Push for Inclusive Art after Confederate Fountain’s Removal

Ron Waterman of Helena is currently in the process of funding what he calls "The Equity Fountain Project"

By THOMAS PLANK, Independent Record

HELENA — When Helena’s controversial Confederate fountain was removed from Hill Park last summer, there were no plans to install a new monument in its place. A Helena resident is hoping to change that.

Ron Waterman is currently in the process of funding what he calls “The Equity Fountain Project.”

“After the fountain was taken out, I thought it was time for the community to refocus itself,” Waterman said.

A Helena city crew removed the Confederate fountain on Aug. 18. City officials deemed the memorial a safety hazard after one person was killed and others were injured during protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was being removed.

Waterman sees a new fountain as a chance to bring forward the characteristics valued in the Helena community, like compassion and equality. He has been involved with architects and artists in Helena and recently wrote an open letter calling for designs for the new fountain.

The Equity Fountain Project is currently looking for artists qualified to do the project. Waterman and a committee of artists and architects will vet qualifications and then choose three artists to complete designs for the fountain by a deadline of Sept. 15.

Currently, the fountain design is required to follow criteria that matches the natural feeling of Hill Park. The goal is to incorporate water, use light if it is incorporated into the design, and focus on the tactility of the materials.

“Any design should be capable of full inclusiveness; for example, any inscriptions which are included in the design should be flexible enough to allow transcription into native languages,” Waterman’s open letter to the art community reads.

Waterman wants to include Native Americans in the project as well. The Equity Fountain is intended to “transcend cultural barriers to some degree,” Waterman said, and specifically including Native American input and language is one way he believes the new fountain can do that.

Currently, Waterman is working on finding funding and a design for the project. He has had several meetings with the Helena Public Arts Council and received input from the Parks and Recreation Department, but he will need the Helena City Commission’s blessing before he can bring the project to fruition.

“It’s a unique development to attract individuals who want to be involved, because now is the time to stand up for the characteristics” of decency and Helena’s better values, Waterman said.

The whole idea centers on looking to Helena’s future instead of the past, he said.

“I love Helena,” Waterman said. “The town did the right thing to remove the old fountain. Now we need something in its place to talk about and celebrate our values.”

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