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Artist recreates ’The Wall’ for Alumni Weekend

The Wall

“The Wall,” the popular landmark outside Emerson's former Beacon Street campus, was recreated by artist Leigh Hall and displayed in the College's Iwasaki Library over 2015 Alumni Weekend. (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)

For generations of Emerson College alumni, a simple brownstone wall located outside the former campus buildings near 130 Beacon Street holds a major significance. 

“It was really the unofficial center of campus life,” said Barbara Rutberg ’68, associate vice president of Development and Alumni Relations.

The spot, known colloquially as “The Wall,” came alive for the hundreds who attended 2015 Alumni Weekend May 29-31. With the help of local artist Leigh Hall, a stained glass representation of The Wall was placed in the Iwasaki Library’s CoLab, allowing former students to write messages on a dry erase board opposite the exhibit while taking a stroll down memory lane. The piece will be on display through September.

“It was where you would meet up with your friends,” Rutberg said. “We used to post College news on a sheet that was stretched between two poles that were adjacent to it—kind of like Facebook before Facebook.”

The Wall 2

Christina Zamon, head of archives and special collections at Emerson, photographs messages left at the recreated “Wall” in the Iwasaki Library over 2015 Alumni Weekend. (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)

The College’s move from Boston’s Back Bay to its current home in the Theatre District, beginning in the mid 1990s, would create new meeting places and spots for today’s Emerson students. However, knowing how strong the memories of The Wall remain led Bob Fleming, executive director of the Iwasaki Library, and Christina Zamon, head of archives and special collections, to conceive of a novel way to reinterpret the classic landmark on this side of the Common.

The exhibit also served as a soft launch for the library’s new Emerson College History Online (ECHO), a media-rich, web-based timeline to-date through a user participatory process. ECHO was one of the projects moved forward as a result of Emerson UnCommon, the first Community PlanIt online game for strategic planning at the College.

“In addition to asking the alumni to share their memories of the Wall, we also invited them to provide us with other potential timeline events for ECHO,” Zamon said. “Being able to capture those memories is great for enhancing the timeline.”

For Bill Hennessey’56, interacting with The Wall exhibit proved to be a poignant moment.

“It took me back to 1952. I can remember sitting there and seeing for the first time Miss Crowley’s [the late Emerson professor of Communication Studies Fran Crowley LaShoto ’44, MA’48] 1953 Chevrolet,” he said. “Everyone would sit on ‘The Wall’ between classes. It was the place to be.” 

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