Berlin Wall comes to Grounds

Four panels of the famous wall come to University on March 10


The University has been constructing the location (above) for the Berlin Wall panels for several weeks now.

Four segments of the Berlin Wall will arrive on Grounds next Monday and will be displayed on the courtyard outside Alderman Library. The panels feature two murals titled “Kings of Freedom,” made by graffiti artist Dennis Kaun. The display comes as part of a leadup to the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989.

The panels will be unveiled April 11, and the following months will build up to what Jody Kielbasa, the vice provost for the arts, described as more extensive recognition and celebration.

Before the panels will be ready for viewing, the University will develop adequate protection and preservation provisions, Kielbasa said. There will be a structure protecting the panels from ultraviolet light and signage explaining their history.

The panels are all approximately 12 feet by 4 feet, each with a bare side and and a painted side, decorated originally so the murals were facing West Berlin. Each mural spans two panels, and collectively represents Eastern and Western society at the time.

“One [mural is] lighthearted and benevolent,” Kielbasa said. “The other is a much darker image with king’s the eyes blindfolded, representing the side East of the wall.”

A number of University departments and organizations will come together to organize events for the anniversary celebration. Those participating in the celebration and organizing the effort include the Miller Center, the Center for Politics, the Virginia Film Festival and the art and art history departments. Kielbasa said more are likely to join in.

“Any program that is interested in participating will be welcome,” Kielbasa said.

The University will also be looking for community involvement, he added.

Jeffrey Grossman, associate professor and chair of the Germanic languages and literature department, said the department has already been in discussion with Kielbasa and they “have a few [thoughts] germinating,” but nothing finalized.

“One idea that has circulated and has generated interest is an art contest, which would have students paint replica slabs of the wall with their own creations and then have the pieces judged,” Grossman said. “Ideally, if we can get the space, we’d even like to exhibit them in the amphitheater.”

Grossman stressed the important role the Berlin Wall played during the Cold War, and said it — more than anything else at the time — was a symbol of the Iron Curtain and the separation between Eastern and Western Europe.

“The opening of the wall radically changed everything — especially in Europe, but also in the United States and elsewhere,” Grossman said. “Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the end of the period is very significant.”

Kielbasa and Grossman both acknowledged the opportunity afforded to the University by having a symbol of such cultural, political and historical importance on Grounds. Part of the celebration’s goal, they said, is to get students involved and to recognize the significance of the wall.

“We would like to have students express their thoughts on what the fall of the Berlin Wall meant,” Grossman said.

It has not yet been determined how long the wall panels will stay or for how long the celebration will go on.

“The idea is for us to be able to exhibit them leading up to, during and after the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall,” Kielbasa said.

Published March 6, 2014 in FP test, News

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