Placeholder Image Cleaning of Ruth Asawa Fountain before removal
photo credit: City of Santa Rosa


The Asawa Fountain was once a defining feature of Santa Rosa's Old Courthouse Square, before a 2016 reconfiguration.

The artwork was sculpted in the late 1980’s by the famed late San Francisco artist Ruth Asawa, with help from then-students at Santa Rosa’s Burbank Elementary school. 

The fountain panels capture many of the classic images and aspects of Sonoma County life, said Santa Rosa’s Arts and Culture Manager Tara Thompson.

"There's a lot of scenes of our local agriculture, grapes, orchards, redwood trees, historic buildings, and iconic landmarks," Thompson said. "And one whole panel was a sea life themed panel. There's whales and dolphins and fish and starfish, and that's this whole side of the fountain that the artist had the school children help with."

Thompson said the goal has always been to return the fountain to its home on the square, but the money wasn't there.

"So the art program was asked to come in and remove the panels, preserve them, maintain them, make sure that they were taken care until a future date," Thompson said.

Thompson said storage has not been kind to the original sculpted panels.

"The material they were originally made in, which is called glass fiber reinforced cement, was in very bad shape, not structurally stable," Thompson said. "One of them cracked completely in half during transportation to their storage facility."

With the help of the Asawa family and Ruth Asawa Foundation, Thompson said the panels will be recast in bronze to extend their lifespan.

"It actually turns out that her original vision for these panels was to have them cast in bronze, but back in the 80's, there wasn't enough budget for that," Thompson said.

With the fountain structure being built by a private contractor, there's still a wait.

"Once the fountain is built, that's when artworks will then come back in with the bronze panels and install them," Thompson said. "We're hoping all of that will be wrapped up sometime this year, but it's still a very moving target."


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