Limited edition of 'We Are' desktop sculptures to benefit students in need

December 07, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Since its 2015 installation in the shadow of Beaver Stadium, the “We Are” sculpture — four tons of gleaming Pennsylvania steel, shaped by artist and class of 1994 alumnus Jonathan Cramer into the words of the iconic cheer — has become a cherished landmark and a reminder of the Penn State community’s enduring spirit. Now the public has an opportunity to bring the sculpture into their homes and support Penn Staters in need.

Cramer, in partnership with the Penn State Bookstore and the Division of Development and Alumni Relations, will be creating a limited edition of signed replicas, with more than half of the proceeds going to the Student Care and Advocacy Fund for students facing unexpected hardships and crises.

“I created the original ‘We Are’ sculpture to express the pride that I and so many Penn Staters feel,” said Cramer, a Brooklyn-based artist and a graduate of the bachelor of fine arts program in the College of Arts and Architecture. “When I conceived the idea of a version that would be available to alumni, fans and friends of the University, I wanted it to help the Penn State family to grow even stronger. I am delighted that proceeds will give students both financial assistance and a sense that no matter what challenges they’re facing, they are not alone. ‘We Are’ there for them.”

Chosen by the class of 2013 as their senior gift, the original 12-foot sculpture was installed at the intersection of University Drive and Curtin Road on the University Park campus in June 2015. Cramer’s design was the winner of a contest to create an artwork that would reflect and renew the spirit of the Penn State community in the wake of the institutional crises that unfolded in the early 2010s. Cramer drew inspiration from the story of the 1945 Penn State football team, which voted unanimously to support Black players Wally Triplett and Dennis Hoggard and boycott a game in then-segregated Miami. Their statement that “We play all or we play none … We are Penn State” became a rallying cry for every Nittany Lions team since. That story, and Cramer’s process of creating the “We Are” sculpture, were captured by ESPN in a 2015 documentary.

The six-inch-high replicas will be manufactured in the United States by Universal Sculptures Inc., a company founded by Cramer. The polished stainless-steel desktop versions will be mounted on bases of natural stone from the same quarry that provided the base for the original, and they will be signed by the artist. From the $1,000 price of each sculpture, $600 will go to the Student Care and Advocacy Fund, a University-wide fund to help students facing crises such as illnesses or job losses. The fund became a Penn State priority as the COVID-19 crisis began, and alumni and friends have given more than $830,000 since mid-March.

College of the Liberal Arts alumna Rhea Schwartz and her husband, Paul Martin Wolff, are among the first to purchase one of the sculptures. The couple recently created the largest-ever scholarship in Penn State’s Division of Undergraduate Studies, establishing the Rhea S. Schwartz Educational Equity Achievement Scholarship for high-achieving students who contribute to the diversity of the student body. Purchasing a “We Are” sculpture allowed them to extend their support for students and affirm their commitment to an inclusive Penn State community.

Schwartz said, “I have always thought ‘We Are’ to be the perfect chant — not just for our sports teams but for all our students and alums. We love the sculpture as art, and we love Jonathan Cramer’s generosity in giving back to the students. We are thrilled to be able to support students in these difficult times through the purchase of this wonderful piece of Penn State history. In my home it will be a daily reminder of how proud I am of this legacy and how much Penn State means to me.”

O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations and a graduate of the University’s bachelor’s and master’s programs in history, also has purchased one of the limited-edition sculptures.

“The story of Wally Triplett and the origins of the ‘We Are’ cheer have always resonated with me; that legacy makes me especially proud to be a Penn Stater. It is also an inspiration for the work we do within the Division of Development Alumni Relations to create community and pride among Penn Staters,” said Bundy. “Jonathan’s sculpture is an inspiration, too, and I am delighted to have this signed piece in my collection of Penn State keepsakes. The contribution to the Student Care and Advocacy Fund feels especially meaningful during a year when our nation and our students have faced so many challenges. There’s no better way to continue the “We Are” legacy than to help new generations of Penn Staters feel supported in difficult times.”

The limited edition will be produced in early 2021, but sculptures can be reserved now through the Penn State Bookstore website.

Last Updated December 09, 2020