The saga of Leon the Frog was first chronicled in the north concrete stairwell of the Social Sciences building in the early 1970s, painted by art students line by line on the step risers leading upwards. Leon “hops up” from the basement past the departmental occupants of the building at the time: nursing, history, political science, anthropology, and social work to the art department, which was located on the 12th floor. His journey reflects the zeitgeist of the early ‘70s; the artists/writers (Tony Acosta, Joane Cardinal-Schubert, Robin Laurence, Catherine McAvity, and Rita McKeough) said he was a metaphor for a student “lost in space.” He begins at the bottom, searching for identity and the light at the top of the stairs, en route escaping dissection, crucifixion, sexual harassment, and an attempt to sell him insurance before arriving, finally, on the 13th floor. There is hope that art and a chance to express himself offer him solace, but some argue that his creativity slips into lunacy and he is lost. Speculation attributes Leon’s name to Leon W. Browder, who was working at the university in 1974, and whose research involved the embryonic development of the African clawed frog, xenopus laevis.
— Excerpt from The Age of Audacity: 50 Years of Ambition and Adventure at Calgary’s Own University, written by Prof. Aritha van Herk
Leon the Frog had been touched up, restored and embellished by students numerous times over the years. In 2017, it was mistakenly painted over in a campus-wide effort to clean up graffiti. Leon the Frog was restored again within two weeks by a group of 30+ dedicated students and alumni.
Leon is written on the Social Sciences stairs.
Leon is restored by students Ian Kinney and Teale Phelps Bondaroff. > Read text.