Stephen Zaima, associate dean of global studies in VPA and a professor of painting in the School of Art, created the mixed-media installation the wall (4' x 12') in honor of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. After a fall 2014 viewing in Syracuse, the installation traveled to Florence, Italy, where it was installed in the Villa Rossa, the main campus of Syracuse University Florence, in spring 2015.
Berlin before the Wall came down was a political and physical island but a unique island that was divided within itself, like a walled-in fortress city cut in half, connected as well as divided by hopes, fears, and tunnels, with each side claiming that the tunnels were there so that the other side could escape. Even as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the lingering effects of decades of division remain. Berlin today is a city filled with darkness and light in which regeneration and integration have created an atmosphere filled with creative energy. This has made Berlin a magnet for people who seek new creative opportunities, akin in some ways to Paris and New York for earlier generations, and before that perhaps Florence. Symbols die hard, and the potent image of a divided city will be with us for many years.
I teach art and art history, and this summer with students from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, I had the opportunity to work in Berlin, predominately in the former East Berlin. I met well over a hundred people from many countries and other parts of Germany, but only one native Berliner. It may have been just the company I kept, but I could see that this is a city that has had and continues to have a rare opportunity to reinvent itself. Berlin remains a work in progress, filled with more light than darkness.