Plans are underway for statue of Ellen Browning Scripps in La Jolla
The project is spearheaded by La Jolla residents Myriam Miedzian and Gary Ferdman, who were part of installing the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument in New York’s Central Park in 2020.
Plans are beginning to take shape to create and install a statue of famed La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps somewhere in town.
The effort, presented to the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group May 22, is being shepherded by La Jolla residents Myriam Miedzian and Gary Ferdman, who also were part of the effort to install the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument in New York’s Central Park, which was unveiled in 2020.
Miedzian said only “a tiny fraction of statues” around the world are of women and that “one reason there is so little outcry for statues of women is there is very little awareness of the extreme lack of such statues. … We get used to what we see, and what we see are statues of men.”
Scripps helped launch many La Jolla establishments, including the Woman’s Club, Scripps Institution of Oceanography — first named the Marine Biological Association of San Diego — The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Recreation Center, Scripps Memorial Hospital, Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Children’s Pool. Scripps died in La Jolla in 1932 at age 95.
“We have a great opportunity here because we have a hometown heroine who was an extraordinary human being,” Ferdman said.
Of the statues in San Diego depicting historical figures or “real” people, “85 percent depicted men,” including teachers, military leaders, athletes, religious leaders, explorers and more, he said. Of the statues of women that Miedzian and Ferdman found in a search across San Diego, the only one in a public park was of Kate Sessions, a horticulturist and landscape architect known as the “Mother of Balboa Park.” The others are attached to private institutions.
The Scripps statue project is in the “listening and learning phase,” Ferdman said. To get it built, a site must be selected and appropriate city of San Diego departments must be involved to map out the approval process, he said. Other steps are forming an advisory committee, finding a maintenance partner, creating a budget, starting fundraising, enlisting an art jury to review designs, issuing requests for qualifications and proposals, and choosing a final design and sculptor.
The original plan was to put the statue in Scripps’ namesake park in La Jolla.
Parks & Beaches President Bob Evans said he loved that idea. “It’s at the head of the park, not obstructing any views, very visible from the street and the park in general,” he said.
Other potential sites are the Recreation Center, for which Scripps provided the seed money and where an extensive renovation is planned; the Children’s Pool, one of Scripps’ last projects before her death; and the intersection of Wall Street and Girard Avenue, near the Athenaeum.
Ferdman said he would like a competition for the design “for sculptors across the country to give us their best shot. It may take longer that way, but I think the outcome would be better and would give the community more opportunities to weigh in, which is particularly important.”
Some in attendance at the LJP&B meeting argued for a more interpretive take on the statue, given “general dislike of classic statues” due to the controversial nature of some.
However, Miedzian said there needs to be a certain realism because “women need to be somewhat recognizable, since they have been almost invisible until now.”
Though a budget has not been created, Ferdman said he expects the Scripps statue’s cost to be “nowhere near” the $1.5 million for the Women’s Rights Pioneers statue in Central Park. Miedzian said the local project will be smaller and won’t have the permit and site preparation fees associated with Central Park.
LJP&B member Melinda Merryweather commended the plan, saying: “Everything I have done in my life is because of Ellen [Browning Scripps]. … We are so privileged to have had her in the community. Bravo.”
La Jolla resident Diane Kane said “it’s about time” for a monument for Scripps, and Evans said, “We would love to help and be a part of what you are driving.”
Further plans will be presented to the LJP&B board as details and updates become available. The board meets at 4 p.m. the fourth Monday of every month at the La Jolla/Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave. Learn more at lajollaparksbeaches.org. ◆
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