It was 2013. Work on Whitewater Park Boulevard had just begun. Esther Simplot Park was yet to be.
But change — and increased traffic — were coming. So a group of artists, Whittier Elementary School parents, students and others from the neighborhood met at the school to start talking about an art project that would also serve as the boundary for the school grounds.
Those talks came to fruition on Thursday. Rockets, clouds, bees, spectacular flowers, figures in top hats and a man with suns for hands now line the fence behind Whittier, facing Whitewater Park.
Public artists Dennis and Margo Proksa of Blackrock Forge, southeast of Pocatello, installed 10 metal art panels in all. The Proksas competed with 30 other public artists to earn the commission, and worked with students and teachers at Whittier to come up with the imagery used in the panels. Themes include peace, farming, family, and not a little whimsy.
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Coming up with the design for the panels was challenging, said Margo Proksa. One requirement: They had to be visible for passers-by of all kinds, including speeding motorists.
“But we’re also hoping people will slow down and walk by,” said Proksa.
It was important to the artists that children participating in the project and contributing their drawings feel some ownership and connection to the images, said Proksa. She spent several hours with students at the Title 1 school, teaching them drawing and painting for the project and coming up with imagery that is universal and will resonate “when we’re all gone,” she said.
The project is galvanized steel, sandblasted and powder-coated.
“It will outlast all of us,” said Proksa.
Elizabeth Rodgers’ children attended Whittier when the project began, and she was one of its early supporters. She moved to Boise from out of state and loved Whittier, she said, for its diverse student body — 13 languages are spoken at the school.
She said the new art installation “represents the value of the student body. It’s a snapshot of their existence in Boise at this moment.”
The final art is the result of ideas and drawings of 450 Whittier students, faculty, staff and parents.
The fence installation is the latest public art installation in Boise by the Proksas. Their well-known pieces include “Litharacnium,” the steel sculpture based on zooplankton, located on South 8th Street in Boise’s BoDo neighborhood.