Bumper Buddha’s big move

Before the St. Thomas Aquinas statue was moved. Photo by Stephen Barling Before the St. Thomas Aquinas statue was moved. Photo by Stephen Barling

Drive past St. Thomas Aquinas Church on Alderman Road and you’ll notice something different—a Charlottesville icon has disappeared. The UVA student-dubbed “Bumper Buddha,” a statue of the church’s namesake welded out of chrome car bumpers, was moved to IX Art Park on May 2.

“Without question, the sculpture became a landmark not only for our neighborhood, but also for Charlottesville,” says the Reverend Mario Calabrese, an assistant priest, adding that the parishioners he talked with were pleased it would be moving to a spot with a wider public audience. The church plans to add on to its current building and develop the limited land space around it,
so St. Thomas Aquinas won’t be sporting a new statue anytime soon, he says.

The Reverend William Stickle commissioned the statue from Indiana sculptor Hank Mascotte in 1967.

Local realtor Mark Mascotte, the sculptor’s nephew, says that a church representative called him about moving it and Mascotte thought the art park would be a “perfect fit.” He contacted IX owner Ludwig Kuttner, who graciously accepted.

“It’s nice to have this new element that someone’s watching over the park,” says IX’s executive director, Brian Wimer. “We feel like we’re being taken care of.”

“The interesting part is it happened right at the same time the city seems to be embroiled in relocating statues,” Mascotte says.

When asked if IX is going to become home to other homeless statues —an island of misfit toys—Wimer said, “I think it’s a strong possibility as people are shifting monuments around this town. We are happy recipients of all sorts of pieces of art. Please, let the donations begin.”

Like the General Robert E. Lee statue? Wimer laughs. “That would entail some very long discussions.”

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