KOKOMO, Ind. —Since Indiana University Kokomo added outdoor sculptures to its campus in 2016, it has rotated artwork out, to be replaced with new pieces every two years.
In 2023, a metal sculpture created by two students and a faculty member took a permanent place in the collection.
Victory Unchained, designed and built by Gregory Steel, professor of fine arts, Cybil Johnson, a May 2023 new media, art, and technology graduate (NMAT), and Jimmy Murphy, a junior in the NMAT program, was recently dedicated at the east end of the Kelley Student Center.
Standing about 10 feet tall, it’s inspired by Winged Victory of Samothrace, a masterpiece of Greek sculpture dating from the beginning of the 2nd century BC. It is composed of a statue representing the goddess Niké, or Victory.
“We wanted a name that has a metaphorical connection,” Steel said. “It also relates to education. Graduation, earning a degree is a big victory, a momentous occasion. It’s not easy. It’s an important moment, and it is a victory along the road. That’s what life is, a series of accomplishments.”
Johnson is proud to leave artwork behind after moving to Southern Illinois University to begin a Master of Fine Arts degree, funded by a full fellowship.
“I really wanted to leave something of mine here,” she said. In addition to the work they created this summer, Johnson and Steel each have an individual piece displayed.
She enjoyed the creative process of working as a team with an experienced professor, herself as a recent graduate, and Murphy who is just learning to make large-scale sculpture.
“We had three different perspectives,” she said. “It was fun to bounce ideas off each other. We worked well together and had a good time. It’s nice to know Jimmy is interested and will continue creating large sculptures after I am gone.”
Murphy, from Peru, said working with a small group meant he received more hands-on instruction, with mentors to guide him.
“I’d done smaller metal work, but nothing to this extent,” he said. “It was a cool experience.”
Steel said the two students experienced an apprenticeship of sorts as they built the piece.
“We made one large metal sculpture, but within that making of a large sculpture, there was a lot of knowledge being translated that otherwise would not be translated,” he said. “I have over 50 years of making experience developed over the years. I can’t hand them my experience, but I can show them what I know as we work together, which is valuable.”
Steel devised the idea of creating work with students because of budget cuts that impacted the outdoor artwork program. The campus has paid to lease works for two years at a time, but having sculptures permanently installed will help reduce that cost. He noted that Chancellor Mark Canada provided funding for the work.
Steel, Johnson, and Murphy first created drawings of the work, then made patterns from paper to estimate how large it would be, and to use when cutting their material.
It’s a different kind of work than what they’ve traditionally done, Steel said.
“They’ve learned how to make a pattern, engineer, and deal with mechanics like how to drain water, so the sculpture doesn’t rust, things that art students don’t typically have to deal with,” Steel said. “This is a nice way to furnish our campus with sculptures made by students that will be here permanently, while also teaching them how to make something that’s going to last a long time.”
Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.
Description of the video:
Transcript - Victory Unchained: A New Media, Art, and Technology Story
00:00:00:00 - 00:00:48:05
Students, Jimmy Murphy and Cybil Johnson, are in the Fine Arts Building conversing while working on a metal sculpture they have been welding with their professor, Gregory Steel.
Jimmy and Cybil: It’s just a baby... he's just a baby.
Cybil: It’s so close. Is it out? Oh, you're joking.
Gregory: It's like a jigsaw puzzle. A nightmare of a jigsaw puzzle.
Sitting interview footage of the three now plays while footage of the work is playing over their interview.
Cybil: We’re all three bouncing off ideas, constantly working together. And it is the best atmosphere.
Cybil is watching over the others and speaks to the camera: I'm the. I'm the supervisor.
Cybil: Every day we wake up. But we don't leave this building sometimes till five. Monday through Friday. And I just enjoy it.
00:00:48:05 - 00:01:04:10
It's just this. What I know is to make art. I'm welding. Any time you come across me. This is how I look every single day. Nor do I care. And like I saw you today, I was like, Oh, this is what you get today. But if you're working, you're going to look like this. So I'm not ashamed of anything.
00:01:04:12 - 00:01:28:17
Shot cuts to Cybil sitting on the floor giving an update: We gotta change the wire.
Jimmy: There's something just oddly relaxing about, just like making the small circles and just kind of taking two very strong objects and almost just manipulate them as if it was just like clay or paper.
Gregory: We used the winged victory of Samothrace as kind of a inspirational piece. This ancient Greek statue kind of represents this moment of victory for these, these warriors.
00:01:28:22 - 00:01:54:10
Gregory continues: I always sort of relate education in the same way. There's a kind of a victory at the end. And but it's it's also a struggle. It's a battle. And you really have to develop a kind of a warrior's mentality about it. So that's how I see it. I see it as sort of this metaphor for higher education, for this victory over, you know, ourselves in certain sense as we go through this process of education.
00:01:54:16 - 00:02:16:01
Cybil continues: You know, it's a challenge to I can't even explain in words how what this program did for me. I mean, it absolutely gave me support. It gave me a family. It gave me a career. And then I'm going to continue that career, which I never thought ever that I would actually be a sculptor, Like I'm actually a living, breathing artist.
00:02:16:02 - 00:02:45:12
So it's like a it's like a taboo. And then I'm actually doing it. It blows my mind and I just feel like I could never thank Gregory enough for that and be like, Oh, what did he do? He just gave me the support I needed.
Gregory is off camera and is heard saying: That is not possible to be number three.
Jimmy and Cybil observe and laugh.
Chancellor Mark Canada speaks during the sculpture unveiling ceremony:
My name is Mark Canada and I am the Chancellor here at IU Kokomo and I'm delighted to have such a great turnout for this event.
00:02:45:14 - 00:03:08:03
Chancellor Canada continues:
We weren't really thinking of it so much as an event and we are going to have a sculpture walk a little bit later in the fall, but this is a chance for us to appreciate some really wonderful work that our students, along with their faculty mentor, have done. And this really, I think, epitomizes what we do here at IU Kokomo, which is to celebrate student achievement, give them a chance to do meaningful work for the community and for our campus.
00:03:08:07 - 00:03:26:01
Chancellor Canada Continues:
And so it's really nice to have an emblem of that. And what's really nice about this is that we have an artifact that shows the work that the students did. So this is really an embodiment of what we believe here about student achievement.
An IU Kokomo Motion Graphic appears overlaying the finished sculpture sitting between the Kelley Student Center and Hunt Hall with the website Kokomo dot IU dot edu.