed staff to explore additional funding and resources for Crystal Z Campbell, a motion the Arts & History Commission approved.
“I am so pleased that this project is finally becoming a reality,” says Richard Madry, grandson of Erma Hayman and a member of the Hayman House Task Force. “When my family decided to sell Erma Hayman’s house, the main concern was that it became a monument to her memory and the documentation of her contribution to the River Street community. By selling the property to the Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC), and ultimately the City of Boise, we felt that this was the best avenue to make this happen. The Hayman House Task Force, and in particular the Boise City Department of Arts & History, have done an extremely good job in organizing assets of the community to make this project come to fruition. As a family, we fully support the selection of Vinnie Bagwell as the artist to award the public art contract for this project.”
The Hayman House advisory task force provides recommendations for the programmatic vision and outreach tactics surrounding the house, including guidance on the site’s future use, public art selection, historical and cultural context and other community engagement strategies. To ensure the house becomes a truly place-based, community-driven, fully accessible cultural and historic resource, the department of Arts & History calls on the Boise community, particularly people who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Immigrant or New American, or who have lived experience of the River Street Neighborhood, to join the task force or a future committee to help support and guide the City through the preservation, interpretation and opening of the Hayman House. Individuals interested in finding out more or exploring ways to get involved are invited to visit: www.boiseartsandhistory.org/programs/cultural-sites/hayman-house
The artist selection comes amid Black Lives Matter protests across the nation and the world. To ensure ongoing community engagement and education around these issues, Task Force member Shannon McGuire will lead talks around “Race, Place & Grace: Bridging divides with courageous compassion and human-centered unity” on June 25 at 12 p.m. and July 2 at 6 p.m., free and open to the public. Individuals interested in participating are invited to learn more by visiting www.sparkstrats.com
“This project offers a vital contribution to the fabric of our community and overall humanity,” says Task Force member Shannon McGuire. “It showcases the powerful role arts and history play in bridging divides by bringing a face to the faceless, voice to the voiceless, and sight to those unseen. This is human-centered unity in action and a valuable example of how we can move forward with grace.”
Previously issued: Former Hayman House Conveyed to City of Boise
Learn more: https://www.boiseartsandhistory.org/programs/cultural-sites/hayman-house/
About Erma Hayman
Erma Andre Madry Hayman was born on October 18, 1907 in Nampa, Idaho. Before 1900, Erma’s parents, Amanda Chouteau Dodge and Charles Edward Andre, moved from Missouri to Montana—where Edward worked briefly as a miner—and then on to Idaho. The Andres had thirteen children, three of whom were born in Nampa. Erma was the twelfth of thirteen and played piano in the family orchestra. Edward and Amanda were farmers during their early time in Idaho. Later, Edward worked whatever jobs he could get in town and Amanda took care of the dairy farm. The Andres were one of only a few African American families living in Nampa. Erma moved to Boise and lived on Grand Avenue in 1927 and 1928. On November 3, 1928, she married Navy Madry and the couple moved to Seattle for three years. Together, they had three children: Barbara, Jeanne, and Frederick. In 1935, Navy died of leukemia, leaving Erma a widow. She eventually married Lawrence Hayman in 1943, and in 1948, after racial discrimination prevented them from buying property elsewhere in the city, the couple bought the house at 617 Ash Street. Erma worked hard her entire life, even as she faced systemic job discrimination. After years of cobbling together a living through various positions, she worked twenty years at Lerner’s, a women’s clothing shop on Idaho Street. Erma was known to provide and care for neighbors who were in need or who didn’t have family nearby, by keeping them company and bringing them food. She was also a vital advocate for her neighborhood and its residents. She served on the River Street Neighborhood Council, acting as its chairwoman from 1973 to 1974, and fought to have a crosswalk and stoplight installed at the busy intersection of 13th and River streets. Erma died on November 2, 2009, still a resident of her neighborhood at the age of 102.
About the Hayman House
The Hayman House, located in Boise’s River Street neighborhood, is the last single-family home on its block. After extensive development in the area, the structure now stands on the corner of Ash and River Streets in the Lover’s Lane Addition—a beacon of another time. The single story, one-bedroom residence was built in 1907, two years after the addition was platted. In total, the modest house comprises approximately 900 square feet and is situated on two 26’ x 122’ lots located in the center of the block fronting Ash Street. After it was built, the house changed hands several times before Erma and her second husband, Lawrence Hayman, purchased it in 1948. Erma lived there until her death more than 60 years later. The Hayman House has a distinctive architectural style. Though its size was typical of the era in which it was built, its hipped roof, recessed porch, and squared sandstone corners around the porch columns, windows, and doors were unique. Few homes were made entirely from sandstone; although this material is prominent in Boise’s architecture—it was used to build the Idaho State Capitol and numerous other structures from the time period. The Hayman house is particularly distinctive for its location since most of the houses that surrounded it in the River Street neighborhood were built out of wood. The exterior of the house features a belt of sandstone that extends out just a bit to form natural windowsills for the one-over-one wood windows and the steps approaching the house are also chiseled from sandstone. Architecturally, the one-bedroom house has seen minimal alterations over its 100+ year life span.
About the River Street Neighborhood
The River Street Neighborhood is one of the oldest areas of the city. For a large part of the twentieth century, it was the most ethnically and culturally diverse area in Boise, housing immigrants from the Basque Country, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Japan, Russia, and elsewhere, and by 1940, redlining had made River Street home to the majority of Boise’s African American population. After the forcible removal of the valley’s original residents, the Boise Valley Indigenous People, which included Shoshone, Bannock, and Northern Paiute tribes, Dr. William Thompson and a gold miner named John McClellan joined several other families in homesteading the area near the Boise River. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the land surrounding the neighborhood was platted for a railroad. The development in the River Street area was meant to provide housing for railroad workers and other members of Boise’s working class. Tracks were eventually laid on the edge of the neighborhood along what is now Front Street, solidifying River Street’s status as the neighborhood on the “other side of the tracks.” Because of this designation, it was maintained as a working-class neighborhood and was the only area in town where African Americans were able buy homes. As the city entered the 1970s, the property between downtown and the river became more valuable and was targeted for urban renewal. Many homes were razed and neighborhood streets were realigned and widened, including River Street. Because of this change, the character of the neighborhood drastically transformed from a quiet neighborhood near the river to a busy thoroughfare. As demolition and redevelopment continue, so does the disappearance of the River Street neighborhood’s historic fabric.