Fave artwork didn’t croak, he just got more handsome
It’s not every day you’re likely to see someone slow down on Grand Junction’s Main Street, lean out of her minivan’s window and yell, “I’ve missed that frog!”
But that was a rather common sight on Wednesday morning on Main Street’s 500 block, where city officials, members of the Downtown Development Authority and an artwork installer returned the beloved crowned frog statue “Puffed Up Prince” to its rightful home.
The statue had been removed from its pedestal in front of the former Toys for the Fun of It store in July in order to be cleaned and restored by the artist who created it, Gary Price, as part of an initiative by the DDA and Grand Junction Parks and Recreation to polish and brighten the city’s permanent Art on the Corner displays.
Many locals missed the statue while it was gone. Passersby, in cars or on foot, slowed on Wednesday to say how happy they were to see their favorite frog again. A handful of store owners and employees whose shops surround the statue also came out onto the sidewalk to watch the frog get re-welded onto his platform.
“I thought it was gone forever,” said Jeanine Cordova, owner and stylist at the Estilos II salon at 523 Main St.
“We all love the art,” she said, and her customers would frequently talk about it, too, when they came in.
“I’ve watched people take lots of pictures — I mean, everyone takes pictures with that frog,” she said.
This past year, though, she and some of the other stylists at Estilos II began to notice graffiti on the statue, Cordova said, shaking her head in disappointment.
Cordova wasn’t the only one to shake her head sadly when talking about the state of the art that has enlivened downtown streets since the Art on the Corner project blossomed in town 32 years ago.
Tina Ross, the recreation coordinator with Grand Junction Parks and Recreation who is spearheading the refurbishment, said many of the art pieces have been damaged by vandals, including her favorite piece, “Ostrich,” located on Fifth Street just north of Main.
Ross said another statue, of a dancer, was yanked off of its platform and found discarded near the outskirts of town.
But fortunately, Ross said, many of the artists who produced the works are Colorado-based, so, as with the broken dancer, the city can call on the artists to make repairs so the art may once again be put on display.
Most of the artwork isn’t in utter disrepair, though. It just could use some patching and cleaning, and the pedestals some painting.
Ross said “Breakfast,” the apple core piece on the northwest corner of Seventh and Main, is next on her restoration “to-do list.”
Taking the time to polish up the Art on the Corner isn’t only about tending to needed repairs, said Brandon Stam, director of the DDA.
It’s also about showcasing the city’s public arts program, considered one of the earliest around the nation, and infusing it with new life.
“It gives a bad image to new artists if the permanent collection isn’t kept up,” Stam said, referencing those who apply for the Art on the Corner Temporary Exhibit, a yearlong exhibition of sculptures by artists who compete to have their work displayed in Grand Junction and are awarded an honorarium if their work is selected.
This year, Stam said the DDA, which owns all of downtown’s permanent Art on the Corner productions and runs the temporary art competition, received 47 submissions. Ten to 15 winning pieces will be installed on Oct. 7.
“Puffed Up Prince” has been on display in Grand Junction for almost two decades. And it can now continue to reign as a local favorite.
Just before 11 a.m. Wednesday, the artist’s son, Isaiah Price, pulled up with the sculpture tied down to a trailer in tow behind his truck. Price and a few helpers from the city lugged the approximately 220-pound frog from the trailer to the base of the pedestal.
After Price made quick work of some welding, the frog prince was placed back on his throne, where he can continue to bewitch the Main Street masses indefinitely — and in finer style.