Boise City Hall art decision begins

December 3, 2013 

In less than three weeks, 27 proposals hanging in Boise's Sesqui-Shop attracted 416 comment forms, Boise Public Arts Manager Karen Bubb said. 

On those forms were 3,250 total comments telling the city what the people who filled out the forms thought about the proposals for a $200,000 art project to decorate Boise City Hall Plaza. 

Bubb said that's the most feedback the city has ever received on a public art project. She said the response suggests Boise finally hit on the right process for finding the right piece of art to dominate the plaza.

"It's fantastic," Bubb said. "I'm really happy that people care enough to comment."

Between March 2012 and May of this year, the city went through three attempts to find a project for the soon-to-be-remodeled plaza. In those attempts, artists submitted qualifications to kick off the selection process. Designs came later.

In this round, artists submitted designs up front, but with no names attached.

Involving local artists has been a challenge. In the first three attempts, the city received 94 applications for the City Hall art project. Just eight of those applications came from Idahoans, and none of those was chosen as a finalist.

Part of the problem was that no local artist had experience with a project as big as the city envisions for this project.

Now, the city is using new criteria for evaluating the anonymous proposals. Qualifications, experience and ability were the most important criteria in the original processes. The majority of evaluation points now measure whether the designs are “appropriate and desirable for City Hall Plaza."

"This process allows for artists who have not had the experience of doing a $200,000 large-scale project to put forward their ideas, thus giving Idaho artists who are willing to do the work to develop a proposal a better shot at getting the commission, but also keeps it open to a national pool," Bubb wrote in a May memo to Mayor David Bieter, the City Council and the board of commissioners for the Capital City Development Corporation -- Boise's urban renewal agency.

Over the next few weeks, Bubb said, a five-member selection panel will review the proposals and the thousands of comments on them. From the proposals, the panel will select a group of finalists. Three to five finalists is normal, Bubb said, but the council can choose a different number.

After that, the panel will select a winner from the finalists. The city is hoping to award the contract sometime in January to build the piece of art.

Check Wednesday's Idaho Statesman to see which proposals were the most popular.

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