Renowned puppeteer and artist, Michael Curry, working with Columbia County Rotary and community partners, discusses the vision behind the Rotary Children's Fountain in Scappoose

MICHAEL CURRY DESIGN - Recent rendering of the Columbia County Rotary Children's Fountain.

Michael Curry, best known for his work on Lion King Broadway, multiple Olympic ceremonies and Super Bowls, designed and donated the centerpiece fountain of Scappoose's Heritage Park.

Curry has been a part of the Columbia County community for the past 22 years. Columbia County has provided a space for his business, Michael Curry Design, to grow from a small warehouse in St. Helens to its current 62,000-square-foot studio in Scappoose. Curry is an Oregon native, and, with his wife Julia, raised two children in Columbia County.

When asked by the Columbia County Rotary Club and city of Scappoose to create a public space at Heritage Park, Curry thought back to early days with his young children.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Michael Curry "I wanted to create a safe, visually exciting place that fosters youthful magic," said Michael Curry. "I've designed a very simple organic shape that is quite beautiful with its copper metallic finish. It's meant to be rather simple and childlike but transform elegantly into a showering canopy," he said.

The fountain includes a 30-foot splash area surrounding a 20-foot-tall fountain sculpture, formed from structural fiberglass and fabricated at Michael Curry Design. The fountain resembles a stylized tree trunk, with 40 water jets forming branches and foliage. Programmable color-changing LED lighting projected on the water creates the effect of a full canopy of leaves over the pool. The soundtrack of the performance features children's laughter, birds, wind and rain, all layered over a beautiful melody that was created by Will Curry, a New York-based music composer and Michael's son. All of these elements come together to create an immersive, beautiful choreographed event that activates automatically or by a prominent guest-activated button.

Michael Curry, his family and his employees are proud of the fountain and honored to give back to the community that has hosted them for decades. They've donated their services over the four-year design and build process.

"I feel privileged to give families a place to gather and play in the community that has given me and my family so much," said Curry.

Gary Liao, past-president of Columbia County Rotary reminisces, "I remember the first meeting at Curry Studio in 2010, and Michael Curry invited Rotarians, community members and city staff to discuss the fountain." Rotary shared it was their 30th anniversary as a club in Columbia County and that they wanted to share the 4-way test to youth as a positive message promoting ethics and character development. After hearing their ideas, Curry started to sketch out his vision on paper as he shared his thought processes. "From that moment, we all played a supporting role to make Michael's vision a reality for our community."

It took seven years to find the funds and volunteer labor to build the surrounding fountain area. We did not begin building until four years ago. The city of Scappoose is the largest cash donor and also provided the electrical and water infrastructure for the fountain as well as adding other amenities to the park. Being conscious of water use, the fountain utilizes low-flow spray both to conserve water and provide a canvas for light effects to create the illusion of branches and leaves of a tree. The water is dispersed through the air as well as collected and re-infiltrated back into the ground.

Curry donated in excess of $70,000 in design time, fabrication labor, shop time and other staff and coordination time. The bulk of the volunteer construction labor around the centerpiece donated by Curry was provided by Northwest College of Construction and they returned every year for four years, building the fountain terraced seating area

and stained fountain floor as part of their construction college courses.

Rich Bailey Construction donated all his services to coordinate the construction and Lower Columbia Engineering donated all the engineering services. And DLR Group and Akaan Architecture donated all the architecture services.

Rotary, for its part, fundraised through its annual Golf Tournament, Rotary District Grant, individual Rotarians, grant writing and seeking donations from the community, including from our largest community donor, Samuel S. Johnson Foundation. Our largest awarded grant, submitted in partnership with the city with the fountain project providing the matching funds, was for $180,000 from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. This grant paid for a portion of the fountain area, but also paid for a portion of many of the new improvements in the park, like the children's play structure, a drinking fountain, new grass, irrigation, and hardscape.

Please see the ad in today's Spotlight (page A20) for a full list of community sponsors. Thank you to all our community sponsors and we could not have completed the fountain without your help!

We invite the whole community for a special dedication ceremony of the Columbia County Rotary Children's Fountain designed by Michael Curry from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7, in Heritage Park. Bring the whole family, meet Michael Curry, and see the fountain come to life for the first time.

editor's note

Michael Curry Design and Columbia County Rotary jointly issued this statement on the pending completion of the Scappoose Rotary Fountain. It has been edited for style, but otherwise appears in its entirety. A dedication ceremony for the fountain is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Heritage Park, Scappoose. The Spotlight has donated promotional space for the Columbia County Rotary Children's Fountain.

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