(click to enlarge photos)
The “Fountain of Wisdom” is the name for the first fountain that Japanese-American sculptor George Tsutakawa built a half-century ago. The name was and still is appropriate for the fountain was sited beside swinging doors into Seattle Public Library’s main downtown branch. In 1959 it was on the 5th Avenue side of the modern public library that replaced a half-century old stone Carnegie Library on the same block. Five years ago this “first fountain” was moved one block to the new 4th Avenue entrance of the even “more modern” Koolhouse Library.
As the sculptor’s fortunes developed after 1959 his work at the library door might have also been called “ Tsutakawa’s fountain of fountains” for in the following 40 years he built about 70 more of them including the one shown here at the southeast corner of 6th Avenue and Seneca Street. Named for Floyd Naramore, the architect who commissioned it, this fountain site was picked in part to soften the “edge of the freeway” especially here at Seneca where northbound traffic spilled into the Central Business District.
Photographer Frank Shaw was very good about dating his slides, and this record of late installation on the fountain, was snapped on June 10, 1967. Tsutakawa is easily identified as the man steadying the ladder on the right. Not knowing the others, I showed the slide to sculptor and friend Gerard Tsutakawa, George’s son, who identified the man on the ladder as Jack Uchida, the mechanical engineer “who did the hydraulics and structural engineering for every one of my fathers’ fountains.”
Gerard could not name the younger man with the hush puppies standing on one of the fountain’s petal-like pieces made sturdy from silicon bronze. However, now after this “story” has been “up” for two days, Pat Lind has written to identify the slender helper on the left. Lind writes, “The young man in the ‘then’ photo is Neil Lind, a UW student of Professor George Tsutakawa at the time, who helped install the fountain. Neil Lind graduated from the UW and taught art for 32 years at Mercer Island Junior High and Mercer Island Hight School until his retirement. His favorite professor was George Tsutakawa.”
When shown Jean Sherrard’s contemporary recording of the working fountain Gerard smiled but then looked to the top and frowned. He discovered that the tallest points of its sculptured crown had been bent down. A vandal had climbed the fountain. Gerard noted, “That’s got to be corrected.”
Jean writes: It is nigh impossible to capture the visual effects of a fountain in a photograph. I took the THEN photo used by The Times with a nearly two-second shutter speed to approximate the creamy flow of white water over the black metal of the sculpture. But there’s another view, shot at 1/300s of a second, that freezes the individual drips and drops.
The actual fountain must lie somewhere between the two.
A FEW FRANK SHAW COLOR SLIDES – SEATTLE ART
We have made a quick search of the Frank Shaw collection – staying for now with the color – and come up with a few transparencies that record local “art in public places” most of it intended, but some of it found. Most of these are early recordings of subjects that we suspect most readers know. We will keep almost entirely to Shaw’s own terse captions written on the sides of these slides. He wrote these for himself and consequently often he did not make note of the obvious. He also typically wrote on the side of his Hasselblad slides the time of day, and both the F-stop and shutter speed he used in making the transparency. He was disciplined in recording all this in the first moment after he snapped his shot. Anything that we add to his notes we will “isolate” with brackets. The first is Shaw’s own repeat of the Naramore fountain at 6th and Seneca.