Bronze sculpture is by Ventura artist Michael O’Kelly

Statue honors Miriam Schwab.

A memorial statue honoring local philanthropist and long-time Ventura College patron Miriam Schwab was unveiled at a ceremony on Saturday, January 25, in the courtyard of the Ventura College’s Performing Arts Center.

The large crowd enjoyed music, food and sharing stories about Miriam.

The 12-foot high bronze sculpture is by Ventura artist Michael O’Kelly. It memorializes her love of music and her strong belief in the import role music plays in the community college system. The dancer in the sculpture is holding a violin, an instrument that she played in the Ventura College Orchestra for 15-years. The music stand symbolizes academic learning, while the dancer symbolizes stepping out into the world after students have received their education.

Schwab passed away in 2017 at age 89. In 2018, Ventura College Foundation, which provides financial support to students and programs of Ventura College, received a $12 million donation from Schwab’s estate in 2018. It is the largest gift ever to a community college in Southern California.

Anne Paul King, Executive Director, Ventura College Foundation was the MC for the event. She introduced the speakers that included Dr. Kimberly Hoffmans, President, Ventura College, Dr. Tim Harrison, Dean of Athletics and Fine Arts, and, of course the artist Michael O’Kelly.

The Ventura College Wind Quintet provided wonderful music for the large gathering during and after the unveiling.

O’Kelly has created many pieces of public art, in addition to his prolific privately commissioned work in Ventura County, Los Angeles and Las Vegas his public art pieces include the timeline ceramic mural located downtown on Main St. The beautiful ceramic mural highlighting Ventura’s history for the city’s 150th anniversary. The mural by the San Buenaventura Mission, is 50’ long by 9.5’ high and took him more than a year just to draw.

When asked if creating public art creates additional pressure for him as the artist, versus private commissions, he replied, “Public art is so important, thousands of people see it, but I don’t feel any additional pressure when creating it. I’m confident and know what I can do. I’m just a working artist.” Michael O’Kelly sold his first piece of art at age nine while on a family vacation.

“I was really pleased when Miriam Schwab wanted me to do her memorial sculpture for Ventura College, which was part of her 12-million-dollar endowment for the college’s Performing Arts center” he said.

Schwab was a passionate classical music lover. She played the violin with the Ventura College Symphony Orchestra for over a decade and started the Henry Schwab Violin and Viola Competition, named after her late husband. Eighty-five percent of Schwab’s gift goes to the Ventura College Instrumental Music Program including funding for a permanent violin and viola competition, a sustainable year-round symphony orchestra and the creation of the Miriam and Henry Schwab Academy of Music. In addition, fifteen percent of Schwab’s gift supports the Ventura College Aquatics Program. An avid swimmer, Schwab could often be seen swimming in the Ventura College pool (and riding her bike daily around town).

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