The design for a fountain that will be offered as a gift to replace the former Confederate memorial in Hill Park was presented to Helena's city commission Monday.
Ron Waterman of the Equity Fountain Project presented the design, which was selected from four designs that were displayed at the Holter Museum of Art for a three-week period in late September and early October. The public had an opportunity to vote on the designs at the display.
The design presented Monday night by Waterman, titled “Sphere of Interconnectedness” in a handout to commissioners, features a millstone topped by a sphere of stainless steel strips. Words adorn the edge of the millstone, some of which, according to interim city manager Dennis Taylor, will be spelled in foreign and Native languages.
“The words serve as a reminder that we as individuals and as a society — interconnected like the sphere — must be steadfast like a turning millstone in ensuring that ‘the arc of the moral universe’ (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) is guided by the ideals of equality, diversity, respect, generosity, compassion, tolerance, peace, and justice,” the handout read.
Of the approximately 250 votes on the four designs, more than 100 were cast for the winning fountain, according to Taylor. Artists James Dinh and Michael Stutz will collaborate on the piece, currently slated for installation in July.
Taylor said commissioners are “generally encouraged” by the design, but want to be sure there is proper input from the Helena Public Art Council and an “inclusive process” to select the words on the millstone before accepting it at a later date.
Waterman and his group have received $70,000 of the more than $100,000 in pledges requested to install the fountain. According to Taylor, 75 percent of that amount is slated for the piece’s design and manufacture, and 25 percent is for maintenance following the installation. Pledges for Waterman’s piece can be made through the Montana Community Foundation, which, Taylor said, makes them eligible for tax deduction.
“This was designed to be about the future, not the past,” Taylor said of the new design, “and represent our core values of the city going forward so that maybe we could stop arguing about the Daughters of the Confederacy or what was the history of our country around Confederate monuments and soldiers.
“We’ve had that for a couple years, it’s a national issue,” Taylor continued. “It surfaced right after Charlottesville. So maybe we could move on and talk about where we are now and where we want to go. And that’s what this art feature is designed to facilitate.”