Boise City Council Votes to Remove Damaged 'Infernum Bestiae' Mosaic 

click to enlarge HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
When City of Boise Department of Arts & History Outreach and Education Coordinator Jennifer Yribar spoke about the recent decision to remove the colorful mosaic adorning the Boise Depot roundabout, her sadness was audible.

"The [Boise City Council] vote was unanimous," said Yribar, "However, it was made with a heavy heart. We as a staff and a department feel very sad to be losing this well-loved artwork. It's part of the neighborhood's fabric and part of our public art collection, and we certainly don't want to see it going. But at this point in time it's beyond a reasonable maintenance solution, and really, the site is not suitable for further investment with public money."

click to enlarge COURTESY BOISE CITY DEPARTMENT OF ARTS & HISTORY / REHAM AARTI & ANNA WEBB (2014)
  • Courtesy Boise City Department of Arts & History / Reham Aarti & Anna Webb (2014)
The large art piece, dubbed "Infernum Bestiae,” is the work of artists Reham Aarti and Anna Webb and has been part of the city's public art collection since a $20,000 Neighborhood Reinvestment grant enabled its construction in 2014. Contrary to its name, there are no hell beasts to be found in the design, which is a cheerful depiction of houses and trees centered by a stylized compass rose.

On July 24, the Boise City Council voted unanimously to remove the art piece, following repeated restorations and a request from Arts & History. The department cited deterioration from fluctuating temperatures and extreme winter weather, as well as damage caused by construction and emergency vehicles driving over the artwork. ''Inadequate materials" were also blamed for the missing and damaged tiles.

click to enlarge COURTESY BOISE CITY DEPARTMENT OF ARTS & HISTORY / REHAM AARTI & ANNA WEBB (2014)
  • Courtesy Boise City Department of Arts & History / Reham Aarti & Anna Webb (2014)
The piece consisted of over 300,000 hand-laid tiles and took the artists eight weeks to create, and the decision to remove it wasn't easy. To smooth the transition, Yribar said her department is working with the artists to give them the opportunity to salvage pieces of the mosaic. And though she couldn't speak to whether a new piece of art will eventually go up at the Boise Depot site, Yribar said she is certain there won't be a new mosaic there.

"The neighborhood wanted the artwork and worked with the city to supply the artists ... So we funded the artwork, but I think in hindsight it was probably not the right artwork for the right site," she said. "So I'd say there are some lessons learned from that experience that we'll be taking into the future."

To fill what will be an aesthetic gap in the neighborhood, a new art piece is slated for Vista Avenue near the train trestle overpass. Calls to artists will go out this fall. 
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