A fundraising project to restore the whimsical children’s sculptures to the pond in front of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. administration building is about halfway to its goal.

Janice Montgomery, former director of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation, and current director Ethan Crough spoke to the Columbus Sunrise Rotary Club on Friday morning about the effort to return the child sculptures to the pond.

The bronze figures — “Puddles,” the girl, and “Frog Pond,” the boy — are well-remembered by Columbus residents who found their playful poses along the pond a lighthearted sight as they passed by BCSC’s administration building on Central Avenue.

The sculptures were placed outside the building, the former Garfield Elementary School which became the corporate headquarters for Arvin Industries, in 1995. The artwork was commissioned by the late James Baker, who was Arvin’s chairman at the time, as a way to reflect the company’s commitment to education and the children of the community.

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The two child figures were part of a series of sculptures on the grounds of the headquarters, which included another sculpture of children playing “crack the whip,” which was relocated to the POW-MIA plaza in downtown.

“Puddles” was stolen in 2012, and “Frog Pond” remained there for several years until BCSC officials decided to place him in the “sculpture protection program” while the effort began to commission another sculpture of the girl, Crough said.

The sculptures have been missed, not just by school corporation personnel but by the community as well, Montgomery and Crough said.

Saying her husband worked in the school system and her son went through BCSC, Sunrise Rotary member Trish Moore said the loss of the children sculptures has been felt.

“I feel really strongly they should be back at the pond,” she said. “We’re so glad you’re working on this,” she said to Montgomery and Crough. “We miss those little guys.”

The organizers working to restore the sculpture have commissioned a new sculpture from artist Linda Peterson, and a scale model of the new work was displayed at the Rotary meeting. Montgomery explained the sculpture is as yet unnamed as Peterson does not name her work until it is completed.

The original girl sculpture, and its boy counterpart, were designed by artist Jo Saylors, but cannot be replicated because the molds were destroyed in a fire, Montgomery said.

Although the search for the missing “Puddles” has continued over the years, school officials now believe the sculpture can’t be recovered because it was sold and melted for scrap.

The cost to replace the girl sculpture is estimated at $15,645, but there are additional costs that need to be covered, Montgomery said. About $7,000 is needed to repair “Frog Pond” and to provide additional security to protect the sculptures. Lighting and a security-minded anchor and base are being installed to thwart vandalism or theft.

An additional $1,000 is needed for a plaque to recognize those who donate to the effort to restore the sculptures at the pond.

Each of the sculptures cost about $10,000 when they were first commissioned, Montgomery said.

While adults initiated the fundraising project, students have joined the effort.

CSA New Tech High School students are crafting materials to market the effort and designing community presentations and media outreach. Students will also plan the unveiling ceremony when the new girl sculpture is completed.

The students have designed a poster that will begin appearing around Columbus within the next few weeks to encourage donations from the community.

The effort has received three major grants so far, from the Arvin Gift Fund, a fund within Heritage Fund _ The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, the Bartholomew School Foundation and the Community Education Coalition, Montgomery said.

Grant applications are out to every possible grant-awarding entity in Columbus that the project might be qualified for, she said.

Note cards with a photo of “Puddles” and “Frog Pond” by Ron Arnold are being sold to raise money for the project, along with an alphabet print by Marilyn Brackney.

An online fundraising portal has also been created by the foundation to encourage the community to participate.

Crough talked to Rotary club members about the charge that had been given by the J. Irwin and Xenia Miller family, instrumental in promoting not only architecturally significant buildings as schools, but also encouraging that artwork and sculptures from notable artists be a part of those structures.

At the dedication of a sculpture at Parkside School on Nov. 12, 1964, Xenia Miller gave three reasons why works of art should be supported.

Cultural objects help provide a physical environment through which children’s tastes are elevated.

One such artistic project could encourage other similar projects for various civic groups.

Art and art appreciation help broaden interests in all citizens and thus make the community a more attractive place in which to live and to raise children.

Crough told the Rotary members that even as he and other school employees work in a large, former corporate headquarters of Arvin Industries, the two child sculptures were a constant reminder to school corporation employees of their mission, that “we work for children,” he said.

How to help

Community members may help support the restoration of the two children’s sculptures to the pond at Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s administrative offices by donating through the Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation.

To donate:

Online, visit bcsc.k12.in.us/schoolfoundation and remember to use a memo note “sculptures”

By mail: Write a check to BCSF with memo note “sculptures” and mail to Ethan Crough, Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation, 1200 Central Ave., Columbus, Indiana, 47201

To purchase note cards, which are two for $10, or the alphabet print, which is $35, stop by the foundation office at the BCSC administration building.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.