When Bloomsburg University rededicated the bronze bell called “Endless Circle” last fall it was more than acknowledgement of artwork in the Sculpture Garden on the Academic Quad. It was an affirmation and remembrance of a relationship that Bloomsburg shared with a famed artist for more than half a century.
The bell, the first bronze commission of the late Toshiko Takaezu’s work in North America, now hangs from a new white oak gate, funded by a donation from Thomas J. ’65 and Cecelia M. Toth ’66 after the weather took its toll on the bell’s previous framework. Bloomsburg’s gallery director Scott Roper designed the gate in Japanese style, carpentry foreman Kollyn Kerstetter and his crew crafted it with mortise and tenon joints, and the university grounds crew, led by supervisor Rich Yoder, installed it.
When Takaezu created the bell on campus over several years in the 1980s with the assistance of students and art professor Karl Beamer, her relationship with the university was already three decades old. The Japanese-American artist began a friendship with Percival “Bob” Roberts, the late Bloomsburg art department chair, in 1958. She fashioned Endless Circle in his memory.
After Roberts’ death, Takaezu’s relationship with BU strengthened through a friendship with Beamer, now professor emeritus. Beamer, who met Takaezu while he was an undergraduate student, joined the faculty as a sculpture and ceramics professor in the 1970s.
Endless Circle was produced in the Simon Hall sculpture studio in three phases: creating the mold, casting the bell and finishing the bronze. Influenced by Japanese Zen monastery temple bells, Endless Circle is decorated on the front and back with a large incised freeform spiral, a reference to the Japanese Zen concept of the endless circle symbolizing birth, death and rebirth.
Takaezu’s impact on campus continued after the bell was cast. She participated in pottery firings and visited in 2008 for an informal reception honoring her life, work and friendship with BU.
Takaezu also donated more than a dozen ceramic works that are on permanent display in Andruss Library, along with a large painting by famed Japanese artist Sawada, which hangs in the lobby of Mitrani Hall. Other pieces are among the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Takaezu died March 9, 2011, in her native Hawaii, surrounded by three generations of family. •