07-19 01 Charles Gagnon mj.JPG

Sculptor Charles Gagnon stands in front of the Peace Fountain in July 2011. The fountain was installed in Peace Plaza in 1989. Gagnon died in 2012.

When Rochesterfest kicks off next week, a first order of business will be to celebrate what has become one of the city’s landmarks: the Peace Fountain.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the dedication of the Peace Fountain. The fountain is the work of the late sculptor Charles Gagnon, who made his home in Rochester.

At the time the fountain was dedicated, on June 25, 1989, the Peace Plaza was still in the development phase. But the fountain provided a focus for the plaza, which in turn has become not only a gathering place, but the site of so many signature Rochester events.

On any day that qualifies as nice weather, people can be seen sitting around the fountain, enjoying their lunches, chatting with colleagues and family members, or just soaking up some sun.

In winter, the fountain is part of a different kind of sculpture: ice carvings from the annual Socialice event.

Gagnon’s fountain consists of 57 interconnected doves rising 10 feet toward the sky.

“What I’m trying to do is create a statement of international peace, the idea that peace can be a reality and not just an idealistic concept,” Gagnon said when he was working on the fountain.

The existence of the fountain in the heart of a healing city is entirely appropriate. Not only is the fountain a symbol of peace, but it helps create an oasis for contemplation and renewal.

To celebrate the anniversary of the fountain, a special gathering will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. June 22 in the Peace Plaza. There will be live music, family activities and a birthday cake.

The Peace Fountain isn’t the only gift Gagnon, who died in 2012, left to the city. His home and studio in southwest Rochester are maintained by his widow, Arlyn, as a museum, just as Gagnon intended. Here, visitors can view Gagnon sculptures, models, drawings and tools, and tour his workshop. A significant collection of art books is available for students and scholars to use. There is a winding path through an outdoor sculpture garden, where deer can sometimes be seen strolling the grounds.

The museum, located in a quiet residential neighborhood, houses the work of a world-class artist, but is not yet as familiar as it should be to local residents.

There’s no way to overlook, however, Gagnon’s Peace Fountain, and the 30 years of enjoyment it has brought to residents and visitors alike in the heart of the city.

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