Long-missing sculpture salmon returns to Eugene
By MARK BAKER • The Register-Guard, an AP Member Exchange feature • September 17, 2010
EUGENE — Roarrrrk!?!
That’s probably the sound the reddish-brown fish made when a certain someone tore if off the iconic bronze salmon sculpture in the downtown Park Blocks fountain at East Eighth Avenue and Oak Street almost a half-century ago.
“He said they were out partying,” Eugene’s Jane Harrison recalled. “They ’rorked’ the fish off.”
“He” would be a college friend of Harrison’s ex-husband. It was 1961 and the elaborate and impressive artwork by Thomas Hardy, a University of Oregon graduate and internationally renowned sculptor, had only been in the fountain for two years, since the Park Blocks — best known as the home of Eugene’s Saturday Market — were constructed in 1959.
The alleged friend (whom Harrison would not finger) and others apparently had been doing some imbibing that night when they wrenched off and stole one of the 100 or so bronze salmon from the almost 19-foot-long sculpture.
Asked if maybe this was just a wild (fish) tale she was telling to cover her own long-ago crime, Harrison, who retired in 2001 as principal of Kelly Middle School, laughed and said no.
“I’ve ’rorked’ other things, but not that one,” she said.
“Why (the friend) gave it to my ex-husband, I have no idea,” Harrison recalled Thursday, standing in Steve Reinmuth’s Bronze Studio in west Eugene, where Reinmuth has spent the past month refurbishing the late Hardy’s piece for the city of Eugene. He plans to reinstall it next week.
Among his other tasks, Reinmuth reattached the stolen fish that had been kept by Harrison’s family and that Harrison brought to him.
Harrison’s act of penitence has done more than help restore the salmon sculpture. It has prompted the city to issue a call for any other people who possess stolen city art work including other fish broken off from the fountain statue to turn them in. The stolen art amnesty will run through Oct. 8, the city says.
Harrison read about the renovation project in the Aug. 14 Register-Guard; about how for the second time in its life the sculpture had fallen into disrepair and that Reinmuth had been hired to fix and refinish it this time since Hardy is no longer living.
A UO student at the time, Harrison and her ex were living in an apartment on Ferry Lane in 1961. They didn’t have the bronze fish in their possession for very long before they gave it to Harrison’s mother in Coquille. She put it next to a fountain in her garden, where it stayed until last year.
Harrison’s mother died in 2001, but her husband, Harrison’s 97-year-old stepfather, was still living there last year and gathering things to move into an assisted living center, when Harrison spotted the bronze fish in an empty planter box.
“This poor fish needs to come back to Eugene,” she thought.
So she brought it back with her. And when Harrison read about the renovation of the sculpture last month, she found Reinmuth’s website and sent him an e-mail wondering whether any fish were missing from the sculpture.
About five have disappeared over the years, actually, said Isaac Marquez, the city’s public art program manager.
Reinmuth was having dinner with his wife at Rabbit, a south Eugene restaurant, on their anniversary Aug. 16 when he got Harrison’s e-mail on his BlackBerry.
His wife wasn’t crazy about him checking his e-mail during their anniversary, but they both laughed after Reinmuth told her what it was about.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Reinmuth said. Sure, bring it by the studio, he told Harrison.
“We were always told it was the lead fish (on the sculpture),” Harrison said. Actually, the lead fish has been just fine all these years, said Reinmuth, who found a broken weld on the sculpture where he reattached the piece Harrison gave him. It’s a different color, a lighter shade, than the other pieces, he said.
“It’s been in a different environment,” Harrison said.
The salty sea air in Coquille would have had a different effect on the bronze over five decades, Reinmuth said.
“Fish out of water,” he said.
“I’m just glad that it’s back where it belongs with the rest of the fish.”
Read more: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20100917/UPDATE/100917048#ixzz105cXVbjB