Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Fassett Greenspace to have an Underhill Fountain

Cassandra Bull with Jean McKeown

WELLSVILLE: The Fasssett Greenspace Project has grown in the last few weeks from a promise to labyrinth of soil and block to a garden of seedlings. Much of the financial support for the project came from a Buffalo based organization, the Garman Family Foundation (GFF), administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo.
            Cassandra Bull, president of Art for Rural America (the not for profit founded by Andy Glanzman of Wellsville and sponsor of the Fassett Greenspace), applied to GFF and was awarded a grant of $15,667. Bull’s proposal had a fountain at the center of the labyrinth but when it was necessary to change the dimensions of the rings, the budget no longer could include a fountain. Bull notified GFF of the situation but instead of accepting Bull’s suggestion that a sculpture be the focal point, GFF sent an additional $6000 for the fountain.
Bill Underhill with Cassandra Bull on site 
discussing fountains.
            That, of course, sent some of the AFRA board members in search of a fountain. Glanzman, always thinking about how to involve local businesses and artisans, contacted his friend, sculptor Bill Underhill. Underhill teaches clay sculpture classes at the Wellsville Creative Arts Center and works in bronze using a method where a wax model is burned out to create a mold for bronze, in his private studio. Underhill began visiting the Greenspace and watching people at work  to understand the space and the possibilities of the project. Then, he began to design.
            On July 6, Jean McKeown, Vice President of Community Foundations, traveled to Wellsville to see the Fassett Greenspace Project. McKeown walked the labyrinth, reviewed the project and plans as well as the history of the plot and asked about community involvement. She met with Bull and Glanzman on site to learn more about AFRA and its board members and to get a sense of the town. Then they shifted the meeting to Bill Underhill’s studio.
            When Underhill was first approached about designing a fountain, he said that he worked with bowls but Bull told him that he had been working with potential fountains all his life.  
            When McKeown, Glanzman and Bull arrived in Underhill’s studio he said, “Bowls, I make bowls and I never thought about the fountain. I always thought that the shape, a bowl’s opening, was a complete form. Sometimes there’s a lid on a bowl and the shape is a secret inside but as I began to speculate and sketch I began to feel that the fountain could be a natural form of a bowl.”
            Underhill talked about an early life experience. “When I was a child, 4 or 5 years old, in Monterey, CA, I went for a ride in a glass bottom boat and remember sea creatures and sea urchins and sea anemone and how beautiful everything was.” Underhill said that he wanted to bring those natural forms and that sense of beauty from his experience into the fountain.
In Bill Underhill's studio
            He has a small bronze bowl that he made to reference that boat ride. He and Glanzman put that bowl into the sink and filled it with water. The edge of the bowl is not smooth and round but more like the live edge of tree bark. Water spilled unevenly over the bowl and through holes near the edge. A version of this bowl, Underhill said, expanded to be 36 inches in diameter, is his vision of a fountain for the Fassett Greenspace. The piece would first be made in a special casting wax that would be taken, they hope, to the foundry at Alfred University and cast there.
            This 3 foot, natural edge bowl would be placed inside of a 6 foot wide basin at the center of the labyrinth where it will be plumbed into place by the ever-needed volunteers and some expert help.
            The natural edge of this bowl shape will be in line with the space because the labyrinth is about life: the life of the volunteers in action, the life of green food and the life that can only water can give.  
            McKeown seemed pleased with the progress on the labyrinth itself and seemed interested in the sketches and mock ups for the fountain. She expressed excitement over being involved in such a singular project and in bringing the Garman Family Foundation into Allegany County. 

(Elaine Hardman is a member of the AFRA board and a regular volunteer at the Fassett Greenspace Project.  Find more information at or on Facebook at Fassett Greenspace Project.)

Community members helped to fill the beds.
Dugan and Dugan donated equipment and labor
to move soil into the beds.

Sean Lehman of Lehamna Landscaping helped
to fill the garden beds.

Work well done.

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