Before retiring, President Haas had commissioned a unique piece of art to be distributed to the twenty-five to thirty members of his cabinet and office staff. The commissioned piece of art was asked to be reminiscent of the commitment he had for the students under his tenure. Specifically, he was calling for artwork concepts that celebrated the students and the overall teaching success of GVSU. Invited artists consisted of alumni who had pursued their education in the Visual and Media Arts program and attended during President Haas’ tenure (2006-2019).
One of these artists being Peter Antor, a Visting Professor at GVSU, where he teaches introductory and intermediate metalsmithing courses and Three-Dimensional Design. Before applying, he conceptualized his idea of constructing a bell with a fellow GVSU alumna, Abbey Hunter. They prepared preliminary sketches, ideas, and concepts that focused around the term Resonate. They felt as though this term was a true representation of the legacy that the President had instilled in the GVSU community. They demonstrated this in their artist statement:
“The positive impact Thomas Haas has bestowed on GVSU will resonate long after he has retired. The students he cares so deeply for will also move on, but the education they received under his guidance will be with them forever. The silhouettes around the base of the bell were designed to represent students he impacted during his time as president. A bell can function as a tool used to sound the beginning and end of something, making it the perfect object to symbolize his career as president”
Soon after presenting their ideas and sketches for consideration, Antor and Hunter received the news they were chosen as the artists. For each step of their process, from preliminary sketches to finished product, they utilized the GVSU facilities, producing all thirty bells on campus.
They initialized their process by first transforming their original sketches into 3D digital models, and then into plastic models with the use of a 3D printer. With the plastic 3D models, they then used investment casting and a lost-wax process. During this process, the investment is hardened in a kiln and the 3D plastic model melts away, leaving behind an empty shell. The empty shell is used as a mold for the bronze to be poured into and ultimately create the finished product. Current students Micheal Andree, B Simons, Alexis Wethy, Amanda Bittner, Holly McDermont, Lin Foust, and Castina Bombardo also assisted in the process, helping to cast and clean the bells of any impurities. President Haas contributed as well, helping pour bronze alongside the students.
The walnut handle and base were also crafted by Antor and Hunter. Each base with the message “with gratitude for our years of service together” carved into the bottom, signed with the name of the President, and the years in which he served.
Once all the bells were finalized and packaged away, Antor and Hunter assisted President Haas with presenting the gifts to his cabinet and office staff. Although the process of mass-producing a single work of art is unusual for Antor, he reflected on it in a positive light. He explained that the project was one of trial and error, making sure each bell was true to its original form. Together, Antor and Hunter combined their skills to create a piece that truly represented and celebrated the memory of President Haas.