Boise Art

Airport Teepee - Have a Pow Wow While You Wait

Chamber of Commerce Description

This remarkable 26-foot teepee-shaped cauldron was the centerpiece of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Special Olympic Winter Games held in Boise in February 2009. Each teepee leg has a series of hand-polished steel spheres on it, with each ball displaying the name of one of the 95 countries that participated in the games. The bright colors integrated into the cauldron and the simulated eternal flame at the top represent the hope and the energy that the games and the Special Olympics continue to bring to so many people across the world.

The cauldron was moved to its current location outside the west end of the Boise Airport terminal in November 2009. It was created by the area's celebrated woman of steel, Irene Deely. According to Deely, the piece needed a few modifications to prepare it for its permanent home. The steel balls replaced glass globes, and the simulated eternal flame at the top was created to mimic the real flame that burned during the games.

My Description

Here's the good: this is a cool piece of art that served a very noble purpose. Here's the bad: its permanent home is outside the airport terminal? I visit the airport semi-regularly, and I have to say that if I hadn't gotten bored lately waiting for my ugly wife to pick me up outside the baggage claim, I never would've known the airport teepee was a mere forty feet from me. Part of the problem is that it's slightly hidden around the corner of the terminal building and just out of the reach of the elevated roadway, and no one really has a reason to go in the vicinity unless they're going to get their rental car or returning it. Don't get me wrong; this piece of art is quite large. But the location does its best to shuffle it away out of view.

If you're lucky enough to find the airport teepee, you can try to view it and contemplate its greater meaning. Yes, try. Normally we put our art in parks, plazas, or galleries, where the soft sounds of nature, the tree-lined sidewalks, or muted silence create a pleasant atmosphere for contemplation. In this case, try getting into the artist's vision and visiting your happy place whilst enveloped by the din of jet engines and the lovely aroma of airplane diesel fumes. How soothing. And if it's a slow period on the tarmac, I'm sure the clickity-clack and thump-thump of wheeled suitcases on the sidewalk cracks will fill the void.

I hope the city doesn't keep using the airport grounds as an art dump. The current art inside the airport, such as the Middle of Nowhere Map, is acceptable and fits the traveling theme. It's a brief, easily comprehensible diversion on the way to the plane. The art outside the airport terminal, however, is inconvenient to view and as a result is not being used to its potential. No Boise resident wants to drive to the airport and leave the car in short-term parking just to view their public art. That would be silly. Moreover, no one returning from a trip wants to dally and give it the attention it deserves; they just want to leave and go home. As a result, most of the Boise population will never see the airport teepee, and that's a shame, because it really is a well-done and highly symbolic piece of art.


Boise-the-Great Name: Airport Teepee
Real Name: Special Olympics Cauldron
Type: Metalwork
Designer: Rene Lagler
Artist: Irene Deely
Completed: 2009
Where: Boise Air Terminal

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