The newest sculpture in downtown Columbus, a life-sized American bald eagle, has a colorful criminal history that was well-documented.
The piece by Cumming, Ga., sculptor Gregory Johnson, was placed in the 1000 block of Broadway this week after a couple of years on display in Mason City, Iowa.
But what happened to the bronze bird in August 2012 is worth noting. Johnson’s work, which weighs more than 400 pounds, was placed at the trail head of the Big Creek Greenway in Alpharetta, Ga. There was a manhunt and an arrest as the sculpture was recovered in a south Forsyth, Ga., garage.
“I got the eagle back and it was in perfect condition,” Johnson said as he was installing the public art in downtown Columbus. “There were all sorts of headlines: ‘Eagle takes flight;’ ‘Eagle looks for new nest.’ I can remember them all.”
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Johnson’s work is not new to Columbus and the city’s downtown sculpture walk. His original art piece was three bronze eagles, which were purchased locally and put in a private collection.
This is the third consecutive Johnson bronze sculpture that has stood on the pedestal in front of what is now Barberitos but was once Brother’s General Store. The eagle is replacing a sculpture of two children reading, which has been in place for more than two years. The one prior to that was a girl flying a kite, which was sold to a children’s hospital in Mankato, Minn.
The current piece is called the “Inquisitive Eagle.”
“He has his head twisted and he is looking around,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s current piece will be in Columbus for two years under a contract with Uptown Columbus Inc., a nonprofit downtown development organization. The sculptor is paid $1,000 for the display of his work. Johnson’s work is in 22-sculpture walks across the nation.
Uptown Inc. President Richard Bishop said Johnson’s eagle will be the only new sculpture brought into downtown this year.