The structural renovation at City Hall has prompted a new approach to the artwork that greets visitors at the front door.
Officials first planned to replace the faulty fountain with a water-themed art piece, but decided to take a different tack.
The new project has attracted interest from some of the nation's top monumental artists or teams - including one that was a finalist for the World Trade Tower memorial and two others that create large, site-specific works in the U.S.
From the 54 applicants, a city panel chose Volkan Alkanoglu from Atlanta; a team of artists called Actual Size from Stoughton, Wis.; and Metalab, a team from Houston.
The three each will create a site-specific proposal for an art piece to decorate the front of City Hall on Capitol Boulevard.
Those proposals will be on view at City Hall and on the city's website beginning May 11. The public will have two weeks to comment.
The selection panel chose applicants whose work will address the importance of the City Hall site and Boise's urban environment - but in different ways, said Karen Bubb, city public art manager.
The finalists all have experience researching a place and designing large-scale pieces that respond to their particular environments.
"Even though the finalists are from out of town, their training has helped them to know how to create something unique for a specific location," said Bubb.
The city is looking for a piece that is modern and looks toward the future, but also is welcoming, exciting and comfortable for people who come to City Hall.
"It's a hard recipe," said Bubb.
GETTING TO KNOW THE CITY OF TREES
Each of the finalists is coming to Boise to meet with residents and get a sense of the landscape - urban and wild - and the quality of the city's light, sound and more.
Artists will give presentations and let the public see examples of their past work. Alkanoglu visited last week. The Actual Size and Metalab teams are coming to Boise in April. Details are still to be announced.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
City Hall is in the midst of a major, multi-year renovation to bring the building up to current seismic and fire codes. The entire outdoor plaza is getting an upgrade, too.
A waterproof membrane meant to keep water out of City Hall and its parking garage is worn out and has to be replaced.
Other improvements will make the plaza a better space for public events, said Bubb. They include removing large planters, reducing the size of the circular area at the building's entrance and replacing the existing fountain with a shaded seating area.
WHAT'S THE ART BUDGET?
The allocation for the new art is $200,000. Half is from the Capital City Development Corp. and half is from the City Percent for Art budget.
Five local artists applied and got "serious consideration," said Bubb. None had experience appropriate to the scale and budget of this project.
THE FINAL SAY
The panel that chose the finalists will meet again to review public comments and select a winning proposal in the coming months.
The chosen artist will have a few more hurdles to jump: approval by the city's Visual Arts Committee, the Arts and History Commission and the CCDC board. The proposal will then go before the council for final approval.
This is actually the second round of proposals for the City Hall Plaza art.
Last year, the city put out a call for artists to design a water feature for the plaza. A panel chose a proposal featuring giant boulders that appeared to levitate on jets of water. When the proposal came before the City Council, members were split on the aesthetics of the piece, said Bubb.
But they were united when it came to reconsidering the idea of a water feature in the first place.
"If you do a water feature, a significant amount of the budget goes into pipes and other infrastructure, not into the art," she said. "We didn't feel we were getting the biggest 'bang for the buck.' "
The council rejected the proposal and the city sent out a new call to artists.
Metalab, one of the finalists, includes members of the team whose boulder design was chosen in the last round.
The city has identified other locations on the City Hall block where more art may be installed in the future.
Anna Webb: 377-6431