| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Development News

Second artist-designed drinking fountain starts flowing

The place-names Minnesota and Minneapolis share a common source: mni, from the Dakota language, meaning water.

But leaders of the City of Lakes and the Land of Sky-blue Waters have butted heads over a Minneapolis public-art project intended to celebrate that common water heritage--demonstrating that water can divide as well as unite.

It began in 2007 when the Minneapolis City Council budgeted a half-million dollars to commission 10 drinking fountains designed by local artists to be installed in public places around Minneapolis.

The expenditure of $50,000 per fountain drew criticism, most notably from Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Although bonds, not state aid, were to pay for the fountains, the project got caught up in the raging debate over state cuts to funding for local governments.

It's an argument recently revived by Tom Emmer, GOP candidate for governor, who criticized St. Paul's privately funded sidewalk poetry program as a waste of government money.

Early this year, the Minneapolis City Council scaled back the number of fountains to four. Now, after a dedication ceremony last Saturday, water is flowing at the first two fountains. "3 Forms," a fountain by Gita Ghei, Sara Hanson, and JanLouise Kusske (with help from South High School students) draws inspiration from geology formations and fossils in a classical fountain design.  

Last fall, the first fountain, "Water of the Doodem Spirits" by St. Paul sculptor Peter Morales, was installed to less fanfare on Franklin Avenue. Morales says he enjoys watching people drink under the gaze of Raven, who is perched above Turtle and Fish in a sculptural treatment drawing on Ojibwe origin stories. There is no sign to explain the fountain's meaning, but stopping for a drink can sometimes elicit interpretations from other passers-by.

"There's a wide swath of society that goes by there," Morales says. "People took to it right away."

Source: Peter Morales, Balam Studios
Writer: Chris Steller

Signup for Email Alerts
Signup for Email Alerts