HELENA – A concrete foundation in Helena’s Hill Park still sits empty, almost eight months after city leaders removed the 100-year-old Confederate Memorial Fountain. Now, some community members see potential in that open space.
“It seemed to me when the old fountain was removed that it was a prime opportunity to rethink what should be here in Hill Park, re-evaluate what it should express for where we are today,” said Ron Waterman.
Waterman is now leading a group called the Equity Fountain Project. They are now working to bring a new piece of public art to the park.
“I gathered a group of artists and architects and others with me, to go through the process of trying to determine how to build a new fountain here, to celebrate the values that I think Helena holds dear: those of equity and equality, diversity, tolerance, service, peace and justice,” Waterman said.
The Equity Fountain Project is currently looking for a designer. Waterman said 34 artists from across the country have expressed interest in the project. His committee will choose three finalists by June 1. Each of those finalists will then receive create a potential design.
“We expect to see that design sometime in early summer, and then evaluate those designs and make a selection from those designs,” said Waterman.
The project leaders aren’t limiting the designs, but Waterman said they do want the new piece to include moving water.
“The old fountain had been a joy for children and small dogs,” he said. “People find the sound of moving water reassuring.”
The goal is to have a new piece ready for installation by the summer of 2019. Helena city leaders will have the final decision on whether to accept the piece.
The project will be completely financed through private donations. Waterman said his goal is to raise $100,000 – $75,000 for the initial construction, and the rest to pay for future maintenance needs, so those costs will not fall on the city. He said a public fundraising campaign will begin in the coming months.
“It was an opportunity to do another gift to the future citizens of Helena, to express what our values are,” he said.
The original fountain was donated to the city in 1916 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It includes an inscription saying, “A loving tribute to our Confederate soldiers.”
Amy Teegarden, Helena’s parks and recreation director, said the Confederate Fountain is currently in storage, until the city commission determines what should be done with it.
Teegarden said the city is not directly involved with the Equity Fountain Project, but they have given the project leaders some guidelines. She said city officials will offer feedback on how the eventual designs fit with the city’s plans and requirements.
“We’re excited about what they could produce,” Teegarden said.