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New Visitor Center to Showcase Emerson

The future home of Emerson College's Visitor Center at 104 Boylston St., still under construction earlier in January.

A former furniture store on Boylston Street will soon become the “front door” of Emerson College with the opening of the College’s new Visitor Center later this semester.

The new facility, tentatively scheduled to open in February, promises to give prospective students and their families an interactive introduction to the Emerson community, said Michael Sarra, assistant vice president of enrollment marketing.

“Our overall goal is to connect students with the Emerson experience, whether that be through in-person conversations they’re having with an admission officer, or through the use of technology, or by highlighting student work,” Sarra said.

The space at 104 Boylston Street is envisioned as a holistic vehicle for telling the Emerson story and projecting the school’s vision and atmosphere—in some cases, literally.

The lower level will be a presentation space with images of the Emerson campus and surroundings projected onto the walls.

“We are looking to transport our campus visitors from simply being in a presentation space to being immersed in the Emerson experience,” Sarra said.

But the space is secondary to the mission, Sarra said. More ways to showcase the work and talent of students, and more room for those students to mingle with guests and future Emersonians are among the aims for the space.

The current visitor center is housed in an alleyway off Boylston Street, tucked behind the Walker Building, and these days is surrounded by scaffolding.

The new Visitor Center, with a tall glass façade, will serve as a doorway into Emerson for members of the larger community.

“Someone walking down Boylston Street, or someone on the Common will see motion; they will see light and projections from the street,” Sarra said. “Floor-to-ceiling glass will very well convey that there’s something exciting happening and will draw them in.”

The glass-fronted facade of the new Visitor Center, shown from the inside earlier in January.

Ruthanne Madsen, vice president for enrollment management, said she has been impressed with the amount of thought and time that Sarra has put into making the new center a welcoming and dynamic space.

“This stemmed from the need not to have our visitors in that dreary alley, and also comparing this with visitor centers other campuses have to offer…I think even this first phase is going to be really impressive,” Madsen said.

Sarra said that going forward, the College will regularly look for ways to upgrade the Visitor Center space with the help of alumni and community partners.

“We expect that this is going to be a fantastic facility on day one—and that it will better serve the College and its students, and its prospective students, and we will look to continually make improvements to the space,” Sarra said. “And the College is seeking partnerships with potential donors…who will have a great deal of impact in making the space even more engaging in the future.”

Emerson President Lee Pelton called the new Visitor Center “vital” to the College’s mission to recruit talented students and engage with the community around Emerson.

“With cutting-edge technology and a marquee location on Boylston Street, the Center will highlight Emerson’s unparalleled creativity and talent, and help us realize our goal of making positive change in Boston and beyond,” Pelton said in a statement.

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