This week, Scripps College removed the controversial sculpture “Young Woman” from its wellness center after complaints from students and faculty over the artist’s Nazi ties and the statue’s representations of beauty ideals.
President Amy Marcus-Newhall announced the removal of Georg Kolbe’s “Young Woman” statue from Tiernan Field House (TFH) March 30, when she sent an email to the Scripps community.
The statue was moved to Scripps’ Williamson Art Gallery, where it is now on display.
Marcus-Newhall cited student action and demands, including a petition calling for the removal of Kolbe’s sculpture signed by over 200 Scripps community members, as the impetus for her investigation into the statue’s history.
“I was compelled by the concerns students, staff and faculty raised about the symbolism of the statue as an idealized standard of beauty or health which does not align with Scripps’ focus on holistic wellness,” she said in her statement to Scripps students.
Aviva Maxon SC ’24, president of Scripps’ Jewish affinity group, Kehillah, said she was pleased with the action to remove the statue from public view.
“That is a real win for the community and all the people who have been working hard on this issue,” Maxon said.
To Lily Dunkin ’24, who wrote an op-ed calling for the removal of the statue last year, students’ needs were only partially addressed by “Young Woman’s” removal. Dunkin said she would still like to see “accountability for the harm it has caused Jewish, Queer and BIPOC students.”
Dunkin is part of the Statue Action Group (SAG), which, according to their Instagram page, is committed to the removal of Kolbe’s statue and the organization of generative actions to acknowledge the statue’s legacy in the community.
“Unfortunately there has still yet to be a pathway for students to be involved with administrative decision making,” Dunkin said. “Student input and empowerment is critical to this effort.”
As part of the organization’s efforts, SAG encouraged students and faculty to attend German art historian Wolfgang Brauneis’ April 5 talk on prevalent artists of the Federal Republic. The event was hosted in Scripps’ Hampton room.
During the presentation, which was attended by over 30 faculty members and students, Brauneis talked about the history behind German Nationalist art, the relationship of artists to the Nazi regime and emerging discussions over how this art is displayed in museums and in public spaces.
“I think it’s extremely important to show that meaning,” Brauneis said of acknowledging the relationship German National art had with Nazism. “I think it’s always important if you do it with art from National Socialism, not only to show the art for national socialism, but also to show and to explain what has not been shown. I think contextualization is extremely necessary … But at the same time, it’s really difficult because I mean, it’s the art of the Germans, it’s part of German art history.”
The talk was followed by a Q&A, where audience members asked Brauneis about his thoughts on statues such as “Young Woman” being displayed in public-private settings such as TFH.
“When we’re talking about antisemitism, it’s everywhere,” Bruneis said as a response to an audience member’s question. “So you can’t see it directly, maybe, but it’s everywhere. And that’s why I think it’s important to explain [the context of the statue]. But I, of course, understand that you don’t want to be around a sculpture like that because it represents that system.”
SAG also organized a tabling event to occur in tandem with the talk and Q&A. At the event, members of the community made watercolor paintings.
Students involved in discussions over the statue’s role on campus said they hoped the Wednesday talk would ignite further discussions and actions regarding “Young Woman”’s impact on Scripps.
Dunkin said the event was a way “to create the future we want to see at our school.”
Maxon shared that she hopes the conversation surrounding the Kolbe statue to serve as a starting point for greater actions combating antisemitism, citing “access to consistent kosher food, on-campus religious spaces and services, accommodations for holidays and being included in minority spaces” as key elements to empowering Jewish students.
“While I have done work to get this statue taken down, it is not the biggest issue facing Jewish students at Scripps or the wider 5Cs,” Maxon said. “Taking the statue down is important, but should not be the only step taken to fully support Jewish students on campus.”