Downtown Hendersonville will get a mountain-themed fountain, but not a 24-foot abstract gateway sculpture, the City Council decided Thursday night as it struggled again with what the city manager described as the "horrific task" of choosing public art.
The council authorized Asheville artist Berry Bate to move ahead with a redesigned copper and granite sculpture that represents the mountains surrounding Hendersonville and features the French Broad River as the water element.
The fountain would be at the southwest corner of Sixth and Main in the First Citizens Bank plaza.
Based on conversations with City Council members and the Main Street Advisory Board during a visit to Hendersonville on Nov. 9, Bate adapted her original design to make the mountains more realistic. They should be recognizable to people who know the area, and the council directed her to add a display that would identify the mountains. The mountains featured in her design are Bearwallow, Sugarloaf, Pinnacle and Pisgah.
"The water will flow down the valleys," Bate said. "It was very important to all of you that you heard the water, that it was a working fountain."
Council members praised Bate for responding to the city's desire for a work of art that was more realistic and that represented Hendersonville and its history. They did not say the same about the artist who designed the gateway project at Seventh and Main. The 24-foot tall design of stainless steel or aluminum called Cascade is made up of two pieces that mirror one another. Bruce White, an Illinois artist, made no change to his design after the visit last month.
"I don't think he responded at all to what we asked him to do," Councilman Ron Stephens said. "If that reflects the mountains ... I know it's abstract, but people come to see a historic town and that is not the image I think they come to see. I don't think it reflects the people I've talked to."
Council members said the lighting of the cascade piece at night would create a dramatic gateway but Stephens that won't matter to most tourists.
"They don't come at night," he said.
Councilman Steve Caraker may have spoken for the whole council when he described his conflicted feeling about choosing a work of public art that could sit on the street for 50 years.
"Miss Bate moved closer to where we are. With the mountain concept she moved toward what we asked her to do," he said. "I don't know if this particular one (the cascade) has to have a connection to Main Street. I am more confused at this point about what I want to see on those corners than I was going in and no matter which way I vote some segment of the population is going to think I'm an idiot or a genius."
The council directed Main Street director Lew Holloway to contact White to see if the artist would make changes to the cascade project.