Sculpture Depicts ‘Coming and Going’ of Women’s College Students
About 200 former Brenau University students attending annual reunion weekend festivities on April 11 witnessed the official union of two “Brenau students of today” with the dedication of the second of two statues depicting a somewhat timid young woman’s arrival on campus and the departure of a more confident, self-assured woman stepping with ease into the world, no matter what it holds in store.
With both bronze sculptures now permanently installed overlooking the front lawn of the historic Brenau campus, university officials and alumnae of the 137-year-old Brenau Women’s College and Brenau Academy dedicated the art works to “the lasting inspiration of the Brenau Ideal,” the university’s century-old mantra that challenges students and graduates to be “serenely confident of the limitless reaches of human endeavor.”
“In my 10 years at Brenau, I have seen many times the scenario that these works of art represent,” said Brenau President Ed Schrader. “Young women do grow and prosper here and they leave us well-prepared to make a significant impact on the world. We are making every effort we can to apply the ideal that has kept the Women’s College thriving across the entire university.”
Sculptor Jean Westmacott of Crawford, Georgia, the former director of Brenau University Galleries, created the statues on a commission from former Brenau President John Burd to represent “what Brenau gives to a young woman.” The first took residence on the terrace balustrade outside Simmons Visual Arts Center in 2009. The second arrived in time for the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.
Burd, who is now president emeritus, also spoke at the dedication. He conceded that he initially wanted something to replace the planters that once flanked the front steps to the ornate building. “We use to put out pots with plants,” he said, “but the plants would die and the pots would just sit there.” However, he said Westmacott talked him into something more elaborate, and the finished works, “are ideal for the representation n of the Women’s College.”
“They are treasures and marvelous additions to the Brenau University permanent collection [of art],” he said, “just as Jean Westmacott was to the university a treasure.”
The statues complement other works on the front lawn, such as a bronze figure of a primly-seated women in ankle-length Victorian attire that represents women of the past and another of a woman in jeans seated on the ground representing modern students.
In choosing the models for the two figures, Westmacott said that she tried to keep “Brenau’s global connections and interests in mind.”
“Brenau students’ experience of the world is expanding, even as some aspects seem to be shrinking,” she said. “The women graduating from Brenau are being prepared for this ‘new world’ we all share.”
For the first piece Westmacott chose a student from one of the classes she taught in the Athens area after retiring from Brenau – Lucy Kern, whose ethnic background Colombian Indian, German and Hispanic. The second sculpture used Rachael “Moji” Ogunmuko, a young artist from Nigeria who has modeled for the drawing courses Westmacott has been taking in recent years. Both Ogunmuko and Kern attended the dedication ceremony.
Westmacott explained that it was her intention to keep viewers guessing about the background of both figures since that reflects the collective background of Brenau students. “They can be from anywhere,” she said, “and they do come from all walks of life. That’s the beauty of Brenau.”
“I do think they’re better than dead geraniums in pots,” she quipped.
The sculptor spent 16 years at Brenau as galleries director and art professor before retiring in 2008. The Pennsylvania native, who holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, moved to Georgia in the 1970s with her husband, Richard, a former University of Georgia professor. She maintains her studio on the 19th century farmstead she and her husband own in rural Oglethorpe County.