Fountain at Rue Vieux-Chatel

In April David and I started our first, real, project. In our neighborhood is an old fountain, one of many in found in Neuchâtel.
As David and I live in the same neighborhood, we would often stop to chat at the fountain on the way home. We both enjoyed the sound of it and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could fix it up?" The masonry had been tagged and had looked like this since Athena and I moved into the neighborhood in the fall of 1999.

We decided that we could do something about it and discussed simply painting over the tags but thought, because we live close to the Université, that it would get tagged again. We had noticed in another neighborhood close to ours someone had painted a huge mural on the side of their house that  appeared to deter taggers. We began discussing what we could do.

We agreed we would fix a budget and stick to it and that we'd need an artist to advise us. I wanted to have a trompe l'oeil of some sort, possibly an Italian garden painted on the tagged area. We sent out an email to our friends and colleagues asking for references. David generated the email in three languages to get the most coverage.

We got the names of four artists, and David began the task of contacting them. He eliminated two, one who required much more space to work and the other was too busy. One did not return our calls.

One cool morning in mid-April 2002, we met Anne Monnier at the fountain. Anne is sprightly with a sparkle in her eye and we both felt an affinity in spirit. We discussed options and soon realized that our budget and what Anne could do for that money were two different things. We seemed to be at an impasse.

David, again, persevered and kept in touch with Anne. His negotiating skills are very keen, and we soon had another interview with Anne where she modified her original proposal which reduced the costs. We were still over budget and Anne and David kept negotiating. Finally, she agreed to our price and came up with a good concept sketch. Not exactly the Italian garden I wanted but cool nonetheless.

David hastily drafted a letter to send to the city architect asking permission to execute the project. We included the above photograph of Anne's sketch to demonstrate our intent. David had discussed the proposal with the city architect on the phone so he was aware of what we were doing.

Before we got permission, Anne, who has lived in Neuchâtel all her life, felt it was OK to proceed, that there would be no objection from the City and so we started.

Here is a picture of Anne, Marco (Anne's apprentice), and David after the first coat of primer was applied 15-MAY-2002.

Work moved on at a good pace, Anne and Marko were a good team, David was able to lend support as needed. I, regretfully, had to work over this time and could not get away as much as I wished. Their process was very straightforward. After the primer, they laid down a wash then began to fill in the sketch bit by bit.  Anne expected the whole thing to be complete in 4 days.

By the end of the first day, the concept was becoming eye catching. Neighbors and passers-by began to stop to check on the work and a buzz began to run through the neighborhood.


By the end of the second day, things had come a long way:

Day 3 was not sunny and there was a chance of rain. Anne and Marco had filled in a lot of detail:

Day four was raining and we put up tarps for Anne and Marco to work under:

This delayed Anne and Marco, so they agreed to finish up on day 5:

Monday , May 20th was a holiday in Neuchâtel, we had created a little flyer which one of our neighbors copied and taped up in most of the apartment buildings in the neighborhood:

Chers voisins,

Nous vous invitons à l'apéritif que nous organisons pour fêter la rénovation de la fontaine au coin de la rue Vieux-Châtel. Venez nous retrouver à 14h00, lundi 20 mai, à l'emplacement de la fontaine. Les artistes, Anne Monnier et son collègue seront présents.

 Nous espérons que vous vous joindrez à nous.

 John Sergneri

David Brooks

(briefly: Dear Neighbors - please join us for a drink to celebrate the renovation of the fountain at 14:00 on Monday, 20 May. The artists will join us.)

So, with the art work finished, Marco applied the final coats of varnish to the fountain. Here is the final result:

Note the gecko and the small ball in the lower left, Anne and Marco placed these at "child height" for the local kids.

Two articles were published in the local press; one from Courrier Neuchatelois and one from L' Express. Note, both contain pictures and texts in French.

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Updated 25-DEC-03