Boise completes its ‘River Sculpture’ rebuild

“River Sculpture” rehab. Mosaic tile has replaced the sculpture’s original painted background.
“River Sculpture” rehab. Mosaic tile has replaced the sculpture’s original painted background. awebb@idahostatesman.com

The City of Boise’s Department of Arts & History has announced the completion of the restoration of the “River Sculpture” by Allison Sky on the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Front Street on an exterior wall of the Grove Hotel.

The department oversaw the reconstruction of the 16-year-old piece which included the installation of 140,000 one-inch glass tiles, the replacement of the original neon, and the installation of a filtration system that will prevent water damage to the sculpture, and more. The sculpture’s granite panels were also cleaned and retooled. Ninety percent of the original granite was reused in the restoration.

The restoration cost $270,000, with $200,000 coming from city discretionary funds and $70,000 from the Grove Hotel and the Capital City Development Corporation. Trout Architects, along with local contractors, rebuilt the sculpture to replicate Sky’s original concept as closely as possible.

The improvements, according to the city, will lower the sculpture’s energy use and make it more durable as well as easier to repair.

Since its installation, the “River Sculpture” has been among the most controversial pieces of public art in the city, inspiring love as well as scorn, and at least one nickname: the “Steaming Crack.” At one time, the sculpture produced mist. The city turned off the misting mechanism in 2010 because of maintenance issues. Josh Olson, cultural asset program manager for the city, said that reaction to the restoration has been overwhelmingly positive.

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.” It was installed in 1999 for $250,000, a cost shared by the city, the hotel and CCDC.