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?