Light Dispelling Darkness

June 22, 2017

Light Dispelling Darkness

Water fountains, just like any other structure and form of architecture, are not built only for the sake of having them. They are made and crafted with an inspirational meaning behind. A perfect example would be the fountain that stands in Edison, New Jersey -- the Light Dispelling Darkness.

Exhibiting a heroic theme where knowledge is used as the key to combating evil, Light Dispelling Darkness has served as both an artistic and a historical landmark in Roosevelt Park since 1936. The fountain is made of a circular pool that measures 40 feet in diameter. Standing tall in the center of the pool is the fountain’s shaft with a height of 15 feet. The shaft is encircled with vertical symbols that represent knowledge and science’s triumphs through the figures of a scientist, an artist, an engineer, and industrial workers. At the top of the shaft, there is a 3.5 ton glazed terracotta globe surrounding all the figures. Outside the globe and circling the bottom of the fountain are six ceramic figures signifying pestilence, war, famine, death, greed and materialism. Four of these figures are of the horses of the Apocalypse.

Light Dispelling Darkness located near the Menlo Park laboratory was designed and crafted by sculptor Waylande Gregory. Waylande Gregory was known as one of the early twentieth century’s most inventive and prolific American art-deco ceramics sculptors. In addition to that, he was also an influential figure in the studio glass movement. It was in 1933 when he developed his technique of using an internal honeycomb-like structure for creating monumental ceramics work. This particular technique of building a statue from the inside outward is what he used in crafting Light Dispelling Darkness.

Gregory’s plan in building the fountain was supported by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. WPA was established to create jobs for the purpose of stimulating the World War II economy. At the time, Waylande Gregory was the appointed WPA’s director of sculptures and ceramics in New Jersey. It is believed that Light Dispelling Darkness is the only outdoor sculpture built as part of WPA. In fact, Roosevelt Park, where the fountain is located, was named as such because it was created through the efforts of President Roosevelt’s WPA.

Roosevelt Park including the fountain, having been present for many years, required restoration. Restoration of the fountain took a year and a half to be completed. With a total cost of $403,000, the artistic and mechanical components of Light Dispelling Darkness were refurbished.

The restoration project was pursued by the Cultural Preservation and Restoration Inc, New York City. The artists and engineers commissioned for the project worked closely with the Cultural and Heritage Commission to ensure artistic and mechanical restoration, not renovation. According to the County Director of Parks and Recreation, preserving the artwork is more important than recreating it. This was to show respect to the original creator of the fountain, Waylande Gregory. As planned, the fountain was restored to its original form in 2007. After years of inactivity, Light Dispelling Darkness was presented once again to the public, officials and art enthusiasts.

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