Rebecca Uchill holding up her “Untitled (Scissors Obelisk)” (1968) by Claes Oldenburg. (photo courtesy R. Uchill)

I was speaking the other day to my colleague — and increasingly friend — Rebecca Uchill, who is headquartered at MIT, and she told me that one of the perks of being at MIT is that you can take real art home (or to the dorms, anyway) as part of some glorious art lottery known as the Student Loan Art Program. WHAT?!?! Really? Yes, it’s true. MIT offers works by John Baldessari, Richard Artschwager, Ida Applebroog, Louise Bourgeois, Romare Bearden and others for students to love in the privacy of their rooms. All in all there are 500 framed works, primarily prints and photos, to be had and the institution adds 15 more each year.

“My first year in the lottery I received my first choice — a Sol Lewitt wall drawing. A friend and I executed it by hand in my bedroom,” Uchill said. This year she grabbed an Oldenburg at the annual event where students can submit their names for an opportunity to choose a work.

When I told another friend about the project with amazement, his response shocked me. “Yeah, our college had that too,” the Oberlin College alumnus said. Was I the only person not to have gone to a college with a windfall of art to loan out? Was the University of Toronto really that art poor? Who else has this unusually wonderful perk for students?

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

6 replies on “Go to College, Get a Masterpiece!”

  1. Harvard does the same.  When I worked in the FAL I would watch the huge circus in the Fogg museum when they handed out these artworks.

  2. Even if you don’t get anything in the lottery there is a free-for-all at the end, so if you don’t mind waiting in line for an hour you will always be able to get work!  Over the years I’ve been lucky to wake up every day to works by Bruce Nauman, Matthew Barney, Berenice Abbott etc…so great to give young people the experience of living with art!

  3. I’m in a seminar in Museums and Collecting at the University of Notre Dame, and we were discussing why libraries often don’t elicit the same sort of reverential attitude as their fellow cultural institution, the art museum. I suggested that perhaps it’s b/c one can check out items from the library and take them home. Then our professor mentioned the program at Oberlin, and everyone in class freaked out. There was a collective WHAT?! None of us had ever heard about this sort of program before. It sounds fabulous.

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