Times Square’s first fountain features 400,000 acrylic nails

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Times Square needed a little polishing up. 

So in May, avant-garde sculptress Pamela Council went to work constructing the bustling hub’s first-ever public fountain. 

And she nailed it — literally. “It’s a 18-foot-tall multitiered wishing water fountain that’s housed inside of a carapace shell covered in 400,000 acrylic fingernails,” Council, 35, told The Post. “It’s called ‘A Fountain for Survivors.’”

The glistening monument, commissioned by the public art program Times Square Arts, will stand at the intersection of 46th Street and Broadway as a symbol of the city’s peak-pandemic resilience from Oct. 14 through Dec. 8. 

And select acrylics featured in the piece are inspired by flossy nail designs worn by stars such as Megan Thee Stallion, Kylie Jenner, Cardi B and Doja Cat.

Council's "A Fountain for Survivors" is covered in decorated acrylic nails with designs inspired by celebrity A-listers.
Council’s “A Fountain for Survivors” is covered in decorated acrylic nails with designs inspired by celebrity A-listers.
Stefano Giovannini

“Nails have always been a beauty accessory that signified dignity, strength and glamour to me,” said Council. She has incorporated fingernails into her artwork for more than a decade — most notably in her 2012 piece dedicated to late Olympic sprinting medalist and nail enthusiast Florence “Flo Jo” Griffith Joyner. 

“The decorated acrylics surrounding this fountain honor the beautiful perseverance of survivors who’ve overcome all different types of trials and trauma,” the native Long Islander added. “It’s an offering to New York City that celebrates its unbreakable spirit — even in the midst of a viral outbreak.”

Council hired local nail technicians to decorate the 400,000 fingernails used in her structure.
Council hired local nail technicians to decorate the 400,000 fingernails used in her structure.
Stefano Giovannini

Council hired a team of local nail technicians to paint each talon in her exuberant mosaic. And she spent more than 160 days over the last five months overseeing their progress via Zoom video calls and socially distanced meetings, and handcrafting the massive mold in her Downtown Brooklyn workshop. 

“Some of the funky nail designs will remind you of a style your auntie might have worn in the early ’90s,” said Council, referring to the elaborate embellishments women of color rocked throughout the decade. 

Council incorporated nail art designs inspired by trendy A-listers into the 400,000 acrylic nails featured in her fountain's carapace.
Sculptor Pamela Council incorporated nail art designs inspired by trendy A-listers onto the 400,000 acrylic nails featured in her fountain’s carapace.
Alex Webster, Courtesy Times Square Arts

Others “have a more contemporary flare, and they’re decked out with metallic strokes and rhinestones,” she continued. “But the bulk of them are the classic French manicure.”

As a finished product, Council’s acrylic-covered artwork offers Times Square sightseers a multisensory experience, featuring vibrant colors and visuals — as well as sweet scents and smooth sounds.

Nail art featured in Council's structure in inspired by glitzy styles of the day, '90s black culture and the fashionably chic French manicure.
Nail art featured in Council’s structure is inspired by glitzy styles of the day, ’90s black culture and the chic French manicure.
Michael Hull

“When you visit [the fountain], an art ambassador will offer you a wishing wafer, which is a fizzy tab in the shape of a coin,” said Council, a graduate of Columbia University. “And when you toss it into the fountain and make a wish, it fizzes up and gives off the fragrance of a Florida healing water.”

The experience is enhanced by a soundtrack of warrior anthems, including Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and Mariah Carey’s “Shake It Off.”

The inside of the "Fountain for Survivors" features music, vibrant images and healing waters.
The inside of the “Fountain for Survivors” features music, vibrant images and healing waters.
Stefano Giovannini

“The fountain’s playlist is full of empowering songs by dynamic singers,” Council said, noting that she drew artistic inspiration from Carey’s 2020 memoir — in which the Grammy winner described surviving her troubled childhood. “Music adds another layer of hope and joy to the ambiance.”

Council crafted the structure in the hopes that each spectator “has a private, reflective and fun moment within this very warm, cocoon-like landmark in the middle of Times Square.”

Her series of Afro-Americana influenced fountains — including a Juneteenth memorial dubbed “Red Drink,” which drips red soda and is on display in Houston, Texas, and a fondue-shaped fountain called “Tender-headed” that oozes Luster’s Pink hair lotion and is featured in a showcase at UTA Artist Space in Beverly Hills, California — caught the eye of Times Square Arts director Jean Cooney in early 2021. 

“Times Square is a universal gathering place for so many people, yet it’s never had a fountain,” Cooney told The Post. “But as the city began reopening after the harshness of the pandemic, we knew we wanted an inventive artist like Pamela to create an ambitious structure that reunites and uplifts us.”

And she said Council’s use of acrylic nails to convey the spirit of survival is nothing less than a stroke of genius. 

“Conceptually, the nails provide a tough, but beautiful exterior that protects this very vulnerable and intimate interior space,” Cooney said. “It’s symbolic of the duality of a survivor’s heart, and that’s just what we need in the heart of the city right now.”

Council's 18ft. tall monument was inspired by the survival stories of dynamic men and women.
Council’s 18ft. tall monument was inspired by the survival stories of dynamic men and women.
Stefano Giovannini



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