Friday, August 8, 2008

A Fragile Peace

The World Peace Prayer Fountain on the Fayetteville Town Center Plaza is the culmination of sculptor Hank Kaminsky's life work, based on his interpretation of a spiritual vision experienced by Masahisa Goi, who established the World Peace Prayer Society in Japan in 1955. It is ten feet in diameter, weighs 8,000 pounds, took 16 months to complete, and is reported to have cost somewhere between $275,000 and $400,000.

At the dedication of the fountain on New Years Eve, 2001, city leaders said it would stimulate the growth of public art throughout the community. So, in addition to the magnificent peace fountain, Kaminsky told Mike Masterson in 2003 that he was preparing a bronze manhole cover that he plans to give to the city of Fayetteville as a gift. "My work today has to do with the conscious of mind," he said. "If you do this trying to make a buck, you won’t make it." Those words would be prophetic for the public fisc.

Numerous issues have plagued the fountain since it was unveiled six years ago, and frequent setbacks have forced the water to be turned off for months at a time.
It was first deactivated within two months of its dedication, because water splashed onto the town center steps, creating an icy walkway in freezing temperatures and raising issues about public safety and liability. According to a report in the Northwest Arkansas Times, bearings have been replaced to allow the globe to continue revolving, and lights have proved a continual problem. The fountain has been resealed twice, and still problems persist. Pools of water have been spotted on the plaza, leading to suspicion of faulty epoxy or, at worse, a potential plumbing dilemma.

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, which is responsible for maintaining the troubled fountain, received an update in June 2006 on the status of the fountain from Executive Director Marilyn Heifner, who said, "At this time we’re unable to locate the cause of the leak." Finally, in August 2007, they determined that a broken auto-fill valve led the fountain to waste more than 100,000 gallons of water a month down the safety drain instead of looping 17,000 gallons through the plumbing like it was supposed to do.

In January of this year, the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission again authorized additional repairs of the ongoing problems with the World Peace Prayer Fountain. Ron Troutman of Boulder Construction told them the fountain has been leaking since the day it was built, with water flowing through the plaza foundation and into the parking lot underneath, causing stalagmites to form on the bottom of the parking deck. It will cost an additional $20,745 to repair the fountain this time, he said.

Spending another $20,000 this year to repair the Kaminsky Peace Fountain is cheap, compared to the billions of dollars and thousands of lives wasted on the hostile occupation of Iraq. Yet, it is considerably more than the $2,500 the self-appointed A&P Commissioners grudgingly gave for the Fayetteville Arts Festival this year.

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