GRAND RAPIDS — Downtown’s newest sculpture is up, but it will be several months before it will become public.
Workers on Sunday erected a 33-foot-high sculpture commemorating Grand Rapids’s historic decision to fluoridate its water supply. It’s in a small plaza near the Grand River, next to the new J.W. Marriott Hotel.
The West Michigan Dental Foundation formally will unveil the sculpture Sept. 14, five days before the new luxury hotel is to open.
Until then, the five-ton steel sculpture will remain enshrouded by tarp and scaffolding as workers put the finishing touches on it, said Cyril Lixenberg, the Dutch artist who was commissioned by the West Michigan Dental Society.
“To me, it was a great day,” said Lixenberg of the installation. “There’s always a nervousness. But it held together.”
Lixenberg, who welded the sculpture on its side at Leitelt Iron Works, said it stood upright for the first time Sunday. “It was a great relief that it stood straight,” he said.
The sculpture, which evokes rippling water, will get its final coat of blue epoxy paint behind its shroud, Lixenberg said. Workers also will complete the base and lighting.
The new sculpture will commemorate the fact that on Jan. 25, 1945, Grand Rapids was the first city in the world to fluoridate its water supply.
Thanks to the local program’s success in reducing tooth decay, fluoridation has been replicated in water systems throughout the world.
Lixenberg said his sculpture was intended to pay homage to the river, water and the city’s decision to fluoridate the water supply. “It wasn’t about teeth,” he said.