Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Outdoor space

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Institution Name: Bluffton University
Original/Historic Place Name: various names
Location on Campus: various
Date(s) of Construction:
1968-2000multiple sculptors, including Paul Granlund and Paul Soldner (Bluffton Alumni) Bassett, James H.
Designer: several sculptors including Paul Granlund and Paul Soldner (the latter, alumnus of Bluffton); landscape architect: James Bassett.
Type of Place: Landscape site
Style: (Glossary)
Significance: culture, education, landscape, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
1960-present (2006)outdoor space (public sculpture is used to embody the mission of the college aesthetically and emotionally; in the case of Klassen Court and the Centennial Sculpture Garden, these areas highlight the achievements of our own faculty and alumni)

Plans for the inclusion of sculpture into campus building and grounds go back as early as 1929, with the original designs for Musselman Library that included busts of historic Mennonite figures in the lobby. By the 1960s, Klassen Court, the area between Marbeck Center and Founders Hall, was created as a means of displaying the artwork of the late Bluffton College professor, John Klassen, a Russian immigrant who taught art at Bluffton from 1924-1959. While many of his works speak to the pacifist tradition of the Mennonite faith, one of his most notable works, "The Kobzar," depicts a blind Ukrainian minstrel as a symbol for the Russian people who were "good to Mennonites." In the college's centennial history written by Dr. Perry Bush, "Dancing with the Kobzar: Bluffton College and Mennonite Higher Education, 1899-1999," Bush describes "The Kobzar" as a symbol for bridging the gap between Mennonites and the non-Mennonite world around them, one important aspect of the college's mission.

The founding of the Lion and the Lamb Peace Arts Center also gave impetus to using the arts as a means for communicating the college's Mennonite values. This center, in conjunction with the Ohio Arts Council, sponsored a national public sculpture competition with a $20,000 commission. The winning site-specific work, Peace Thrones, by the Kokoro Carvers of Benton, Vermont (B. Amore and Woody Dorsay), is situated near the banks of Riley Creek. The idea for this granite work comes from a legend found in several cultures about three warring groups whose leaders created a place of peace where they found they had much in common. "Peace Thrones" is used for prayer and meditation, and for commissioning services before student groups travel internationally. In addition, the Lion and the Lamb Peace Arts Center received a $75,000 grant from the Honda Foundation to celebrate the tenth year of the founding of the Center. The Center commissioned works for the Honda Outdoor Peace Sculpture Gallery, which includes a chrome piece, "Peace house," by Jack Mann, a bronze sculpture "Jonah and the Whale," by Bluffton College faculty member Gregg Luginbuhl, and "Peace Wall and Gate," a mixed media work by Jon Barlow Hudson, which includes tiles created by children as well as jail bars and stockades in wood.

Snyder Circle, the vehicular circle in front of the new gateway to the campus, Centennial Hall, has the impressive "Constellation Earth" by internationally known artist Paul Granlund. And most recently works by seven alumni and/or art faculty members were commissioned for the area around Centennial Hall, all to reflect in some way on experiences at Bluffton College. Thus our students are reminded daily of the important values Bluffton College hopes to instill--and we hope they learn to appreciate art a bit as well.


Bassett, James H. Bluffton College Campus Plan: A Concept for Continuing Physical Development. November 1965. Bluffton University, Bluffton, OH.

Bassett, James H. Comprehensive Plan for Bluffton College. March 1961. Bluffton University, Bluffton, OH.

Sasaki Associates Inc. and Basset Associates. Bluffton College Master Plan: Executive Summary. [Watertown, MA: Sasaki Associates Inc. and Summit, NJ: Basset Associates], November 2000.


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Last update: November 2006