At long last, City Hall art decision is made

CTY Studios and Ecosystem Sciences, both of Boise, win a competition to build a $200,000 project.

sberg@idahostatesman.comMarch 2, 2014 

Nine half-inch-thick steel panels, cut through with the shapes of leaves and branches, will mimic a round grove of cottonwood trees in front of City Hall.

Inlaid images of trunks and more branches will decorate the surface of the panels. The holes in the panels will allow dappled light to filter into the center of the grove. To people who step back from the sculpture, the collective images on the panels will look like a stand of cottonwoods.

That’s the concept that won over judges deciding what art will adorn the renovated Boise City Hall Plaza. A five-member selection panel picked the two Boise design firms’ entry over 26 other artists who submitted proposals.

“I like that it’s emblematic of the cottonwoods,” said Maryanne Jordan, president of the Boise City Council and a member of the panel. “I like the scale of it, because it gives some relief to what’s kind of a stark exterior on the building. I like that it’s a large and attractive art piece in and of itself, but it still leaves good open space in the plaza.”

The art project is part of a larger plaza remake expected to take place in the spring and summer of 2015. The city has struggled for years to find the right concept to replace a stand of flags on the plaza’s southern side.

After entertaining nine proposals from non-Idaho artists, the city’s latest process emphasized finding a concept that represents Boise. That approach encouraged local artists, none of whom has ever done a project of this scale.

In the fall, presentations for all 27 concepts hung in Boise’s Downtown Sesqui-Shop, allowing the public to comment on them. The CTY Studios-Ecosystem Sciences presentation received the second-most favorable comments.

“The Wooded River,” a piece by Boise artist Leslie Dixon and one of three finalists, received the largest number of favorable comments.

Dwaine Carver, one of the artists who put together the winning concept, is aware of the project’s history, and he admits it’s intimidating trying to build a piece of art that brands Boise. Carver already has his name on one of Boise’s most visible public art projects — “Heliotrope” at the north entrance to Grove Plaza — but this is more ambitious than anything he’s ever done.

“We all really appreciate the complexity and difficulty of how you monumentalize something or how you memorialize something — what you select to do, how do you construct meaning, how do you construct something that is meaningful to the community, and hopefully useful and beautiful,” Carver said.

“And so we love the challenge of that and we embrace that. In short, my favorite thing about the project is the difficulty. But if it’s successful, then the payoff, I think, is tremendous.”

Before the selection panel’s choice is final, Boise’s Arts and History Commission and the City Council have to approve it. So, too, must Capital City Development Corporation, Boise’s urban renewal agency, which will cover half the project’s cost.

Jordan thinks this project will pass all those tests.

“I do think that we have found something that is going to really kind of help tell Boise’s story,” she said. “It was a really exciting process. I know it took a long time, but I think we’ve come to a good and reasonable place. And I think we’ve got a piece that people are going to enjoy for a long, long time to come.”

CTY and Ecosystems Sciences say they’ll collect $20,000 for their artist fee. The other $180,000 for the project will go to building it.

In addition to the steel cottonwood grove on City Hall Plaza’s south side, the artists will help design a seating area in place of the fountain on the plaza’s north side, Boise Public Arts Manager Karen Bubb said.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service