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Sculpture Inspires Tank of the Year

Thursday, January 6, 2011

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One award-winning artwork has begotten another, as the reproduction of a beloved community sculpture on a water tank has reaped “2010 Tank of the Year” honors for the City of Newton, KS.

With the artist’s help, the town reproduced the Blue Sky Sculpture on its new 500,000-gallon potable water tank. The result is Tnemec Company’s Tank of the Year Award, which recognizes innovative uses of the company’s coatings on tank constructions.

Blue Sky

Blue Sky Sculpture is a 20-by-30-foot glazed tile mosaic that features clouds set against a bright blue sky. The collaborative effort of artist-designer Phil Epp and ceramists Terry Corbett and Conrad Snider, the work consists of an arched surface divided by a "sky passageway" and two abstract stoneware figures. 

In 2008, the sculpture, installed near the city of Newton, was named one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas Art.”

Later, when Newton officials were considering designs for the town’s new water tank, they negotiated with Epp to create a permanent reproduction of his signature work for use on the water tank.


Vada Snyder /

The Blue Sky Sculpture, which inspired the tank painting, is one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas Art.”

Coatings System

A scale model of the new tank, which replaced a standpipe built in 1905, was used to create the artwork that mimicked the sculpture.

“Phil Epp and Newton City Engineer Suzanne Loomis matched Tnemec colors to recreate the artist’s original desired effect,” said coating consultant Rick Penner. The resulting palette included Tnemec’s 20BL Splash, 15BL Tank White, 21BL K.C. Blue, 71BL Horizon Blue, 10BL Cornflower, 35GR Black and 24GR Lightpole.



The winning tank rises over Newton, KS.

The coating system consisted of a shop-applied primer coat of Series 91-H2OHydro-Zinc, a zinc-rich urethane certified in accordance with NSF/ANSI Standard 61 for use on interior potable water tanks.

Exterior steel received a roller-applied intermediate coat of Series 73 Endura-Shield, an acrylic polyurethane, followed by a finish coat of Series 700 HydroFlon, an advanced fluoropolymer topcoat designed for long-term gloss and color retention.

Painting and Lighting

The shop and field applicator on the project was Phoenix Fabricators of Sebree, KY, which assembled the new tank on the ground and lifted it by crane onto its pedestal. The same company also removed the existing standpipe after installation of the new tank was completed.

To enhance the image, the city installed uplighting at the base of the tower, Penner said.

Tank Award

Judging of the annual award is conducted by “a panel of water tank enthusiasts,” Tnemec says. New and renovated projects may be nominated, and all styles of tank constructions are eligible. Judging criteria includes artistic value, significance of the tank to the community, and challenges encountered during the project.

Previous winners include the rose water tank in Rosemont, IL; hot air balloon tanks in Anderson, SC; the Lakes Eagles waterspheroid in Lake Villa, IL; and the sports figures water tank in Dublin, OH.



The Rosemont, IL, water tower took 2006 Tank of the Year honors.


Tagged categories: Tank exteriors; Tnemec; Water Tanks

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