Paul Theriault, Center for the Arts art preparator; Stephen Morrell, Japanese garden architect; Ben Chaffee, associate director of visual arts; and Rosemary Lennox, exhibitions manager, gather outside the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Japanese Garden during its 25th-year celebration.
Since 1995, the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Japanese Garden—or Shôyôan Teien—has provided a serene space for meditation, tea ceremonies, and art classes.
Designed, built, and continuously cared for by Stephen Morrell, a landscape architect specializing in Japanese-style gardens, Wesleyan’s Shôyôan Teien is being celebrated through a new exhibit that contemplates the garden’s rich history.
“One’s experience of the garden is meant to be personal,” Morrell said. “By design, it encourages a peaceful intimate relationship where subjective and objective experience merges into present moment being. When that happens you become part of the garden.”
The exhibit, titled 25th Anniversary of the College of East Asian Studies Japanese Garden (Shôyôan Teien), held inside the Freeman Center’s Gallery, showcases sketches, photographs, models, poetry, video, and historical records of the garden.
The exhibition will run through Dec. 10. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
The Japanese garden can be viewed through the Freeman Center’s tatami room (shôyôan). The tatami room was built in 1987 through the generosity of Mansfield Freeman from the Class of 1916. Planned as an educational resource, the ensemble of the tatami room and garden provides a tangible means of experiencing Japanese aesthetics and culture.
Shôyôan was built in September 1987 by master carpenter Takagaki Hiroshi and his apprentice Kaneko Ryosei, using traditional Japanese tools and techniques. In a traditional Japanese house, a similar room would function as a multi-purpose space, serving alternately as a living room, dining room, bedroom, or study.
The garden is host to several plants and trees including Japanese box leaf holly, crimson pygmy barberry, Korean and Japanese boxwood, iris, Yakushima rhododendron, lilyturf, Japanese garden juniper, sedum, Japanese shield fern, and weeping hemlock.
Japanese garden architect Stephen Morrell also designed the meditation gardens for Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, New York, and Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, as well as a tea garden exhibition for the New York Japan Society. Since 1981, he has been Curator of the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden in Mill Neck, New York.
Photos of the gallery exhibit are below: (Photos by Milly Hopkins ’25)