The Art of Getting It Right 

Blue ribbon panel does a 180-degree turn, dumps proposed artworks for Boise City Hall

Boise Globe, designed by Volkan Alkanoglu of Atlanta, Ga., was one of three finalists that were ultimately nixed.

Volkan Alkanoglu Design LLC

Boise Globe, designed by Volkan Alkanoglu of Atlanta, Ga., was one of three finalists that were ultimately nixed.

Art isn't easy. So wrote Stephen Sondheim in "Putting it Together," an artist's lament of trying to please critics and financial supporters. And true to form, a blue ribbon panel has now changed its mind about funding any of the finalists that it once thought would be appropriate to adorn the plaza of Boise City Hall.

"We decided, unanimously, that none of these should be built," Dana Zuckerman, interim executive director of the Capital City Development Corporation, told a stunned CCDC commission June 10.

The announcement was a 180-degree reversal from what some had already considered an exhaustive process: The city launched a nationwide competition to design and construct one of the city's highest profile art projects, with a price tag of $200,000. Fifty-four artists applied, including five Idaho artists.

But the Gem State artists were immediately eliminated, because the panel issued an RFQ versus a RFP. Simply put, the panel was more interested in the qualifications (as in request for qualifications) instead of the proposed artwork (as in request for proposal). In March, the city's Department of Arts and History argued that it had good reason to eliminate the Idahoans, because "none of them had done projects over $50,000," Karen Bubb, the city's public art manager, said at the time.

The panel culled the entries down to three finalists (from Georgia, Texas and Wisconsin) and put the proposals on display in the lobby of City Hall for public comments.

The feedback, on the city of Boise's own website, was stinging:

"Our Boise representatives failed miserably on our behalf."

"Please start over."

"I have to wonder if any members of the selection panel are even originally from Idaho."

Zuckerman said the panel would start over and change the rules.

"None of these finalists represent Boise," she said. "We're going to put out a request for actual proposals, not qualifications, and we hope this will be helpful. It would be great to have someone representing our area."

CCDC has a direct interest in getting it right. The urban renewal agency fronted $100,000 for the project, matched by another $100,000 from the city of Boise.

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