Boise Art

The Birth Canal - Stroll Through and See What Things Were Like in the Beginning

Chamber of Commerce Description

This eye-catching piece of art, located adjacent to Hotel 43, pays tribute to the former significance and character of Grove Street.

At one time early in Boise's existence, prominent local businessmen with funny first names like Lafayette and Cyrus, along with the uber-famous C.W. Moore, built large Victorian-style homes on this street just west of their downtown businesses. They then dug an irrigation ditch and planted some trees, sweet peas, and pumpkins. The result was Xanadu in Boise, although with a lot more hogs roaming around eating everything. Lafayette Cartee was pretty good with a shotgun, however, and kept the pig problem in check. And so life was good on the right side of the tracks in frontier Boise.

Despite its initial resemblance to Eden, these Boise Rockefellers soon abandoned Grove Street for the less-stinky air and warmer water of Warm Springs Avenue, giving businesses such as Chinese laundries and auto dealers free reign to take over the area, press Boise's trousers, and sell Studebakers. Photographs and text on the metal arcs depict this evolution.

The aforementioned irrigation ditch, later dubbed the Boise Canal, still flows through a concrete pipe underneath the exhibit, and its orientation underground is represented by symbolic lettered manhole covers set into the brick underfoot.

For an additional visual treat, view this artwork at night, where the photographs and interpretive texts are backlit, giving the entire work a greenish hue.

My Description

I drove by this art for years and never realized there was anything more to it than some broken metal arcs. From afar, it seemed like a Gateway Arch impersonation that kids could walk through and climb on, so I dubbed it the Birth Canal and left it at that. I suppose one could also call it Whale Ribs or something similar, but Birth Canal still seems about right to me. It is purely coincidence and irony that the word 'canal' is in the actual artist's title, and that a water canal is represented and memorialized by it.

For me, the most interesting fact about this art is that it documents the very first instance of white flight in Boise history. Rich white people set up housekeeping and planted a few willows, but those darn Chinese folks started washing petticoats and cooking rice a little too close for comfort. So what do you do? You move to the suburbs. It's a truly American story. (Oh, and nice spelling error, by the way; the i-before-e thing is overrated.)

And just so Lafayette Cartee can rest easy in his grave, I vow to carry on his tradition and positively kill any hogs that I see rooting around near Grove Street. There's no better Sunday meal than BBQ pulled pork, and free pig is truly a gift from the gods.

Boise-the-Great Name: The Birth Canal
Real Name: Grove Street Illuminated and Boise Canal
Type: Metalwork
Artist: Amy Westover
Completed: 2003
Where: Downtown, corner of 9th and Grove

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