Dana Oland: Summer brings more art to public spaces

Longer, sunny days allow projects to come to fruition

July 11, 2014 

In the next few months, you'll see sculptures, traffic box murals, interactive displays and other artwork popping up around the city. Right now there are 16 pieces that either were recently completed or will be finished by September.

Public art adds to the vibrancy of our shared spaces and tells our story in interesting ways, says Karen Bubb, public art manager for the Boise Department of Arts and History.

"It reflects the culture and character of Boise," she says. "It also engages artists and the public in the design of our city, and we'd be the lesser without it."

Here's a look at three projects that range from whimsical to scientific to mythical.

ART AT ZOO BOISE

Mosaic artist Reham Aarti created mosaic animal sculptures as part of a Friends of Zoo Boise commission that celebrates the zoo's partnership with the city of Boise.

"Party Animals" is a collection of 10 colorful, playful mosaic animals at the zoo - such as a meerkat and penguins - and some you will never see at the zoo - such as Lola the platypus. "I just love platypuses, but they're nocturnal and they live in mud, so even if there was one here, you wouldn't see it," she says.

Aarti let her imagination go wild, so one of her penguins wears a kilt, the hyena is covered in flowers and the pink flamingo wears a butterfly costume.

"I was playing with the idea that maybe when people go home the animals dress up and pretend to be other things," she says.

You'll also find an American alligator, an owl and a piece that was not part of the original commission. Aarti added a Patas monkey to honor a member of its species that was killed by an intruder at the zoo in 2012.

She has created four public art pieces in Boise and she currently is creating projects in Spanaway, Wash., and Sandy Springs, Ga.

Another zoo commission celebrates the zoo's conservation work with a sculpture designed by Stephanie Inman of the African vulture, one of the species the zoo is trying to save from extinction.

ECO-ART ON 8TH STREET

Artist Amy Westover's "Virgo" is one of three pieces for Eco-Art on 8th Street, one of the city's most ambitious projects. Westover's is the third piece for a series of artwork that explore ideas of ecology and sustainability and seek to draw pedestrians down the 8th Street corridor from Downtown to BoDo by creating interesting touchstones.

It's a collaboration between Greenworks Idaho, Capitol City Development Corporation and the Public Works Department's Environmental Division, three architectural firms and four artists.

Westover's piece, created in collaboration with McKibben + Cooper Architects, is being installed now at three points at the intersection of 8th and Front streets.

Westover's "Virgo" quietly confronts the issue of light pollution, she says.

"I have family who moved here because you could still see the stars, and now in many places you can't," she says. "If you stand on this corner at night you won't see stars. So, I decided to bring them to Earth and embed them into the sidewalk."

She chose a snapshot of what the night sky will look like above Boise on Sept. 23, 2014, at autumnal equinox. She flattened it out and transposed it to the bricks. She is embedding metal discs of different sizes into the sidewalk to represent the unseen constellations and planets above.

"I picked a date that marks the change of seasons," she says. She chose Virgo because the constellation was associated with the Greek and Roman goddess of agriculture.

She wants to instill a sense of wonder in those who see her piece.

"Looking at the stars reminds me that we live on a ball hurtling through space. We need to be reminded of how special that is and that it's worth saving."

This is Westover's sixth public art piece.

"Virgo" is one of a trio of Eco-Art pieces. "Lithoracnium," a sculpture by Modus Architect's Bruce Poe and artists Dennis and Margo Proska, stands at 8th and Broad streets. "Heliotrope," a sculpture and trellis that will be covered in growing vines created by artist/architect Dwaine Carver and Trout Architects, was at 8th and Main streets but is being moved because of the new City Center Plaza construction.

ART IN THE FOOTHILLS

The public art plan for the Foothills Learning Center is one piece closer to completion with the dedication next week of "Medicine Wheel," the third of four art pieces inspired by the elements of fire, water, earth and air.

"Medicine Wheel" is the earth node stone sculpture by mixed media artist Marianne Konvalinka and sculptor Lynn Fraley and funded by the McCord family children, who grew up at the property where the center now stands. It is dedicated to their mother, Carol, something Konvalinka took into account when she came up with the idea.

"I was hiking in the hills one day and came across something that I think was an actual medicine wheel. I learned that they're intended to honor the land and ancestors, so I thought it was perfect," she says.

The installation that will be dedicated at 7-8:30 p.m. July 23 includes a stone pedestal set with cast-bronze "offerings" created by Fraley, a stone bench that is naturally sculpted by the river, pillars and a pathway.

The offerings are an owl feather, a reference to the great horned owl that nests nearby; a sage wand that references fire; a bone to represent regeneration and return to the earth; and meadowlark eggs that represent rebirth and that will catch and hold water, incorporating all four cardinal elements into the piece.

This is Konvalinka's and Fraley's first public art piece.

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