Sophocles’ sculpture is added in Astoria Park Greek Statues collection
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Sophocles’ sculpture is added in Astoria Park Greek Statues collection

A hulking bronze statue of ancient Greek playwright Sophocles was installed at the Athens Square Park, the final Hellenic statue planned for the space after years of fundraising by community members.

It joins four other Greek monuments that already adorn the park, including three large fluted columns, a bust of Aristotle and figures of Socrates and the Greek goddess Athena.

«The entire project has been a long process,» said George L. Stamatiades, treasurer of Athens Square, Inc., the neighborhood nonprofit that hosts entertainment in the park during warm weather and paid for the artwork.

The Hellenic statues at the park were the vision of Greek civic leader Dennis Syntilas, who founded the Athens Square group decades ago and passed away in January at the age of 85, according to his obituary.

«He wanted to have a little cultural environment where people could come and sit and chat,» Stamatiades said. «People would just gather there at night during the summer, and they had folk music…little by little it evolved into actually having full bands there.»

He said it took the group about four or five years to raise approximately $170,000 to pay for the Sophocles statue, including its construction and the costs of yearly maintenance — like polishing — that it’s expected to need.

The bronze figure was created by local artist Chris Vilardi, and stands 7-foot-6-inches tall while resting on a 2-foot ceramic pedestal.

The first artwork, a statue of Socrates, was added to the park in 1993, according to the Parks Department’s website — paid for by Athens Square, Inc. The group also funded the addition of the three columns in 1996.

The mayor of Athens, Greece, gifted the statue of Athena to the park in 1998, according to the Parks Department, while the bust of Aristotle was a gift from the Greek region of Chalkidiki in 2008.

The city also renovated the park last summer to the tune of $850,000, re-paving the performance space and plaza area with Greek-inspired designs.

There will be an official unveiling ceremony for the Sophocles statue on Saturday, March 28, as part of a Greek Independence Day celebration at the park.