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Sculptor who created Peace Plaza fountain dies

07-19 01 Charles Gagnon mj.JPG
Sculptor Charles Gagnon stands in front of the Peace Fountain in this photo from July 2011. Gagnon installed the fountain in 1989.
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Charles Eugene Gagnon, the Rochester sculptor who created the Peace Fountain in downtown Rochester, died Saturday at his home. He was 78.

He was an internationally known artist whose works since the 1960s have appeared in the Vatican's art collection, and his sculptures have drawn recognition from the Smithsonian Institution and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Despite all those accomplishments, he said the Peace Fountain that he created in 1989 is his proudest achievement.

"I like to think of it as an extremely important sculpture, one of the most significant I've created," he said in an interview a few years ago. "This is beyond my expectations. I think it's a more wonderful experience now."

It stands 12 feet high and is made of a circular tier of 57 life-sized interlocking bronze doves.They symbolize the 50 United States and the 7 major continents of the world. The three doves on top represent past, present and future.

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That work of art, which was refurbished a few years ago, has become a Rochester icon. It's in the middle of the popular Peace Plaza, which attracts hundreds of people daily in the summer. It's especially popular with children, who love to put their hands in the fountain water and run around the sculpture.

Gagnon was born in 1934 in Minneapolis. He received a masters degree from the University of Minnesota in 1960.

Gagnon has other works in Rochester. Among them:

• "Saint Francis and the Birds" at Saint Marys Hospital. A smaller version of the sculpture is located at Assisi Heights.

• A portrait sculpture of Conrad Hilton at Mayo Clinic's Hilton Building.

• "Crucifixion" at Zumbro Lutheran Church.

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