Locations of artist-designed drinking fountains unveiled

Minneapolis’ ode to water — 10 artist-designed water fountains — has its official locations.

At an event this morning featuring a water-focused performance from In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre and a view overlooking St. Anthony Falls, Mayor R.T. Rybak unveiled plans for the 10 sculptures.

Sites include Uptown, Nicollet Mall, outside the Guthrie Theater and 2nd & Marquette avenues.

Each will be constructed for about $50,000, with money coming from an arts-dedicated portion of the city’s budget and from the city’s water fund. Continued upkeep will not be covered by the city, but by sponsors such as nonprofit Great Neighborhoods!, the Ackerberg Group and the Guthrie Theater.

Sandy Spieler, artistic director of In the Heart of the Beast, has been closely involved with the project since its inception. The world — and now the county — is seeing an increase in water crises, Spieler said, and she wanted to make Minneapolitans more aware of how lucky they are to live alongside the Mississippi River.

“I asked, how can we enter into conversation about this great, great crisis with joy and reverence for water?” Spieler said.

Each of the project’s representatives and sponsors this morning spoke of it as an integral way for Minneapolis to emphasize its roots as a city born from water. But to critics, it’s being seen as excessively expensive. An outcry over the blogosphere led Rybak to come to the project’s defense in an editorial in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“This will not be the least controversial idea I came up with,” he said at the event.

Regardless of any controversy, the artists involved are excited.

“For me, this is a pretty big step for my career,” said Andrew MacGuffie, whose bowed arrow design will be constructed alongside the Mozaic project in Uptown.

MacGuffie said it all came together very fast. He applied only months ago; finalists were announced in May. Now he’ll be the creator of a $50,000 public sculpture.

“It was a happy accident,” he said.

He acknowledged the bizarreness of the project, to design a sculpture with a water fountain in mind. But it was a challenge he said he happily welcomed, despite the difficulty of making it handicap-accessible.

“I think [the project] is a step in the right direction, to appreciate where we came from,” MacGuffie said.

His water fountain is expected to be up and running next fall. Mary Altman, the city’s public art coordinator, said each of the other fountains will be available for use at different times, depending on when and where they’ll be constructed.

The mayor concluded the event by saying this may not be the last project of its kind.

“This is a wonderful start,” Rybak said, “but it should be just a start.”