Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the prominent IU Kokomo sculpture has been restored.
The Phoenix has been a fixture on campus since its opening in 1965 and was IUK’s first sculpture. It was created by Robert Hamilton a firefighter who took classes at IUK. Hamilton’s desire to contribute something to IUK was supported by his friend and IUK’s first chancellor, Victor Bogle.
Hamilton constructed the stainless steel, epoxy and fiberglass sculpture in Bogle’s garage. When the statue began to cost more money it was the IUK faculty who pitched in to get it funded and built.
“The faculty have been invested in it from the beginning to make sure there was something cool outside the front building,” IUK Information Services Librarian and Archivist Meg Galasso said.
Venus Bronze Works from Detroit was brought in to do the restoration of the sculpture. Company president Giorgio Gikas and his crew worked seven days on cracks, repairing loose pieces of the art and restoring The Phoenix. Gikas has been in the business since 1984 and has worked on pieces of art at IU Bloomington as well as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Momument at Monument Circle in Indianapolis.
IUK Director of Physical Facilities John Sarber said there was money available for art restoration during the IU bicentennial celebration as well as the IUK’s 75th celebration and noted The Phoenix needed restoration. Sarber was complementary of the work done by Gikas’ crew.
“It looks brand new. It looks really nice,” he said. “It’s an iconic piece for the campus,”
Galasso explained it’s important to keep the piece in good condition for years to come not just for the university but for those who attend IUK.
“It’s just such a landmark on campus,” she said. “It’s in the background of so many commencement photos and we have great photos of it when students come to visit campus.”
According to Galasso there are comments by Bogle about how when the project began to grow larger than anticipated, it lead to an interesting tactic to deal with costly epoxy prices.
“So there are comments about…it being filled with ‘tin cans and other junk’ that helped fill the space so they didn’t have to use as many of the expensive materials,” she said. “I think it’s kind of fun wondering what all from Bogle’s garage wound up in The Phoenix.”
Galasso said through all the new buildings over the years and any in the future, The Phoenix continues to maintain its presence.
“That’s part of our landscape now…that beautiful piece of art that represents how long we’ve been here,” she said.