Nazi artist Fritz von Graeventiz’s statue “Falcon Boy” was displayed on the Saint Mary’s campus in the Museum of Art’s quad. Saint Mary’s administration has temporarily removed the statue followed by a petition started by three Saint Mary’s students receives over 1,000 signatures.
By Victoria Vidales
Saint Mary’s administration has temporarily removed a statue created by a Nazi artist following a change.org petition created by three Saint Mary’s undergraduates. Named “Falcon Boy,” this statue was displayed in the Museum of Art’s (MOA) quad. Created in 1954 by known Nazi Fritz von Graeventiz, this statue represents all that Saint Mary’s should not be: divisive, racist, and discriminatory. As a result of the artist’s association with the Nazi Party, Saint Mary’s students believe that this statue never should have been and no longer can be present on the Saint Mary’s campus.
On February 23, Saint Mary’s students Sara Mameesh ‘22, Melanie Moyer ‘22, and Venessa Ramirez ‘22 began a petition on change.org to have the statue removed from the campus. The student activists noticed the statue after walking past it on the evening of February 22. The students said they approached the statue out of curiosity, and read the inscription. Not familiar with the artist, the three searched on the web for more information, eventually coming across his ties with Nazi Germany. Immediately appalled by what they had found, the students knew they had to alert the Saint Mary’s community.
“We didn’t know what the next steps were so we reached out to a professor we trusted for advice. We decided to create a petition because we wanted student support before going to administration with our concerns. We felt that if we went to administration alone we would not have received the same attention as we would have with the majority of student support,” Melanie Moyer said.
Arguing that the “artist cannot be separated from the art,” the petition states that this statue is contradictory to Saint Mary’s values, and is extremely offensive and insensitive to members of the Saint Mary’s community. Along with calling for its removal, the petition states the need for an explanation from Saint Mary’s administration for how it came to be displayed on the Saint Mary’s campus and why it took so long for it to be removed.
Following public outrage across the Bay Area, Saint Mary’s administration has temporarily removed the statue to investigate the artist’s background and the statue’s presence on campus. In a statement reported by NBC Bay Area News Saint Mary’s administration claims that the statue was “bought by a member of the Saint Mary’s Art faculty who fled Nazi rule in 1937, and taught at the university in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Mameesh, Moyer, and Ramirez claimed that they are disappointed in the administration's statement, with Ramirez stating that “initially [we felt] very underwhelmed, and disappointed. [The statement was] not genuine, and not really solving the problem. We had our sources, and we thought the school would immediately see our demands.” Mameesh added, claiming that while “[administration] did give us some answers, they did not really acknowledge the artist’s true connection [to Nazism].”
Fritz von Graevenitz was an active Nazi Party supporter, designing several pieces comemorating Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. According to the petition, he is responsible for creating three busts of Hitler and a statue of a 20ft wide Eagle, a symbol of the Third Reich, holding a swastika. As a frequent participant and member of Nazi inner circles, Fritz von Graevenitz’s positions regarding Nazism are clear: he was an avid supporter.
The petition also called upon Saint Mary’s administration to make a public apology to members of the Saint Mary’s community and general public who have suffered as a result of Nazi ideals and propaganda. The petition also suggests that the statue be replaced by another statue that instead celebrates the Jewish community. Students and petitioners believe that this replacement would be a step in support of the advocacy for unity, allyship, and community that Saint Mary’s College promotes.
“[The replacement] does not necessarily have to be a statue, but a painting or mural, something that is celebrating the beauty of Jewish culture,” Mameesh said.
As the petition gained more local attention, the students admitted that they received messages from internet trolls who were critical of their concerns. However, they stated that the positive feedback and support that they have received from fellow students and the local community have been worth the pushbacks. Moyer reflects that “I’ve had fellow students message and reach out to me saying how happy they are that it has been removed, and how hurt it made them feel knowing that [the statue] was there.”
This statue is a living memory of a man who openly represented the worst of humanity. Students are furious that this statue remained on campus for so many years without anyone noticing. As an institution that promotes unity and understanding, a statue created by a Nazi will never be acceptable. Saint Mary’s students will continue to seek accountability from administration to ensure that statues of similar nature, are never again present.
To sign the petition to permanently remove the statue please follow the link below: https://www.change.org/p/saint-mary-s-college-of-california-remove-nazi-art-from-saint-mary-s-college-of-california?redirect=false
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Ryan Ford '23,