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Times Square's first fountain is covered in acrylic fingernails


New York City's iconic Times Square unveiled its very first fountain last Thursday. It's a monumental public artwork. And as Marisa Mazria Katz reports, it probably doesn't look like any other fountain you've ever seen.

MARISA MAZRIA KATZ, BYLINE: In the middle of Times Square's most photogenic corner sits a large sculpture that looks like an oversized conch shell. It's wrapped in big, swirling circles - pink, gold and purple, all of which glisten in the sun. But get close to this biomorphic shape, and you'll soon see a surprising detail.

PAMELA COUNCIL: This fountain is a 15-foot-tall fountain encased in a carapace that's covered in about 400,000 acrylic fingernails.

KATZ: That's Pamela Council, the New York-based artist behind the project. Council worked with over 60 people to make it all happen. Each nail was placed by hand over the course of three weeks. The artwork is called "A Fountain For Survivors." But unlike most fountains, where the water sprays openly into the air, here, the flowing water is tucked inside a little room. And Council said that was for a reason.

COUNCIL: I didn't want it to just be exposed. I thought this fountain also needs to be protected the way that all of us survivors have been protected over the last year and a half.

KATZ: It's hard to feel calm or meditative in Times Square, what with the throngs of tourists now creeping back to prepandemic levels. But once inside this artwork, you hear music and see pink walls covered in clouds lit softly by a chandelier. And, of course, there's the main attraction - the three-tiered fountain.

COUNCIL: And for some people, Times Square is the place that they pass through on their way to and from work every day, even as they're working through a pandemic. So I just wanted to make a space where everyone could feel comfortable.

KATZ: Jean Cooney is the director of Times Square Arts, the organization that commissioned the project. She says that after a year and a half of social distancing and isolation, we need to create different kinds of ways to be together.

JEAN COONEY: We have to treat and think about our public spaces very differently right now, and I think artists are the best equipped to reimagine that for us.

KATZ: "A Fountain For Survivors" will be open till December. And in keeping with Council's promise of making it a comforting gathering place, when the temperature drops, heaters will turn on inside.

For NPR News, this is Marisa Mazria Katz. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Marisa Mazria Katz

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