Repairing Boise's 'Layer Cake' 

City officials have since teamed up with CCDC and hotel owners to share the cost. Boise is spending $110,000 and the other partners are each paying $35,000.

A river runs through it: Boise's "river sculpture'"is getting a major facelift.

Kelsey Hawes

A river runs through it: Boise's "river sculpture'"is getting a major facelift.

It is, quite possibly, the highest profile piece of public art in Idaho. It is also, almost certainly, the most broken. Approximately 30,000 motorists pass by"The River Sculpture" each day, at the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Front Street, but the river hasn't misted, or lit up, or anything else, since 2009.

"It's a bit like leaving your car outside and never moving it; sun, heat, wind, snow, rain take their toll," said Terri Schorzman, director of the Boise City Department of Arts and History. "That kind of punishment usually gives you about six years before you need serious maintenance. We pushed it to 14."

Commissioned in 1999, the sculpture was designed by artist Alison Sky, and paid for by the Capital City Development Corporation and the group that operates the Grove Hotel.

When it worked, clouds of mist floated among iridescent bubbles through a granite design of the Boise River. But problems began flowing as swift as the river itself: water damage to the opposite wall of the sculpture; damage to blue background panels; mineral deposits from a water-based fog system; an inappropriate sidewalk drainage system. By 2013, the city had a difficult decision: fix it at considerable cost or rip it out.

City officials have since teamed up with CCDC and hotel owners to share the cost. Boise is spending $110,000 and the other partners are each paying $35,000.

"It's a complicated renovation," said Schorzman. "It's rather amazing how it's coming together."

"Together" is the operative word for the city's most unique jigsaw puzzle.

"The way it was originally built was like a layer cake on its side," said Josh Olson, the city's Cultural Asset Program manager.

One of those layers includes huge slabs of granite from a very particular quarry in Finland.

"But Trout Architects were able to find some slabs at locations here in the U.S.," said Olson. "It's pretty amazing."

Best case scenario: The project could be complete by year's end, with new LED lights to celebrate the New Year. The misting may need to wait until things thaw a bit.

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