Ivan the Gorilla. The mere name stirs up feelings in the hearts of folks around the Puget Sound. The silverback gorilla, who lived in a cage in the B&I Department store for decades before moving to Zoo Atlanta, is now being cast in bronze for a new statue at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The statue will include his ashes.
Ivan was born in the wild in 1962, and first came to the United States 1964. Starting at the age of 5, he was caged at the department store for just shy of three decades, from 1967 to 1995. He moved to Zoo Atlanta and while there he found a mate, but sired no children. Ivan was 50 years old when he died in 2012.
Ron Irwin, son of B&I co-owner Earl Irwin, said Ivan is “probably the best-known animal to come out of Pierce County.”
The “Beloved Ivan” piece is sculpted by local artist Douglas Granum, who was chosen out of a field of six artists. It is being cast at Tacoma’s Two Ravens Studio, and on Tuesday media gathered to watch Ivan’s head be cast in bronze.
Irwin said Granum was the best artist for the job of recreating Ivan.
“He did a perfect job of representing (Ivan’s) face,” Irwin said.
Larry Johnston, who attended the casting of Ivan’s head on Tuesday, was close to Ivan as a teen. The gorilla came to live with him and his family when Johnston was 13, and moved to the B&I when he was 16.
Johnston’s brother, Dan, also attended the casting. Larry was moved by the ceremony of placing some of Ivan’s ashes in the bronze. He’s happy to see Ivan’s legacy in Tacoma continue through the statue.
“Ivan entertained a whole generation of South Puget Sound-ers,” Larry said.
Once completed, the statue will sit outside the zoo entrance, where visitors can see Ivan without paying zoo admission.
Gary Geddes, director of the zoo, said although Ivan never lived at the zoo he has a lasting legacy in the area. He’s one of those well-known animals like the zoo’s Cindy the Elephant and E.T. the Walrus.
Ivan’s statue is notable because it is the first 3D printed statue made at Two Ravens Studio. The printed style is different from the traditional clay used in bronze casting.
It is expected to take the next two to three months to complete the statue. To learn more about the Beloved Ivan statue, visit the project website.
Photo by Rachel Coward