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8 US Colleges Lending Their Art Collections to Students

In 1934, the University of Minnesota started making its art collection available to students looking to decorate their dorm rooms, a practice that has steadily grown in popularity on campuses across the country.

A Williams College student hanging a work on loan from the WALLS program in his dorm room (photo by Julia Sabot, courtesy Williams College Museum of Art)
A Williams College student hanging a work on loan from the WALLS program in his dorm room (photo by Julia Sabot, courtesy Williams College Museum of Art)

As the fall semester draws to a close and — while avoiding studying for finals — you consider redecorating your sparse dorm room, try to think bigger than the usual arrangement of postcards, posters, and Polaroids. You can do better than that reproduction of Henri Matisse’s cut-outs above your desk or Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” over your bed.

An MIT student perusing works available through the school's Student Loan Art Program (courtesy MIT List Visual Arts Center, photo by John Kennard)
An MIT student perusing works available through the school’s Student Loan Art Program (courtesy MIT List Visual Arts Center, photo by John Kennard)

Maybe you’re lucky enough to attend one of a handful of US colleges and universities where students can rent artworks from the campus art collection. (If not, it’s never too late to transfer.) With rental collections ranging in size from 57 to 775 available artworks, these institutions, both public and private, offer their students the unique opportunity to experience the whimsy of a Joan Miró painting or to consider the enigmas of a Louise Bourgeois print within their own living spaces. The University of Minnesota’s art rental program was established in 1934, making it the oldest of its kind, while some schools have come around to the idea quite recently, like Williams College, which launched its loan program — Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces, or WALLS, administered through the Williams College Museum of Art — in 2014.

First year student Michael Burke chooses his piece of art at the Smart Museum during the Art To Live With art loan program on Sunday, October 1, 2017 (photo by Eddie Quinones, courtesy the University of Chicago)
First year student Michael Burke chooses his piece of art at the Smart Museum during the Art To Live With art loan program on Sunday, October 1, 2017 (photo by Eddie Quinones, © University of Chicago)

“Our desire to broaden the range of ways that students ­— all students, across all majors and degrees of familiarity with art and museums — could meaningfully connect with WCMA drove the establishment of the program,” Sonnet Coggins, Interim Deputy Director at the Williams College Museum of Art, told Hyperallergic. “We send each work of art out onto campus with a journal. At the end of each semester, the student steward of a given work of art writes a ‘note to a future borrower’ in the journal, reflecting on how his or her understanding or interpretation of the work of art changed or shifted or deepened over time, and leaving suggestions as to how to approach it, how to install it. The journals have almost become memoirs for the works of art over the past 8 semesters, creating mini communities and offering a range of interpretations.”

This is a quick look at the histories and treasures of art loan collections at colleges and universities across the country.

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An MIT student perusing works available through the school's Student Loan Art Program (courtesy MIT List Visual Arts Center, photo by John Kennard)
An MIT student perusing works available through the school’s Student Loan Art Program (courtesy MIT List Visual Arts Center, photo by John Kennard)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Student Loan Art Program (launched in 1969), run by the MIT List Visual Arts Center
Collection: Over 600 works available including pieces by Berenice Abbott, Louise Bourgeois, and Cindy Sherman.
Cost: No fee

Williams College

WALLS: Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces (launched in 2014), run by the Williams College Museum of Art
Collection: 120 works available including “The Creation” by Marc Chagall, “Collage” by Titus Kaphar, “Acrobats” by Alexander Calder, and “Metaphysical Hell” by Giorgio de Chirico.
Cost: No fee

Oberlin College

Allen Memorial Art Museum Art Rental (launched in 1940), run by the Allen Memorial Art Museum
Collection: Over 400 works available including pieces by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Andy Warhol.
Cost: Students pay $5 per artwork per semester.

Kenyon College

Art Loan Program at the Gund Gallery (launched in 2016), run by the Gund Gallery
Collection: 57 original works available including pieces by Clarence Morgan, Clarence Holbrook Carter, and Elizabeth Dworkin.
Cost: Students pay $10 per artwork per semester.

University of Minnesota

The Weisman’s Art Rental Program (launched in 1934), run by the Weisman Art Museum
Collection: Over 300 works available including pieces by Keiko Minami, Carol Summers, and Cameron Booth.
Cost: Students pay $15 per artwork per semester.

Harvard University

Student Print Rental Program (launched in 1972), run by the Harvard Art Museums
Collection: 271 works including pieces by Andy Warhol, Allyson Mellberg, and William Kentridge.
Cost: Students pay $30 per artwork per academic year.

From left students, Christine Gu, Nick Sitaras and Susie Xu hold their chosen pieces of art in the Smart Museum on Sunday, October 1, 2017 (photo by Eddie Quinones, courtesy the University of Chicago)
From left students, Christine Gu, Nick Sitaras and Susie Xu hold their chosen pieces of art in the Smart Museum on Sunday, October 1, 2017 (photo by Eddie Quinones, © University of Chicago)

University of Chicago

Art to Live With (launched in 1958), run by the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago
Collection: 75 original works available including “Morning Star” by Joan Miró, “Moses” by Marc Chagall, “Starfish” by Max Ernst, and “Trials” by Francisco de Goya.
Cost: No fee

University of California, Berkeley

The Graphic Arts Loan Collection (launched in 1958), run by the Morrison Library
Collection: Approximately 775 original works including “Ser Mujer es Saber Resistir” by Claudia Bernardi, “Plate 6” by Ilya Bolotowsky, “Untitled” by Richard Anuszkiewicz, and “Collier” by Massimo Campigli.
Cost: No fee

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