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UMass Amherst to Celebrate Campus Installation of Berlin Wall Segment April 25 with German Consul General

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The University of Massachusetts Amherst will celebrate the installation of a 12-foot segment of the Berlin Wall painted by famed French artist Thierry Noir on Tuesday, April 25 at 2 p.m. at the Memorial Hall patio. Sonja Kreibich, Consul General of Germany to the New England States, will join UMass President Marty Meehan, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and other campus officials for the event, which is the highlight of a week of art exhibitions and film screenings related to the history, impact and legacy of the structure that divided Germany’s capital for three decades.

Donated to the university by the family of Eric Hanson, the wall segment painted by Noir is titled “The Power of Creativity over Concrete.” In the 1980s, Noir, credited with being the first artist to paint the Berlin Wall, risked arrest by East German authorities for illicitly painting on the west side of the wall three meters beyond the western border. He ultimately painted nearly six kilometers of the wall over the course of five years. The campus’s wall segment was originally painted by Noir in 1990 in front of an old print factory in the former southeast Berlin district of Treptow.

The wall segment is being installed outside in an east/west direction — reflecting its placement in Germany — within a glass case next to Herter Hall, which is home to the history and German and Scandinavian studies academic departments and the DEFA Film Library. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, DEFA is the only archive and research center outside of Germany devoted to a broad spectrum of filmmaking from and related to the former East Germany.

“The university is grateful to the family of Eric Hanson for the generous donation of this segment of the Berlin Wall,” Subbaswamy said. “For nearly 30 years, the wall stood as a cruel symbol of division — dissecting not only a city and a country, but families and entire societies — and its fall marked a joyous occasion of unification and the beginning of the end of the Cold War. This particular segment of the wall shows that inspiring art can be made amid terrible situations, and its presence at the heart of campus reflects UMass Amherst’s revolutionary spirit.”

A Special Week Featuring Films and Events

A number of related supporting events, including art exhibits and film screenings presented by the German department and DEFA, will also take place on campus the week of the installation celebration.

  • From April 24-28, “The Berlin Wall: Borders and Barriers in the Past and Present” will exhibit art submitted by undergraduate students from the Five Colleges in the lobby of the Bromery Center for the Arts. An opening reception for the exhibit will be held Monday, April 24 at 5 p.m.
  • Also on April 24, DEFA will present a screening of the film Drawing a Line, followed by a Q&A session with director Gerd Kroske. On Wednesday, April 26, DEFA will present a screening of the documentary “The Wall,” which will also be followed by a Q&A with Kroske, who served as assistant director on the film. Kroske will also visit German and history classes while on campus April 24-26.

More information about the events surrounding the installation celebration can be found on the DEFA website.