Artists Re-Imagine Whittier Elementary With Public Art

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A group gives a presentation on their ideas for public art during a charette process at Whittier Elementary March 9.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • A group gives a presentation on their ideas for public art at Whittier Elementary March 9.

City planners, artists and residents of Boise's 30th Street neighborhood wielded markers and drawing pads March 9 as part of a community design forum called a "charette."

Whittier Elementary took the focus during the Saturday morning event. Participants broke into four groups at small lunch tables in the gym. Images from architect and artist Stephanie Inman's Cultural Arts Plan, a guide for art projects in the neighborhood, stood on a nearby table.

Each group drew out their plans for a public art installation at the edge of the playground, which runs alongside Ada County Highway District's in-process 30th Street extension project. Large poster-boards spelled out words the group at-large associated with the neighborhood, including "community involvement," "diversity," "identity" and "access." Each group imagined the plans as a means of place-making to integrate the school with the community.

Team D proposed large-scale totems, up to 20-feet high, to replace the existing fence. In between the totems, the group inserted tall grasses as a natural barrier in juxtaposition to the unnatural pillars. Each group provided ways to scale and phase projects for limited budgets.

Artist Byron Folwell's group brainstormed repurposing household materials along the existing chain-link fence.

"We wanted to focus on post-industrial materials," said Folwell. "So we're thinking tin can lids, things like that, attached to the fence to clink in the wind and give a dynamic element."

Folwell said he opted to participate because he grew up nearby on Bannock Street and wanted to contribute to what he called an underserved area. He also said his group's proposal could serve as an introduction to art for Whittier students.

"Those kinds of educational opportunities are not so direct, in-your-face," he said. "They're a way for kids to learn about art, the arts process and installation and application of materials. And recycling."

Markers and large-sized Post-It pads gave groups a chance to get hands-on March 9.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • Markers and large-sized Post-It pads gave groups a chance to get creative.

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