Pictured: Close up of “Stepping Out.” Photo courtesy of Michael O’Kelly


by Emily Dodi

One of Ventura’s greatest benefactors will receive a special thank you this weekend. On Saturday, Jan. 25, the statue honoring Miriam Schwab will be unveiled in front of the Ventura College Performing Arts Center.

An avid supporter of the college and a beloved presence on campus, Schwab played violin for the Ventura College Symphony Orchestra for years and enjoyed exercising in the college’s swimming pool. When she passed away in 2017, Schwab left a $12 million dollar endowment for Ventura College’s music and aquatics departments.

“It’s most extraordinary,” Ventura College Foundation Executive Director Anne Paul King says about the endowment.

In commemoration of Schwab’s life and the tremendous impact her generosity will have on current and future generations, Ventura artist Michael O’Kelly was personally selected by Schwab to design the statue. O’Kelly’s work was first introduced to Schwab by Robert Lawson, department chair of performing arts at Ventura College and music director/conductor of the Ventura College Symphony Orchestra.

After months in the making, the statue will be unveiled at a private ceremony with many of Schwab’s closest friends, college leadership and local officials in attendance.

Michael O’Kelly’s bronze statue honoring Miriam Schwab, which will be unveiled at Ventura College this weekend. Photo courtesy of Michael O’Kelly

“The community wants to honor her extraordinary gift,” says King. Part of the ceremony will include a performance of some of Schwab’s favorite music by students of the Miriam and Henry Schwab Academy of Music. The academy is a three-week summer intensive music academy that was made possible by the endowment.

“So many barriers have been removed by Miriam Schwab’s gift,” says King. “We think about that every day.”

The statue stands as a constant reminder of Schwab’s support of the arts and the infinite possibilities she helped create. After fine-tuning every detail, O’Kelly says that the finished piece “is light and delicate and floating . . . it looks almost impossible. I’m really happy with it.” O’Kelly has given the statue the unofficial title “Stepping Out” because “it represents the achievement of going through college and moving forward with life afterwards.”

The title could not be more fitting, seeing that Schwab’s gift will help so many do just that.