Bridging the Source: Public Art and Payette Lake
The City of McCall, the McCall Arts and Humanities Council, and the Idaho Transportation Department partnered with Madacsi Studios to commission public artwork for the Lardo Bridge, which spans the outlet of beautiful Payette Lake. A gateway to the community core and adjacent to one of the city’s scenic lakefront public parks, the Idaho state highway bridge was originally built in 1931 and replaced in 2015, designed and engineered specifically to accommodate public art. This project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town program, and so from the onset of this project we worked closely with the City to engage the McCall community in the design process. Through public outreach—workshops for students, public educational presentations and online surveys, we facilitated a collaborative approach to infusing an expression of the community’s relationship with Payette Lake into the artwork. We fabricated two steel and glass prototypes for public display, and the community was invited to participate in the artwork selection and design process, making comments and recommendations, giving a collective direction to the City’s final selection.
Public art infuses communal spaces with unexpected connections—creating memorable moments, a sense of place. Inviting the public to be involved the design processes was the best way to take the pulse of the community. We held educational meetings where we gave presentations showing examples of other ways that artists have designed art for bridges, and expressing the importance of art in public spaces. We hosted workshops for local students. They had the opportunity to participate in small blacksmithing projects where they tried out their metal working skills. We also gave them line drawings of the bridge so that they could create sketches to share their own ideas about what artwork for Lardo Bridge should illustrate. We spend a considerable amount of time with the community, but also a great deal of time on our own, researching the history of McCall and Payette Lake and witnessing the area’s wildlife, plant life, and human activities through the changing of the seasons. We hoped to create a piece that reflected a quality of life and individual values. Advocating environmental stewardship; an artwork inspired by Payette Lake’s role in the community—its source of drinking water, core of tourism economy, and touchstone of ecological health. Fish, water, and nature were common threads thorough the conversations that we had and the feedback we gathered.
We took all that we had learned from spending time in this community—about who the people are, and what they value about where they live—back to our shop and we created a custom a design of forged steel and glass that represents each of the four seasons; their colors illuminated in glass and their elements forged in steel. The four sculptures were crated in our shop and shipped to McCall, where we worked with the extraordinary Parks & Recreation Department to install the artwork on Lardo Bridge. Designed to withstand outdoor conditions with minimal maintenance, these four sculptures are comprised of 1.25-inch glass encased in powder coated 2-inch steel frames. Seasons was installed in September, 2019.
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