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NWA editorial: Peace ebbs, flows

Fountain continues to demand attention, money

"Peace is costly, but it is worth the expense."

-- African proverb

What’s the point?

When public art becomes a maintenance problem, communities have little choice but to devote more time and money to its preservation.

Peace isn't cheap.

Expressions of peace apparently cost a lot, too.

Placed alongside the entrance to the Fayetteville Town Center days before a dedication ceremony on Dec. 31, 2002, the spherical World Peace Prayer Fountain has delivered its message to the world: "May peace prevail on earth." It does so in more than 100 languages, much of the time with water cascading over its surface.

The art is the work of local sculptor Hank Kaminsky and a gift to the city of Fayetteville in 2002 by residents Edwin and Karlee Bradberry.

In terms of public art, the fountain is undoubtedly among Fayetteville's most well-known pieces. At 8,000 pounds, the bronze ball also ranks up there among its heaviest, but it nonetheless was designed to be spun by a child's push. At first glance, that may not seem possible. But that's what they say about peace, too, isn't it? And yet we've watched it spin as it rests in a pool of water.

That leaks.

As it turns out, keeping the World Peace Prayer Fountain operational and problem-free seems almost as elusive as the hope it communicates.

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission faces an expense of more than $100,000 to keep the ol' ball spinning as it was designed. The city's facilities manager says the bearings that allow the sphere to easily spin are worn out. The pipes through which the water is pumped are rusting and the pumps themselves need to be replaced. A new filtration system and LED lighting area also needed.

And then there's the pool underneath the fountain. Almost from the day it was installed, leaks have been a problem. Water flows down, as it is prone to do, which means it goes into the parking deck under the Town Center and its plaza.

As a maintenance issue, the fountain disturbs the peace more than it exalts it.

Commissioners are weighing decisions about the 2018 budget, in which Executive Director Molly Rawn set aside about $70,000 for the fountain repairs. The money comes from the commission's share of the local tax charged on hotel rooms and prepared foods and is generally meant to promote tourism within the city.

It's not the first time this monument to peace has done its part to disrupt it. Over the years, the commission has devoted tens of thousands of dollars on repairs and maintenance, always with the hope that its problems wouldn't resurface. Leaks and frozen water and lighting issues have reared their heads before, and been fixed, at least as permanently as anyone has managed world peace.

Now the experts have weighed in with a six-figure solution, not including any restoration work on the bronze sculpture itself.

When does one raise the white flag?

Not now. For better or worse, that sculpture belongs to Fayetteville, and it's a piece that has garnered attention far and wide. When a city embraces a role in promoting art, including the presence of works of arts on its trails and other public places, the city takes on the obligation to maintain them. A project that involves bearings and a pool of water will forever demand attention and expense.

Peace, as we noted, isn't cheap. Hopefully, people skilled at controlling water and engineering moving pieces can find solutions that will last.

All we are saying, is give the fountain a chance. Again.

Commentary on 12/05/2017

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