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Towering new sculpture coming to downtown Niagara Falls

Another sculptural tribute to the flowing waters of the Niagara River will be installed in downtown Niagara Falls in late June.

Following the controversial installation of Jeff Laramore's $600,000 steel sculpture on Centennial Circle last year, a smaller piece by Buffalo sculptor Jesse Walp will soon rise on Old Falls Street.

The 14-foot-wide, 26-foot-tall structure is meant to mimic the intense splashing of water at the base of the falls, with bright blue spheres representing the water droplets that splatter over every square millimeter of the surrounding landscape.

"The water crashes down on to the rocks below, erupting into a splattering of droplets and spraying of mist," Walp, a faculty member at Villa Maria College, wrote in a statement about the piece. "This experience became the inspiration for my arch on Old Falls Street. It encircles one within it much like that of the churning water as it splatters and sprays overhead."

The piece, Walp's first major public art commission, is funded by Empire State Development. Unlike Laramore's sculpture, no city funds will go toward its fabrication or installation. It was selected with the help of Albright-Knox Art Gallery Public Art Curator Aaron Ott.

A rendering by artist Jesse Walp shows the location where his new sculpture will be installed on Old Falls Street in downtown Niagara Falls.

For Walp, the piece represents an opportunity to concentrate the experience of watching the Falls cascade into the Niagara Gorge into a unique artistic experience.

"The idea just came from walking along and experiencing the Falls," he said. "It's kind of an attempt to feel the power and the movement of the Fall, to feel things flowing around them and be part of the whole violent scene at the bottom of the Falls."

Even the color of the droplets, he said, is based on his observations of Niagara Falls culture.

"I walked up from the Falls and I saw these guys throwing huge blue trash bags into the back of a truck," Walp said. "They said, 'These are the ponchos from the Maid of the Mist.' I said, 'I'm going after that blue.' "

Walp will fabricate the piece in his Villa Maria studio in early June and expects installation to be completed by the end of the month.

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