Art Smarts 

The state of our city's public art

During the last year, in an effort to beautify Boise, approximately 12 public art projects were completed, and another 10 are in the works to beautify Boise. Our city has been shifting resources to make the arts more of a priority, thanks mostly to the Boise City Arts Commission (BCAC) and the Mayor's Office. Boise Weekly also recently unveiled a large scale metal outdoor sculpture by local artist Michael Cordell.

This all points to a growing trend in the shift of attention being focused on the arts in Boise. Around nearly every corner in downtown there's a mural or a sculpture. Look around and you'll see buses wrapped in a local artist's design or a park seating area designed by a local artist.

Although public art is generally funded through the city, Idaho businesses have become more involved with furthering local artists' reach into the community. Rick Clark, owner of Hotel 43 and head of the investment services group for the Colliers International Boise office, has been an active supporter of the arts in Boise for many years. Clark chose to feature local artists works in his hotel lobby. Business owners all have the unique opportunity to assist city organizations to beautify the city. But is it enough?

Boise Weekly asked a businessman, a BCAC specialist and the mayor himself some questions about the arts in Boise.

businessman, Rick Clark

Boise Weekly: What do you think local businesses can do to show more support for the arts in Boise?

Rick Clark: I think that local businesses do show support for the arts in Boise and I think that's more true of Boise businesses than it might be in another community our size. Could it be more? Well sure, it always could. But I would say that I feel very strongly that businesses in Boise are very supportive of the arts. It's one of the things that makes Boise a great place to live.

What was your primary motivation for using local artists to decorate your hotel?

In that particular case, [it was] the Statehouse Inn and its history and the connection to the state and the city. Because we are the capital, it was important for us to carry forward. So we chose the name, in part because the State of Idaho is the 43rd state, and in part because Boise resides on the 43rd parallel. [It was] because of that connectivity, and the view; Boise's iconic images of our urban landscape. And therefore in the lobby, we felt it was important to buy work that we love from Idaho artists. We didn't buy the art to decorate, we bought the art because we love it, and we have a great deal of respect for the body of work those artists have produced. It's a public area and it's a really wonderful room to display art. It's a fantastic gallery, and we wanted to use it as such.

BCAC Public Arts Specialist, Joshua Olson

Boise Weekly: What's been happening in the arts in Boise during the past year.

Joshua Olson: We've had a lot of smaller budget projects with Parks and Rec, hiring local artists on contract to produce works of art that can be engaged in a park setting. Those are ranging from murals at skate parks to seating areas. We even have a seating rest area to watch the fire department training exercises at Riverside Park. We've had "Art in Transit" projects where we've created a new bus wrap, designed by Boise artist Jason Sievers. He's also designed a series of three posters that have been installed in the transit stops along Main and Idaho.

Along with that, we've had a "Poetry in Motion" project. We had a contest with the Cabin (formerly the Log Cabin Literary Center). Poets entered a contest to have their work displayed on city buses, so now as you're riding on the bus, you're able to read poetry.

We've got the groundbreaking and construction started at the Boise West Water Treatment Facility; we've got local artists involved with that. We also have a new youth arts advisory committee, getting local high school students involved in a process level through involvement and community service learning. We had our first meeting last night, I'm really excited about that.

mayor, Dave Bieter

Boise Weekly: What is the current state of public art in Boise?

Dave Bieter: I would say it's active and healthy, but it needs attention, I think. Especially from the city. We need to be more engaged and more helpful to helping the existing groups prosper and to grow new possibilities. But I think we're blessed in many ways. The interesting dynamic that I think I've become more aware of since becoming the mayor, we are the most remote city of our size in the United States. And that remoteness has been good to us in a way, and in the arts in particular, because you can't drive two hours to a city of 150,000 and drive to an arts community or an area that they've got arts programs, so it's required us to build them in Boise. That's why, for our size, I think we have a broader and better arts community and arts programs. But I think some of what's taken us to this point is changing pretty traumatically. The older corporations that have been real helpful on the funding end are changing, so that's a challenge I think we need to be aware of, and we're becoming a bigger city in area. I think there's a lot of good news in the arts community and a good place to build from where we are to an even better place.

What would you like to see happen in public arts here?

We have, in the processes, to make a full department of arts and history or arts and heritage. That's never been the case in the past. It's mostly a structural thing, but I think it's an important step because we've said in the strategic plan a couple years ago, the mayoral council identified arts as central to what we do as a city. One of our primary roles is to focus on that and to bring it into the city, into our functioning at a fundamental level. We really meant it when we said that in the strategic plan.

Tell me about the Mayoral Arts Awards.

We give the award every other year, and normally, it's excellence in the arts, excellence in arts education and individual support of the arts and business support of the arts, and finally business integration of the arts. Those are generally our categories, although sometimes they change. Sometimes we've chosen to recognize individuals who don't fit into those categories. We're doing a little different type of program this year. We're going to make it a dinner and we're going to make it a bit more of an arts function [with] musicians and dancers and a performance that will be free to the public. It's exciting from all angles to me. I think the award winners are an amazing group, as they usually are.

What is your favorite piece of public art in Boise?

That's a good question, a hard one though. It's hard to pick just one favorite. One of my favorites is right on City Hall. I walk by it every day. It's the collage of the post cards. I think it's really well done. I usually go in that door and I walk right by it, and I always find something different in it. There's a number that are really good and it's hard to name just one, but I'll go with that one.

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