11Fountains in Friesland – Art in Leeuwarden, Cultural Capital of Europe 2018 - Holland.com
Photo: Fountain Love by Jaume Plensa © Wietze Landman

11Fountains in Friesland

Europe’s ancient tradition of building city center water fountains can be traced all the way back to the ancient Romans, who believed water to be a gift from the gods and so erected them to honor their deities. In Friesland, the ground-breaking 11Fountains program aims to re-invent these traditions for the 21st century, as 11 world-class artists each create a unique fountain that will be placed in or around the center of Friesland’s 11 cities. As one of the largest art projects of Leeuwarden-Friesland 2018, the region’s European Capital of Culture celebrations, 11Fountains has set out to create a legacy for the Frisian community to treasure, and to convey enchanting stories to new visitors.

  • Tour Friesland’s beguiling cities and see unique fountains created by 11 world-renowned artists.
  • Be inspired by a specially commissioned collection of fountain sculptures that explore and help define Friesland’s history and people.
  • Discover the new Eleven Cities Tour.

Creating a new history in Friesland with 11Fountains

In 2018, Leeuwarden was the European Capital of Culture. Eleven top artists designed a unique fountain for the center of each of the eleven Frisian cities for the occasion, hoping to create a new cultural heritage to be cherished by the Frisians that would also tell the story of the Eleven Cities.

Water has been a defining element for Friesland and the Frisian people, whether it’s reclaiming land from the sea with polders and dykes, navigating canals or vaulting over water to keep dry. In fact, Frisian people have more words for bodies of water than for bread. But rather than driving them apart, water has brought the Frisian people ever closer together.

And no event unifies Friesland’s cities and communities more than the legendary ‘Elfstedentocht’, known in English as the Eleven Cities Tour. This open-air skating competition, which covers more than 200 kilometers and tours all 11 historical cities of the province, can be held at most once a year, and only when the ice is at least 15 centimeters thick. Because of this, sometimes it isn’t held for years or even decades – the last edition took place in 1997. So the 11Fountains project aims to create a new type of Elfstedentocht for Friesland and its community. One which takes place not over ice, but along sparkling, bubbling water: fountains.

A new way to help break down borders in Friesland and beyond

For 11Fountains, this idea of water as a catalyst for community spirit will see 11 world-class artists create a fountain for each of Friesland’s cities. Here the water is running, not frozen, like the exchange of ideas between the Frisian communities and artists who have helped create each unique monument. From May 2018, each work of water art will be unveiled in the heart of the cities, a gathering point symbolizing the sense of open community − or ‘mienskip’, as the Frisians call it in their local tongue – that’s a defining aspect of life in the province.

Communities inspiring art at Leeuwarden-Friesland 2018

The Friesland people’s definition of culture is a broad and inclusive one, embracing all kinds of artistic and cultural expressions. This is perfectly encapsulated with the 11Fountains project, in which the 11 selected artists were connected to the Frisian cities and their residents. The city’s respective communities were represented in the creation of each work by a so-called Fountain Committee, which suggested locations for the works, met with the artist and acquainted them with their history. By immersing themselves in their respective city’s history, culture and community, each artist has designed a fountain that helps define it, and in turn helps to define Friesland.

A lasting legacy for Friesland and its 11 cities

The project features world-renowned artists including Spain’s Jaume Plensa, Japan’s Shinji Ohmaki, and American Mark Dion, resulting in a collection of fountains and artworks that will communicate stories to locals and internationals visitors in the years to come. The full list of cities and artists includes:

•Leeuwarden: Jaume Plensa (Spain)
Bolsward: Johan Creten (Belgium)
Dokkum: Birthe Leemeijer (the Netherlands)
Franeker: Jean-Michel Othoniel (France)
Harlingen: Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla (United States, Cuba)
Hindeloopen: Shen Yuan (China)
IJlst: Shinji Ohmaki (Japan)
Sloten: Lucy Orta & Jorge Orta (UK, Argentina)
Sneek: Stephan Balkenhol (Germany)
Stavoren: Mark Dion (United States)
Workum: Cornelia Parker (Great Britain)

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