How much did it cost? Was it ever taken down?

Since 1985, there has been some conflicting perspectives on the Family in the Fountain. The life-sized bronze sculpture displays a family, in nude, cherishing and holding the baby while at the center of the fountain.

The fountain is in downtown Guelph in a visible area for residents and tourists to appreciate. As noted on our website, the sculpture was initially proposed by a group of Italian residents who believed that this represents the beauty of the family. However, many disagreed with the sculpture being placed in such a social area in Guelph.  The controversy shrouded this piece, despite the beauty of the family and the joy of life. A statue that was a celebration of the nuclear family of it’s time made a huge impact on those who strongly disagreed with the statue.

For 31 years the Family in the Fountain remained in it’s spot, but why? I was curious to see that after all the controversy surrounding this sculpture, why did the City of Guelph keep the statue? The artist, William McElcheran, received many letters from families who were enraged with this nude sculpture. Those who disagreed with the sculptures started petitions to get it banned, protested, and reported that it was inappropriate to the public eye.

However, William McElcheran, did not go back on his art piece as he had created a beautiful representation of the family. This left many disgusted with the idea of nudity as society would crumble and had lost all morals.  During this time the human body was objectified as the nude body was an item to be hidden. Instead, the artist decided to embrace the natural body without clothes to show its true beauty.

The money for the statue did not come out of tax-payer’s money, rather it was all from donations from the Italian community. The sculpture was a gift to the community despite some resident’s negative attitude towards it’s appearance. Regardless of multiple protests, the City of Guelph found the statue suitable for public viewing and did not remove it from it’s location.

Today the Family in the Fountain is active on Twitter as @FamilyFountain. I was thrilled to have gotten responses from the Family in the fountain although not much information was not given. The Twitter account replied fairly quickly and with a writing style that seemed suitable for the sculpture. Whoever may be running the account does represent the family quite well but does not know more details than we have already collected. When asked how much did the sculpture cost, they replied that they didn’t think to ask. This lead me to believe that the owner of the account understands the personae the statue has to take on but may not necessarily know everything about it.

While on the other hand, when asked if the city of Guelph considered taking down the Family the account replied, “much debate but we stood our ground”. This comment intrigued me as the statue remains but there is much history behind it.

I recommend for any residents, or students, that want to review Guelph’s history they should look to the Family in the Fountain and the controversy behind it all. This sculpture has experienced many residents of different generations with different ideals. As part of Guelph’s community, I am thrilled that the City of Guelph decided to keep the statue as they saw the true representation of the beauty within a family. The family is the core to Guelph’s community and I am proud to be a Gryphon because this historic piece.

Katie Arsenault


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