A life-size bronze sculpture of Greta Thunberg has been installed at the University of Winchester today (Tuesday 30 March).
Titled Make a Difference, the sculpture is believed to be the world’s first life-size sculpture of the young Swedish climate change activist and is a symbol of the University’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and social justice.
In recognition of the importance of art in adding to the inspiring and creative space on campus, the sculpture was commissioned in 2019 as part of the £50m West Downs Centre development, the University’s new flagship learning and teaching building.
“The University’s approach to art is to commission or purchase unusual and striking pieces which embody our distinctiveness and values. Greta is a young woman who, in spite of difficulties in her life, has become a world leading environmental activist. As the University for sustainability and social justice we are proud to honour this inspirational woman in this way. We know that many find her a controversial figure. As a University we welcome reasoned debate and critical conversations. We hope her statue will help to inspire our community, reminding us that no matter what life throws at us we can still change the world for the better. That is a message we want all our students and all young people to hear,” said University of Winchester Vice-Chancellor Professor Joy Carter CBE, DL.
“The timing of the statue links to it being one of the finishing touches to the West Downs Centre which has only recently opened - a fitting feature of the new building, as one of the greenest in the city of Winchester, boasting sustainable features including heat recovery systems, rainwater harvesting, a green roof and solar photovoltaic panels. The statue is a symbol of our commitment to combat the climate and ecological emergency in the run-up to the UK hosting COP 26, the United Nations’ Climate Conference, later in the year.”
“We are aware of some concerns raised about the financing of the statue. The statue was commissioned in 2019 as part of the West Downs project from funds which could only be spent on that building. No money was diverted from student support or from staffing to finance the West Downs project. Indeed, the University has spent £5.2m this year on student support, processed £382k in government hardship funds for students in addition to our own hardship funding, established a new IT access fund of £100k, grown the teams that support student wellbeing and spent £1.5m additional funding to support teaching, learning and health and safety during the pandemic.”
Artist Christine Charlesworth was commissioned to create the sculpture in 2019. Christine’s work on the sculpture was influenced by her personal experience of young people with a learning disability. “It is hard to deny her courage and determination,” said Christine. “As is often the case with people on the Autism spectrum, social interaction is difficult for her. It is therefore even more remarkable that she has been able to forefront the mobilisation of young people in support of global environmental protection and to address world leaders on a face-to-face basis.”
“I hope that I have been able to portray her lack of self-confidence and her insecurity while, at the same time, showing her commitment in putting across her strongly-held views. She stands on a block to give her additional height, her one foot extending forward in a pose that conveys some instability and uncertainty. One hand forms a loose fist expressing apprehension, while the other points tentatively forwards, stressing a point she is making. She nevertheless fails to make full eye contact with her audience.”
The University of Winchester declared a climate and ecological emergency in 2019. It has eliminated all unnecessary single-use plastic across offices and teaching spaces, catering and sporting facilities and halls of residence and aims to be carbon neutral by 2025.
The University is one of a small number of universities globally to be recognised by the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Management Education initiative to train a new generation of business leaders capable of managing the complex demands faced by business and society in the twenty-first century. The University also holds the National Union of Students' (NUS) Responsible Futures accreditation for its commitment to embedding sustainability and social responsibility in its teaching and other activities.
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