Guest Post: Art and Education Combine to Take Geothermal Energy to the Next Dimension in Idaho

by Cindy Busche, WaterShed Education Program Manager and a Project WET Coordinator in Southwest Idaho

Idaho's Project WET, WILD and Learning Tree coordinators on Joe Hill's anamorphic illusion painting at the Boise WaterShed Education CenterIdaho's Project WILD, Project Learning Tree and Project WET coordinators on Joe Hill's anamorphic illusion painting at the Boise WaterShed Education Center Did you know that the Idaho State Capitol building is the only capitol in the country that’s heated with geothermal water? Did you know that Boise has the largest and oldest direct-use geothermal system in the country?

A new geothermal exhibit is in progress at the Boise WaterShed Education Center to showcase this important resource. Part of the exhibit is a 3-D painting that depicts the deep, hot source of our geothermal supply as a "dangerous" cutaway in the floor. Joe Hill, London-based artist, visited Boise in fall 2017 to install a unique painting as part of the new exhibit. Joe is known the world over for creating giant, anamorphic illusions: unexceptional walls, walkways and even ceilings that suddenly open up to reveal hidden rooms or gaping crevasses. The spectator can step into the painting, appearing to other viewers as if interacting with the scene.

Visitors to the Boise WaterShed Education Center can see Joe's painting on the floor and walls and teeter on the edge of the gaping abyss to share the “energy” of this important resource. Additional exhibit elements include historic geothermal pipes, a timeline and a photo kiosk.

Secondary students can participate in a hands-on lesson in which Project WET activities and an aquifer model are used to teach about groundwater and geothermal energy. Students walk away with an understanding of the heat beneath their feet and the potential around the world to tap into geothermal energy.

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