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By the People, For the People



When artists applied for the Boise Weekly public art opportunity, they thought that if selected as finalists, they would be designing funky benches and a bike rack. With the gift of standard issue benches and a bike rack courtesy of Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC), selected artists instead were given the opportunity to design a sculpture free of functional constraints. We asked each of the four finalists to propose a work of art uniquely their own. They delivered. The range of content, style and material used in the proposed projects is impressive.

The selection panel--made up of representatives from Boise Weekly, CCDC and the neighborhood--had the difficult job of deciding among the projects. At the selection meeting, each finalist presented his or her own work to the panel. With professionalism and passion, the artists explained project concepts, material choices, durability, site appropriateness and the contribution their work would make to Boise's public space. The receptive jurors were ready to install every work after each successive presentation.

Selection criteria were aesthetic quality, maintainability, vandalism resistance and appropriateness to the site. Even with clearly defined criteria, a selection panel process is always subjective and dependent on the dynamic between the players at the table. Questions came up during presentations regarding how projects would hold up under the duress of human intervention, bad weather and misdirected cars. The panel examined digitally manipulated pictures displaying the artworks in optional sites in the landscaped sidewalks. Members discussed notions of what constituted beauty or inspired one to think. Each panel member represented particular interests and interpreted the artist proposals from their perspective in regards to his or her experience and aesthetic background.

All four projects met high artistic and professional standards, albeit with distinctly different approaches. The disappointment in competitive situations is that only one project can be funded. Each project reaches a different audience, as evidenced by the variety of public comments and the animated panel discussion. In the end, any of the four could have been selected to add value and interest to the streetscape.

That said, Michael Cordell's rose to the top for a number of reasons. Most obviously, his professionalism, craftsmanship and painstaking attention to detail were impossible to dismiss. Some public comments echoed sentiments expressed by the panel:

"It is contemporary in look but also has a very grounding and rhythmic quality to it. The older the piece becomes, the more beautiful it will be. I believe it is a work of great skill and craftsmanship that will be appreciated by future generations."

"Michael Cordell's piece seems to be a true sculpture that captures the essence of a piece dedicated to nature trapped in an industrial world."

"Cordell's piece is completely in tune with the site, yet is unique enough to attract attention to its creativity ... positioned on 6th Street, it will be seen by drivers as well as pedestrians. The materials are beautiful yet sturdy."

This will be Cordell's first permanent public artwork in Boise. On behalf of the selection panel, I extend my congratulations to him and to all the fine artists who participated in the process. I continue to be excited by the talent, dedication and ingenuity exhibited by Idaho artists.

--Karen Bubb, project facilitator/public arts manager

Boise City Arts Commission

Winning Sculpture


A tight cluster of tall, skinny aluminum-, copper- and stainless-steel- clad verticals are mixed with forged steel, tapered uprights to form a vaguely plant-like array. It will range from 8 to 16 feet tall over a footprint of approximately 2.5 feet square. The copper components are painted and sealed to reveal deep blues and greens. The aluminum and stainless steel parts are largely their original colors but will change with the character of the prevalent lighting conditions. The copper pieces will provide a visual anchor and some color against the monochromatic backdrop of the building. This sculpture has a dedicated poured-in-place concrete and steel foundation that is designed to accept electrical up-lighting while providing an anchoring mass.

These forms are extensions of images both from my childhood and my recent experience. I seem to have always been aware of bare trees and bushes. To this day, I remember kicking my way through piles of leaves on Manitou Street as I walked home from little league football practice at Boise Junior College. Even then, I was impressed by the visual qualities of the hedges, trees and bushes in wintry silhouette. In my contemporary life, I routinely watch the functioning of microscopic retinal blood vessels as they mirror the shapes and patterns of the plant forms I so highly regarded as a child. The organic elements inform how I see metal going in my hands.

For the past two or three years, I have experimented with the actions of flat stainless steel and other products under the pressure of the hydraulic press. This sculpture is a highly personal involvement with these materials and working techniques that I feel will enthusiastically meet the goals of this project: to enliven the location; to contribute to it becoming a "creative area;" to be contemporary and progressive; to help promote walking in the neighborhood; to exhibit durability, holding up to the weather and the kids.

I feel strongly that this work will positively impact others and that it will draw attention to Boise Weekly's interest in promoting local culture.

--Michael Cordell


This publication has developed a distinct personality: it is contemporary, off-beat and humorous, but the undercurrent is one of deep and genuine concern for the entire community. This is why I feel that the work I'm proposing, entitled Plumbing, would be a very good fit for the location.

Plumbing would be a cast bronze sculpture, free-standing at 76 inches tall. You can see that it is a lavatory, with a working faucet and drain that is fed by funnels intended to collect water from precipitation. The drain becomes a representation of a human stomach. This illustrates how we are immersed in and integral to our environment. The work also references the hydrologic cycle by letting the water go full circle. Beginning with rain or snow collected in the funnels, it goes through the entire sculpture and returns to the earth out a drain beneath the installation. The installation is intended to inspire humor, but beneath this immediate impression is a genuine concern for our community and our environment.

Referencing the hydrologic cycle reminds the viewer that all living things are connected through the water we share. This great cycle includes water in bodies moving or still, from mud puddles to oceans and trickles to rivers. It includes evaporation, irrigation, transpiration (how plants lose water to the air) and perspiration. It includes the ice caps, all the water in the air, the science and mystery of rainbows, clouds, mist and fog. Driven by the energy of the sun, it is primarily responsible for all weather. This cycle sustains us: A human can go weeks without food, but it is rare for someone to survive more than three or four days without water.

--Matthew Laurence

The Sentinel

At first glance, this sculpture of a tree form rooted in the landscape bed in front of Boise Weekly seems like just one of the trees, with leaves blowing in the wind. Upon second look, the viewer realizes that the core form resembles a woman with a crystallized skin of glass, ceramic tiles, magical marbles and metallic fragments. This street sentry is grounded in the earth with arms and hair extending up and out to form branches. The work symbolizes growth and creativity. Metal leaves hanging off the branches rustle in the wind, providing a "wind- chime" effect. This is a piece born of my imagination and created through the collaborative work of local artisans and community members. I believe this project will be an appropriate accent to the Boise Weekly building, a visual interpretation of the complexity and diversity that underlies the voice of the newspaper, rooted in the community, made up of the sights, colors, and mixture of the area and its people, while maintaining its own voice and integrity ... with a little bit of attitude just for fun.

--Reham Aarti Jacobson

A body to improve the method of time

My proposal is to transform my 11x14-inch drawing based on a taxidermy bird, which appeared on the cover of Boise Weekly in June 2006, into a 6x5x3-foot sculpture. The bird would then be mounted on a 3-foot raw, brown cement pedestal. Expanding the drawing into a permanent public work will bring a Boise Weekly cover to life. Erecting the sculpture will implant an enduring Boise Weekly artifact into the neighborhood, a constant reminder of Boise Weekly's relentless support of the arts. Whatever happens to the character of the neighborhood in the future, the sculpture will retain some of the diversity the Boise Weekly brings to the neighborhood.

The bird will be human-sized, made even taller with a 3-foot pedestal. This size will confront the pedestrian with a Jurassic dinosaur-sized bird. It will also allow for easy viewing from passing cars. The great bird will be a sentinel creature, ever watchful and protective of Boise Weekly. The City of Trees will have a bird as unique as its character. My taxidermy form is not based on any one bird in particular. It is a fictional bird, with foam and plastic organs. A not-quite-natural, yet very beautiful new creature born of man-made materials. A phoenix rising from the ashes of Boise's old downtown, mirroring the renewed energy and spirit of the revitalized area. It will be a testament to the old neighborhood, mirroring the colors and the eclectic feel of the houses that will soon be torn down.

--Kelly Packer


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