On First Thursday, a visit to Classic Design Studio provides a glance at a public art project that incorporates the past and present, and by nature of its location, the future of Boise's police and fire departments. By the May 11 grand opening, the project that the multi-faceted studio created should be in place at the new City Hall West, where Boise's police and fire departments will be headquartered.
The call to artists for this project was put out by what was then the Boise City Arts Commission—now the Boise City Department of Art and History—about a year and a half ago and only two companies put forth proposals: Classic Design Studio and a designer from out of state whose proposal was a little too conceptual for the design review board—as was Classic Design's—which included members of the police and fire departments, people known for being literal thinkers. "They didn't love it," said Noel Weber Jr., who has worked with his parents at Classic Design since his earliest memories.
Taking a more pragmatic approach, Classic Design decided a historical depiction of firefighters and police personnel would probably be better suited to the new building.
"We had to invent as we went along what the whole project was going to be," Weber said. He spent two weeks collecting source material from the Idaho State Historical Society including images of former police and fire chiefs, old official vehicles, badges, shields and even work horses. They used these iconic images and faces to create concrete relief murals, concrete bollards—huge concrete balls—as well as cast glass sconces and some enamel work that will sit outside of the new building.
The processes involved in creating all of the elements of the project incorporate computerized high-technology as well as the hands-on work of actual sculpting. The fact that a lot of the work Classic Design does is process-oriented didn't detract from the creativity involved in the project.
"The whole process of this project has been interesting and creative and challenging," Weber said. "This was new and different and employed a lot of different processes we'd done before but in different ways ... We've done a lot of casting and a lot of sculpting, but we haven't done large 3-D relief murals. It's been a combination of skills."
That's one of the most interesting things about Classic Design, Weber said. The studio has so many different facilities within it, which allows for different things and combinations of different things, including metal fabrication, glass casting, casting in concrete, to machining in acrylics. The talents of the Classic Design team members are just as diverse, and were employed in every way from choosing and placing the images along two working frames—the longest of which was 27 feet—in which the murals were created, to machining out forms for the concrete molds, to digitizing the images of the faces and so much more. They brought in artist Bill Hueg to painstakingly sculpt the bas relief images, which include faces, hair, helmets, uniforms, insignia and more. (You can watch a time-lapse video of Hueg working on a fireman at youtube.com, search "Bill Hueg.")
As a whole, the mural, the bollards, the sconces and the images of Boise's history provide a striking piece of public art and one that should be a part of Boise's history for a long time to come.
First Thursday, May 7, 5-8 p.m., Classic Design Studio, 412 S. Sixth St., 208-336-2769, classicdesignstudios.com.