The “Family in the Fountain” statue is located in the heart of downtown Guelph and is one of the city’s most beloved statues today. It was not always this way however, and despite the positive message that this statue spreads, many protested this public work of art in the first several years it was present in the city.
Over 30 years ago in 1985, William McElcheran (an artist form Hamilton, Ontario) sculpted the “Family in the Fountain” from bronze. The statue itself depicts a nude family consisting of a father and mother holding their baby in the air. This statue was commissioned by the Italian-Canadian community to give back to the city of Guelph. Several conservative religious groups and individuals initially opposed the statue after it was first built due to the public display of nudity. These people and groups believed it was inappropriate to display nude figures in the core of the downtown area and had a strong passion for it to be removed.
Petitions were signed, protests were organized and even letters were written to the artist William McElcheran. McElcheran, despite receiving these letters, was unapologetic about his artwork. Regardless of the conflict about the new fountain, the city kept the statue and it still resides in its location today.
Even though during its initial introduction period people had very differing opinions and views on the statue, today it can be agreed on that the Family in the Fountain is a symbolically important work of public art to the city and it represents the compassionate and caring community that Guelph is.