More Than Writing on the Wall

by Jackie Tempera / Beacon Staff • November 17, 2011

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From the early 1980s to late 1990s, when Emerson occupied its old location on Berkeley and Beacon streets, students of all grades could be found sitting on a 2-foot brownstone curb with friends and a coffee cup from Joe’s street side clutched in hand.

“The Wall,” as alumnus call it, stretched from 120 to 130 Beacon Street and was decorated with fliers advertising comedy workshops, EVVY or dance auditions, as well as that evening’s sorority or fraternity parties.

Similar to a student’s Facebook wall or digitized event calendar, this structure served as a way to communicate and spread news. It provided a central location for students to congregate that city colleges and universities generally lack.

Eric Van Vlanderen of the class of 1990, said the wall created an environment where all Emerson students could interact.

“This kind of activity was a precursor to the Facebook wall,” said Van Vlanderen. “It was a social hub in the way Facebook is, but we were there physically instead of virtually.”

Van Vlanderen reminisced about his days at The Wall with a wide smile. He said the area was right in the center of all campus activity and constantly packed with members of the Emerson community.

“It was on the way to and from everything, there was a food truck, so students got coffee, dressed in all black, and smoked cigarettes like true Emersonians,” laughed Van Vlanderen.

Camilla Ross, the president of the now defunct Emerson Theater Collaborative, and a member of Emerson class of 1985 said she used The Wall as a creative space.

“It represented a place where all the students came together to create,” said Ross. “It was a way to network on projects so much happened at there. Some of the best stuff we’ve ever done happened at The Wall.”

Journalism professor Mike Brown, a member of the Emerson faculty since 1970, also remembers passing by the densely populated area of students.

“I don’t know how it started, the kids were just always there, it was a convenient place to hang out,” said Brown. “The school was a lot smaller then, it would be a place where the whole community would intersect.”

Some Emerson students feel the current layout of the campus lacks a center with an equal draw as this alumnus favorite.

Junior Christine Bernard, a marketing communications major, said she wishes Emerson still had a Wall.

“Once I was visiting Georgia State and there was an open space outside the library with all posters everywhere and it was really cool,” said the marketing communication major. “That’s something Emerson is really missing.”

Sophomore Jessica Slavin agrees. She said though administrators tried to implement the upper area of Piano Row next to the Max as a student hang out, she is disappointed to find the area is usually empty.

She said she wishes Emerson would build a common area.

“It would be a better place for us to come together and all bond over,” said Slavin, a writing, literature and publishing major. “I feel like it would really connect the classes.”

Junior Maureen McDermott, a writing, literature and publishing and marketing communication double major, said the only similar place students have now are allies were students smoke.

“It’s just not the same,” said McDermott.

Ross agrees that students are missing out on what used to be an essential part of Emerson. She said she would like Emerson to build a similar wall across the street.

“It was a wonderful place,” said Ross.

Brown, however, said he feels the current Emerson students are at no disadvantage, they just communicate in a different way.

“When you were a little kid you didn’t go on Facebook, you went to someone’s lawn to hang out,” said Brown. “I believe that’s what humans do, go from place to place to find where they are comfortable.”

The Wall pictured in 1994 stretched from 120 to 130 Beacon St.

The Wall is now surrounded by an iron fence and lush garden.