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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Dorm Companion #1: Art by Matt McGann '00

MIT loans out 400 pieces of famous art each year from its collections to its students.

Want a Warhol in your dorm room?

This is exhibition week of the Student Loan Art Collection at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center. The Student Loan Art Program allows MIT students (and only MIT students) to borrow for the entire academic year one of more than 400 noted pieces of artwork from MIT’s collection. Artists represented in the collection include:

  • Alexander Calder
  • Roy Lichtenstein
  • Joan Miro
  • Cindy Sherman
  • Andy Warhol

Each piece in the collection is framed and signed by a leading contemporary artist. Some are photographs, like the original by the late MIT Professor Harold “Doc” Edgerton above, “Making Applesauce At MIT.” Others are more abstract works, like the Francesco Clemente at right. Unfortunately, the online collection is only viewable within the MIT community, but the annual fall showing — before it is loaned out to students — is open to the general public.

Students view the collection and enter their top choices into a lottery. Over 4 years, 80% of students should “win” at least one year. And the chances increase as time goes on, as pieces are added to the collection each year.

Selected students pick up their art beginning next week. Any winnings not collected by the end of the week are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to any student who lost out in the lottery. The LVAC says about this plan B, “Each year, bleary-eyed students wake up early to be at the head of the line outside the gallery doors for a second chance to participate in this extraordinarily popular program.”

Why would MIT do this? And isn’t there a big risk? The curator of the program told the Weekly Dig:

“One of the goals of the program is to put art directly in students’ lives,” expresses List Visual Arts Center curator Bill Arning. “There’s a really fundamental difference between going to the campus gallery to view art, and waking up and living with it.”

“MIT students are really comfortable doing research,” explains Arning on collective campus braininess. “If they put something on their walls, at the end of the year they’ll know more about it than anyone else; I like how it’s a trigger for inquiry and learning.”

Despite this free-for-all handover of moderately expensive framed artworks, there’s not much reason for worrying over damage. “The worst thing that usually ever happens is that a student forgets to return the piece on time,” Arning acknowledges, which leads to some detective work to track down the responsible roommates.

“There’s been very little loss over the years,” he says; though he does recall one peculiar incident: “We did have one sculpture [a transparent plastic Buddha by Michael Joo], and someone had it over their salamander tank. It got infested with fruit flies, and we had to get it fumigated.” Not a bad concept piece as it turns out; but alas, the infested Buddha is no longer available for loan.

“Students who live with art in their room learn there’s a difference between living with posters and living with real work,” Arning notes. “MIT lives are better if you can put art directly into them.”

The artwork is the student’s to keep until the following May. What a way to decorate your room! Whoever said MIT students don’t know fine art?

15 responses to “Dorm Companion #1: Art”

  1. cristen says:

    I’m crossing my fingers for getting one of the two Takashi Murakami pieces.. smile

  2. Ahana says:

    MC Escher has wicked hyperbolic art! I especially like “Angels and Devils”; and even though it makes no sense, Relativity seems to complement the Stata.

  3. Wesh m says:

    Wow no one claimed the first one.Maybe we all got mature overnight.

    Nah! Can’t be.

  4. Vicky (15?) says:

    They said it’s on display prior to pick up… where can that be seen?

  5. Sam says:

    I think Nara is just the coolest one, and nobody ever picks his stuff. Go for Nara and his creepy Japanese death babies.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I got my first choice last year, and I got featured in the Tech article about the art loan this year. Get my first choice this year and I’ll be three for three! *hopes*

  7. Fausto '12 says:

    So today I was walking down the infinite … and I saw you. And I froze. And I couldn’t even say hello. I felt like a teenage girl at a Backstreet Boys concert.

  8. Shubhang says:

    Where can i get all the information about the majors that MIT offers?

  9. Shubhang says:

    Oooh…. Matt sorry for bothering you i just found it on this page.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Dear Matt,
    I was rejected admission to MIT, however I would like to apply for a Transfer… how do I do that? I know that it will be against very many odds to get in as a Transfer Student, but do you still take some Transfers in? Can I apply during the second semester of my college?
    Please Reply

  11. Andrew says:

    A question about the essay topics, topic 2 specifically. Do we have to cover all the suggested things like ‘family’ ‘friends’ ‘activities’ ‘school’ while writing or is it alright if we cover just one. I mean, if we were to write about a certain activity played a crucial role in our evolution would it be okay? It might not be a representation of ‘My world’ but it sure tells a lot about me so …. ?


  12. vidya says:

    I am an Indian student and I submitted part 1 of my application like two weeks ago.In the visa type,I wrote student(F-1),but I don’t actually have a visa yet.I know that I should have left it blank!!Will this be a problem??Can I still make changes after submitting?Please reply…I’m really tensed!!

  13. Yangrui says:

    I cannot register a new account since the one I registered last year haven’t been removed..When will the registration be open to re-applicants? Thanks

  14. Harish says:

    I envy the kids who can express their creativity in such an attractive manner. I’ve got the creativity, though, my execution is kind of off sometimes. raspberry

    My math teacher (an MIT alum) read an article today about how the admissions process worked at MIT. The article said a lot about how students are eliminated and rejected, and a lot of decisions seemed to stem from a cursory glance at an application. Maybe I misheard the article, but how heavy of a weight does numerical record really hold on the decision? Will my application be completely considered before being thrown into the rejection pile? Are there established minimums in some areas?


  15. Monorina says:

    @vidya:email Matt or Bryan Nance about it
    @Harish:I dont think they do that(place a large amount of weight on numerical data)

    @ Matt:My school does not have a counselor.What do I do?Do I give the forms to my principal(head of the school)