In a previous post, I mentioned the ‘famous’ Erie Fish. I’ve spent the time between that post and this one doing a bit of research and going around collecting pix. This little project has also been another great way for us to get to know our new area.
As it turns out, these fish were part of a project called GoFish. A bit of background on the project…..
Around the year 2000, the Erie Art Museum and Gannon University came up with the idea to take art off the walls and bring it to the people. Their self-formed “Fish Commish” hired a local artist to design a 2 giant fish models (fish were chosen due to Erie’s proximity to the lake) to be marketed to local businesses. After a purchase, the Fish Commish assigned local artists to paint the fish according to the wishes of the buyer…some of them reflected the type of business which had bought it, some had sayings or mottos written on it, some displayed the painted hand prints of children at the school where it sat, etc. whatever the buyer desired.
Set up to benefit both the Erie Art Museum and the Gannon University General Scholarship Fund, the price of a fish was $3,000.00 if the buyer would donate the fish to be auctioned at the end of the planned display time and $3,500.00 if they wished to keep the fish after the planned display period. Things got off to a slow start but after the first fish was bought and displayed in 2001, the Fish Commish was SWAMPED with orders. At its peak, Erie was a virtual aquarium when 90 fish were displayed on street corners, in schoolyards, banks, etc.
Even now, almost 15 years after the first fish appeared, some of these fish still remain in Erie. I was unable to get to some as they were inside businesses that I had no business in, etc. But feast your eyes on the ones I could get to!
Based on the success of the GoFish project, a new initiative called LeapFrog was begun in 2004. Again, it was headed by the Erie Art Museum and Gannon University. This time, however, frogs (representing the 7 species of frogs indigenous to the Erie area) were used instead of fish. Again, 2 different models were created (one standing, one sitting) and marketed to local businesses. At its peak, 102 fiberglass frog statues decorated by local artists were displayed all around Erie transforming it from a virtual aquarium into a virtual lily pad! Have a look at this crew of frogs!
Both these projects were started as a way to “build community around whimsical art.” Definitely this happened. In researching these projects, I’ve read that a new fish or frog delivery got to be a big event in Erie. People would come out in hordes to get their pic snapped with the new fish on the block and some people even had t-shirts made!
Of course, now many other cities have their own similar mascot program. Have you seen one like this or does your own city have one?