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Japanese artist returns to campus to see his painting

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – On a recent spring afternoon, Takuya Kanemitsu, a Tokyo-based artist and art professor, wandered through the Austin Peay State University Browning Building, looking for one of his paintings. He finally found the massive, six-foot wide canvas on a wall next to the President’s Office, and Kanemitsu spent several quiet minutes that day reconnecting with the image of a pensive young woman surrounded by books.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – On a recent spring afternoon, Takuya Kanemitsu, a Tokyo-based artist and art professor, wandered through the Austin Peay State University Browning Building, looking for one of his paintings. He finally found the massive, six-foot wide canvas on a wall next to the President’s Office, and Kanemitsu spent several quiet minutes that day reconnecting with the image of a pensive young woman surrounded by books.

“I was interested in the rhythm of the books,” he said, moving his hand slowly in front of the painting. “The composition, I thought, was interesting.”

Kanemitsu created the work back in 2007, when he was an international student at APSU, and for the last eight years, he’s wondered what happened to it. A related mystery has preoccupied several APSU staff member working inside the Browning building. They pass the painting every day, often stopping to admire it, but the work is unsigned. Who, they’ve often asked, is the artist?

“We have looked at this picture a lot,” Carol Clark, APSU director of community and business relations and executive assistant to the president, said. “All we had heard is it was painted by an international student.”

Kanemitsu, dressed stylishly in a polka-dotted chambray shirt and blue jeans, quietly returned to campus around lunchtime one day in late March. He and his wife had come to Austin Peay to visit his old classmate, APSU Information Technology Specialist Jarad Sneed, and to get a glimpse of the painting he’d spent 200 hours working on during his time at the University.

Word quickly spread through the building that the painting’s artist had returned, prompting a small crowd to gather outside of the president’s office. Kanemitsu confirmed for them that it was set in the University’s Woodward Library, and he spent several minutes explaining how he created the popular work of art.

“I made a sketch and asked a student to be a model,” he said. “After the library closed, I asked if I could go inside and take a picture. One of the librarians helped me take this picture, holding a lamp up.”

When he finished the painting, titled “After the Library Closed,” Kanemitsu realized it was too large to take home with him to Tokyo. That spring, he entered it in the APSU Department of Art’s annual juried student exhibition.

“When he painted it, he was hoping he would win a student award so he wouldn’t have to worry about taking it back home,” Sneed said.

“It was too big,” Kanemitsu added. “I couldn’t take it back to Japan.”

He did win, which is how the University came to own it. Kanemitsu went back home to Tokyo a few weeks later, where he currently works as an artist and drawing professor.

For a several minutes that spring afternoon, he lingered in front of his painting, pleased to see it displayed so prominently. He answered a couple of questions and posed for pictures next to the canvas. When the nostalgia finally receded, Kanemitsu and his wife left the Browning Building in order to buy some APSU memorabilia.

“Some of my students are interested in studying abroad, so I talk about my experience here,” he said.