Fountain sculptor initiates litigation

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Work to refurbish Creemore’s fountain is expected to begin this week.

It comes one week after officials at Station on the Green and Clearview Township received a letter from a lawyer demanding that the restoration of the sculpture begin before September.

Station on the Green chair Bill McDougall says the timing is coincidental because the fountain maintenance project was in the plans since last year.

The letter was sent at the request of sculptor Ralph Hicks who donated the Creemore Children’s Dress-up Dance sculpture in 2003. He says he also donated $7,000 to establish a maintenance fund and if the sculpture is not restored in the near future, he wants his money back, plus interest.

Calcium build-up must be removed to show the dark green patina of the bronze, said Hicks. That has only been removed once, in 2008.

“I think the village, certainly people who talk to me about it, feels quite precious about it. People like that piece of sculpture and it’s sad that it’s been allowed to have this calcium build-up over the years, it’s very irresponsible,” said Hicks.

“Mr. Hicks has retained me to express his profound disappointment at the woeful neglect by Clearview Township and Station on the Green of his sculpture, which he donated to the township in 2003 – the most valuable donation made to the entire Station on the Green development,” writes lawyer Ernest Rovet. “At the time, the township agreed to delegate the care, protection and maintenance of the sculpture to Station on the Green. Yet the township and Station on the Green have allowed this extraordinary piece of art to deteriorate badly despite an additional significant donation by Mr. Hicks made for the specific purpose of funding the maintenance of the sculpture.”

McDougall and former Station on the Green volunteer Paul Ruppel said a lot of work has been done to repair and keep the fountain in good working order. They have used a special wax product to protect the bronze, purchased a water softener to reduce the calcium level of the water and have switched from chlorine to bromine, but the water has to be treated so it is not a public health concern.

The base, said McDougall, has become a concern and a priority for volunteers. The concrete base is chipped in spots and has a crack running toward the centre. All in, it is expected all of the repairs will cost about $15,000 and plans for a fundraising campaign by the newly formed Friends of the Fountain group are underway.

Hicks says he donated $7,000 specifically for the maintenance of the sculpture, not the mechanics of the fountain. Ruppel acknowledges that the donation was made but it was not specifically placed in a separate account earmarked for the sculpture.

“We didn’t establish a formal trust. I just assumed on a gentleman’s agreement they would do it. I didn’t want to get involved in the finances of the Station on the Green,” Hicks told The Echo.

In 2008, power washers were used to remove most of the calcium and then the detail work was done with dental tools and took volunteer more than 60 hours.

McDougall says it is what he calls unintended consequences; the cost and expertise required to care for such a sculpture and fountain are taxing on volunteers.

And Hicks just wants his artwork cared for.

“I want the work to be done this year, if they put it off this year, they’ll put it off again next year and I may not be around at that time. I am an old man now and I hate to think that this thing is going to deteriorate for years and years and years. They’ve left it nine years without doing anything. They could leave it another 20 years,” said Hicks. “I don’t want litigation. I like a quiet life and I want my work to be respected.”

“[The Station’s] treatment of him is demeaning and hurtful. He has been extremely generous, yet he is ignored and treated ignominiously by the Station on the Green,” states the letter from Rovet. “Not surprisingly, Mr. Hicks is deeply troubled and upset. Furthermore, the current state of the sculpture is an embarrassment to Mr. Hicks as people he encounters in the village imply that he is in some way responsible for the current poor state of the sculpture whereas in earlier years all comments were positive. Some people may even conclude that his skill in making the sculpture was inadequate in the first place. All this negative feedback and questioning deleteriously affects his reputation as an internationally acclaimed artist. It has caused and will continue to cause him emotional distress.”

Hicks said Thursday he has directed his lawyer to pause litigation pending confirmation that the sculpture will be restored this summer.

In the meantime, volunteers are kicking off a fundraising campaign to cover the full cost.

To support the restoration project, donation cheques can be made out to Creemore Station on the Green and can be dropped off at The Echo or mailed to 10 Caroline St. East, Creemore Ont., L0M 1G0.

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