150 Boise Icons: 'River Sculpture'

awebb@idahostatesman.comMarch 9, 2013 

Did you know? Sky’s original design included cuts into the sidewalk below the sculpture that would echo the cuts of the granite above. That didn’t prove practical for a street corner in the heart of the city.


It's fair to say "River Sculpture" by New York artist Alison Sky is one of the most controversial pieces in Boise's public art collection. It was installed on the facade of The Grove Hotel in 1999. It's been a lightning rod for differing opinions ever since.

According to a plaque in the hotel lobby, Sky intended the piece to be a vertical river, paying homage to water, the "lifesource of Boise."

That idea is sound, considering the central role the river plays in Boise life. The city's underground roils with geothermal springs. Workers had to reroute an ancient canal to build the hotel itself.

Some love the sculpture with its iridescent bubbles levitating up through a granite seam. Statesman reader Laurel McGuire nominated "River Sculpture" as an icon along with the view of the state Capitol and the Foothills.

For others, the promise of a good idea clearly has not delivered. "River Sculpture" has suffered vandalism. It's garnered its share of unfortunate nicknames through the years - "The Crack," among others.

In any case, the sculpture, which the Capital City Development Corporation gifted to the City of Boise in 2003, is showing its age.

Its blue paint is chipped. A water feature that once created clouds of mist has been shut off since 2009. The city, the artist and the hotel are working to "find a long-term solution" to renovate the sculpture, said Josh Olson of the city's Department of Arts and History.

An architectural firm is assessing the piece. When the assessment is done in April, the city will decide the next step. A renovation budget and timeline are unclear. They'll depend on the assessment, Olson said.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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