What’s next for the Fountain of the Pioneers?

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek
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The controversial Fountain of the Pioneers should be gone from Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park within the year.

After a marathon meeting and hours of public comment, Kalamazoo city commissioners voted early Tuesday to take it out of the park.

The fountain, which has been in the park since 1940, shows a European settler with a sword or club in his hand, standing over a Native American. It has long been the center of debate: Opponents say it’s racist while supporters call it art and say it forces people to reflect on history.

Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema, who recommended moving the fountain, said the statue portion of the fountain would be preserved. The attached pool would be demolished.

“What we would be looking at (is) spring/summer removal of the fountain and putting it back to green space until a decision can be made with what to program that with,” Ritsema told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday afternoon.

The fountain would initially put in storage, but the city is asking around to see if any museums are interested in it. It is too big for the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

The fountain was created by sculptor Alfonso Iannelli, who also created “The Rock of Gibraltar” on the Prudential building in downtown Chicago and worked with Frank Lloyd Wright on Midway Gardens in Chicago. Officials at the Kalo Foundation in Illinois, which operates the studio where Iannelli did a lot of his work, said they are disappointed that the fountain is being moved.

“The posturing these days of being politically correct in everything — history wasn’t always politically correct. …They should not interpret it as an offensive piece. It’s art,” Kalo Foundation Co-President Judy Barclay told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone.

The city doesn’t know exactly what will happen as they start to remove the statue — officials don’t even know if it’s solid or hollow.

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