Uncle Wilber Fountain

By Mariana Wagner, CC BY 2.0, Link

Uncle Wilber Fountain, Colorado Springs

Uncle Wilber Fountain is a tuba-playing fountain piece that has played a big role in the revitalization of downtown Colorado Springs. It has contributed greatly in transforming the environment of Acacia Park in the city. From being a hotspot for drug dealers, transients and homeless people, the place has become a safe and lively venue for children, families and downtown shoppers.

The fountain is amazing for several reasons. One, it is not just a water-spurting structure; it also functions as a stationary music station. At first, when the water is not running, Uncle Wilber appears as nothing but a gigantic bubble in the shade of blue. To see the beauty of the fountain’s mechanism, you have to wait for the actual operation to start. The feeling of amusement is not impossible to grasp once the “performance” starts. As the water pulses into the fountain, Uncle Wilber’s statue slowly comes to sight and rises from the mosaic concrete pedestal. With a sousaphone in hand, the statue begins to dance and spout water as the sound of piped-in tuba music plays. Kids, kids at heart and even adult spectators can’t help but give out a shout or a whistle to the spectacle before their eyes.

This kind of show started in 2001. Since the fountain’s debut that year, it has given joyful sight and entertainment to park’s visitors who come from different places. Even before the statue of a tuba-playing man appears, viewers are preoccupied with the 52 pop up jets on the fountain’s floor  and the many streams of water that come from various points of the fountain. Not to mention the fiber optic lights in a variety of colors.

On most days, the fountain gets viewed on by teenagers, students from local high school, young couples and families. Sitting on the benches around the fountain, they wait and watch for the familiar view of dancing water. During summer, Uncle Wilber’s main visitors comprise of children who are excited to play in the water.

In 2001, not long after its public launch, Gazette’s Go Magazine awarded Uncle Wilber Fountain as Best Addition to Downtown. That same year, it was voted as Best Public Artwork by the Independent newspaper. The fountain was also featured in the August 2001 edition of Landscape Architect.

Uncle Wilber Fountain is a result of collaborative efforts between public and private groups. Although the city officially owns it, a number of businesses and area residents, together with the private Smokebrush Foundation, contributed to the fountain’s creation and installation.

Kat and Bob Tudor, who are members of Colorado Spring’s art community, designed the fountain. In order to come up with a one-of-a-kind fountain concept, the two of them toured the country. They explored several fountains and all sorts of bodies of water such as rivers and falls before they thought of an inviting and whimsical design. The original concept was of a “plugged leak” scenario in which several plumbers are frustratingly trying to repair water leaks. As they went along, the design of leaky pipes became a tuba, and the picture of plumbers got replaced by a musician. After its creation, the fountain was formally donated to Colorado Springs by the Smokebrush Foundation for the Arts in September 2000.