From the window to the wall: Temporary art in the library

by Stephany Christie / Beacon Staff • September 30, 2015

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mural pic

In a room that once held the iconic set of “Will and Grace,” Iwasaki Library frequenters now have a detailed mural mimicking stained glass to enhance their studying environment.

Room 341 lies in the center of the library. It features modern furniture and two glass walls, which provide ample blank space to exhibit artwork. The space encourages a creative studying room that is almost always cluttered with students diligently working together or alone on projects. Now, there is a stained glass mural made of tape and paint leading into Emerson’s past covering one of the walls, adding a tangible creative project to inspire diligent workers.

Victoria Dreyer, a sophomore journalism major, said she comes to the library often to complete her classwork.

“When I look at [the mural], it makes me feel like I’m in an established learning environment,” Dreyer said. “I was pleasantly surprised the first time I saw it, and impressed by its stained glass appearance.”

The mural, which was created by Boston artist Leigh Hall in May of this year for alumni weekend, depicts a once popular hangout for past Emerson students. According to Robert Fleming, the executive director of the library who proposed the idea of the mural to Hall, the image is of a stairwell known as “the wall” that sits at 130 Beacon St. where alumni once hung out in between classes.

Christina Zamon, the head of archives and special collections at the library, said she showed Hall images of the stoop to aid her with the initial creation of the mural. According to Zamon, the library has numerous images of this once popular meeting place because of its prominence within Emerson’s history, so she had plenty of inspiration to provide Hall with. For 70 years, it was the “heart” of the college, as it was the second addition to the campus in 1933, according to Zamon.

“Any alumni who attended Emerson and graduated prior to 2004 would've remembered 130 Beacon St,” Zamon said. “The wall just in front of 130 Beacon St. was the Facebook before Facebook for all students. It's where you got all of your news and gossip.”

Fleming said he sought out Hall in February to construct this mural. Hall is a neighbor of Fleming’s and her artwork has been featured in the library before. She has also done graphic design work for the college.

After designing the image graphically on Adobe Photoshop, Hall said she then realized she had one problem to deal with: the mural had to be temporary, so that the space could hold different ones in the future. However, this helped shape the way it was rendered, and ultimately created the final unique effect.

“He knew what I could do with tape, and even though I had not done murals with paint before, I agreed because Bob is great to work with,” Hall said. “I got the idea of using tape to prevent the paint from sticking to the glass wall, and we found that this gave it a stained glass look.”

In the final weeks of May, Hall said she realizedthere was not enough time to finish the mural. With only two weeks left to finish the wall painting, she needed outside help. Zamon then decided to ask student employees at the library to volunteer for two hour time slots to finish the image on time, and even helped paint the flowers on the mural, she said.

With the help of the volunteers, the graphic was finished by Alumni Weekend. According to Zamon, many returners were elated to see the wall at 130 Beacon St. in the library.

“Many of them make a pilgrimage to The Wall, but for many of those who cannot walk that far, this served as a good surrogate and brought back lots of memories,” she said.

The library will also be featuring photography chosen by Emerson’s publication, Developed Images, in November and December, according to Fleming.

“We’re always looking for ways to bring some creative expressions in the library,” Fleming said. “Especially artwork done by students. It adds some color to the big, blank walls.”