306,000 tiles make public art come to life at Boise Depot

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by Bonnie Shelton

WHAS11.com

Posted on November 15, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 15 at 12:13 PM

BOISE -- Two Boise mosaic artists have taken on quite the project. They're laying down thousands of pieces of colorful tile in the middle of a roundabout near the city's historic depot.

"This one actually found us," said Reham Aarti, of the massive project.

She and Anna Webb have been working on the public piece of art since September. It spans 530-square-feet. While the two artists have been friends for 10 years, this is the first time they've worked on a project together.

"It's the same process that you would use to tile your bathroom or your kitchen back splash, only really pretty," said Webb.

The two are hand cutting, gluing, and grouting the masterpiece.

"Lovingly touched by the artists," added Webb.

HOW IT WAS DESIGNED

The Depot Bench Neighborhood Association approached the artists with the idea this summer, although the public art component has been in the works for years. The concrete was poured on September 20th.

"We've been working as many hours as humanly possible since then," said Webb.

The neighborhood association commissioned the project for $20,000. It was also approved by the City of Boise.

"We're at the Depot so, they wanted very specific train imagery so at the very center of the mosaic is a sunburst made of rail spikes," said Aarti. "This area was an orchard... so four seasons all done with trees."

The artists chose eye-popping colors to contrast with the pavement.

"Reham and I really like greens, blues, chartreuse, purples," said Webb.

But the colorful, industrial-grade tiles also play another role.

"There was a need for someone to address traffic calming," said Jack Cortabitarte, member of the Depot Bench Neighborhood Association.

ART HAS FUNCTIONAL USE

He added that 2,000 cars use Crescent Rim Drive, where the round about is located, every day to cross the city. The traffic circle was put in place to slow down drivers, but people who live in the area also wanted the project to reflect the area's natural beauty.

"What if we add in an element of art because we have so much history up here with the Depot," said Cortabitarte. "We wanted to do something that would enhance the area, the neighborhood and the city."

After months of hard work the mosaic is finally starting to take shape.

"Once a week we stand on the cab of my husband's truck, like right here, and look down and take pictures," said Aarti.

Seeing their art from the sky is even more motivation for the two artists to get the piece finished, especially before winter weather hits.

Both artists told us the project, while demanding, has allowed them to work on their friendship. After all, they've been working together day in and day out, from sun up to sun down for months.

"Having a partner actually makes this so much nicer," said Aarti.

The artists hope to have the huge project finished by Thanksgiving.

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