By Penny Kastaris
Soon the globe’s dignitaries will assemble at the VIP center of Athens’ preeminent stadium for the Summer Games, when all eyes will focus on “Kyklos—Circle of Glory,” the epic mural and eternal gift to Greece from Hellenes worldwide. It took more than five years for this vision to become a reality. But some might argue that the driving pathos that launched it began at infancy for Artist Euripides “Rip” Kastaris and was more than a century in the making for his fellow Hellenes.
“In 1896 when the modern Games took place in Athens, one of the main factors for success was the incredible mobilization of the Greek Diaspora. This great work of art, “Kyklos,” in the heart of the Spyros Louis Stadium signifies the renewal of the deep and unending devotion to the motherland by all Greeks. In the cycle of 108 years, this devotion remains unchanged and equally magnificent,” said Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis.
Kastaris and members of the Hellenic Cultural Foundation that commissioned this one-of-a-kind memorial had to travel thousands of miles, overcome numerous obstacles, and foster international cooperation, including working with Greek and US officials, to win this coveted spot and permanently install the epic mural at the Spyros Louis Olympic Stadium. In its own way, the Kyklos project mirrors the odyssey that Greece undertook for Athens 2004—the smallest country in modern history, albeit its coveted birthplace, to hold the largest Games to date.
“Our parents came to America holding us in their arms as their most cherished gifts. Now we return to Greece with this internationally supported gift. The journey of Kyklos has been a difficult one, but its ultimate success is a testament to the champions’ spirit in all of us,” said the Olympic artist.
The Hellenic Cultural Foundation united some of the largest Hellenic organizations in the US and worldwide for this project, which has also been endorsed by Greek officials headed by the Ministry of Culture, General Secretariat for the Olympic Games. This epic mural honors the Hellenic origins of the Olympic Games, the Athenian revival of the Games in 1896, and their return to their birthplace for the 2004 Summer Games.
“Kyklos gives all Hellenes and Philhellenes a way to participate. Years from now, our children and grandchildren will read our family names next to the mural in Greece,” stated Chairman Nicholas Karakas of the Hellenic Cultural Foundation.
With the Summer Olympics quickly approaching, there is still a short window of opportunity for additional names to be inscribed in bronze and become immortalized as part of this epic tribute. All the names of the families, individuals and organizations who support this project will be etched permanently on the two circular sculptures to be placed on each side of the mural, which will span a combined length measuring 9 by 22 feet. For information on adding new names and participating in this eternal memorial go to www.kyklos.org or call 314-457-9640.
Inscriptions of the names included with “Kyklos—Circle of Glory” from across the globe will be finalized shortly after the July 4 holiday.
This historic Olympic project has received support from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the Singular Honorary Chairman, His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation, National AHEPA, National Philoptochos, members of Leadership 100, Lazarus and Mary Kalipolidis Family of Canada, Drexel University, University of Missouri, John Sam Koutras family in Sao Palo, Brazil, the Hellenic Community of Australia, Dr. Nick and Nancy Vidalakis Family Foundation, and many others. A more complete list of donors is available by logging onto www.kyklos.org/donors.html.
Along with being chosen as the Creative Director for the Hellenic Cultural Foundation based on his winning designs, Euripides Kastaris was honored as the 2003 Artist of the Year by the prestigious Elios Society. Kastaris is the first Greek-American selected by the United States Olympic Committee to create original fine art commemorating US athletes, which includes his popular 2002 “Fire and Ice” series and his “Athena–Return to Glory” for the 2004 Games. Among his other Olympic creations is “Spirit of Athena” designed for the Athens Environmental Foundation and the global Olympic environmental movement.
Born in Thessloniki, Kastaris was only one-year old when he moved with his family to the US for his father’s pastoral mission. As part of the last wave of immigrants to come to America on ocean liners, Euripides took his first steps onboard the Queen Frederiki as it traveled midway between his birth and adopted countries. Some four decades later, a ferryboat returned to the same port of Piraeus with his Kyklos tribute. He had created the epic mural for Athens 2004 in his adopted hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, the site of the 1904 Olympic host city.
Like other first-generation children in the 1960’s and ‘70s, Euripides went through some growing pains before discovering, and not only accepting, but also cherishing his dual citizenship. He remembers that at school and at play his friends, who could not pronounce his proper name, called him “the Greek kid,” while when he returned to Greece for vacations he was dubbed “the Americanaki.”
Graduating valedictorian from Washington University’s School of Fine Arts, where he would also later teach, Euripides Kastaris was originally recognized for his commercial art in print, film and the Internet. But inspired by the classical myths and spiritual mysticism of his birth country, it is his passion for creating fine art that has resulted in some of Kastaris’ work. In his modern creations, he often uses gold leaf, jewel-toned colors and ancient textures reflecting timeless Hellenic images.
Along with his Olympic creations, his eclectic fine art ranges from icons that hang in sacred places to his unique images for one of rock star Sting’s interactive CDs to his sought-after mythological Gods and Goddesses series. Many of these pieces, which are displayed throughout the world, can also be viewed in his virtual studio at www.petrafineart.com.
Featured in the acclaimed PBS television series “The Greek Americans,” Euripides has his studio and company Petra Fine Art in St. Louis, where he lives with his wife Harriet, and their three children Georgia, Mary and Peter.
Athens 2004 promises to be the Olympics of a lifetime. The eternal Kyklos mural pays tribute to Hellenes worldwide and to all human beings who “quest to rekindle the flame of excellence within themselves.”