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Yellow, Blue, Green, and Red by Krystal L. '17

Free art and how to borrow it at MIT

Maseeh Hall has been my home here at MIT for the last four years, including this year, my final one at this esteemed institute. Not only have I lived in the same dorm for four years but I have lived on the same floor for four years and in the exact same room for three. Despite the fact that most of the freshmen who are placed in Maseeh end up moving out, I have somehow become one of those crusty seniors who still haunts these hallways.

In an effort to spice up the recurring blandness of Maseeh’s white, white walls, my roommate and I have taken it upon ourselves to overhaul the room’s furniture arrangement and decorative ambiance. The room is still “under construction”, but I first wanted to give a shout out to an amazing program at MIT that has facilitated our efforts.

Through the MIT List Visual Arts Center’s Student Loan Art Program (which I literally just now realized has the coolest and most irrelevant acronym: SLAP), both undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to borrow and hang framed, original works of art from MIT’s collection in their room at absolutely no cost. According to the MIT List center’s website, this is a tradition that has been going on since 1969!

So how does it work?

1. Gaze in wonder at the 600+ works of art at the Student Loan Art Program exhibition.


Yes, that does seem to be a photograph of a human hand with legs sticking out of it.


Even if you aren’t going to borrow anything, or if you don’t end up winning the lottery, the exhibition is still a great place to wander through. It’s a pretty eclectic collection of photographs, paintings, prints, and other mixed media forms of art, so you never know what you’ll stumble upon.


More art!


2. Ruminate on the intangible, soul-touching beauty of art.

3. Select up to 5 of your favorite pieces that you might want to stare at for the next 9 months.

4. Enter the lottery.


This is where you electronically rank your top 5 choices They randomly select students via lottery and when you are selected, they go down your list of top 5 choies and match you with the first one that is available.


5. Receive art! (hopefully).


If you win the lottery, you get to go back to the exhibition and take the art you’ve been assigned straight off the wall. Over half of the art had already been retrieved by the time I popped in to collect my own piece.


This was my first year testing my luck in the lottery (only my second year having heard of this program), and I was fortunate enough to get my first choice!



The big reveal: gaze upon its abstract magnificence.

And yes, this was originally a snapchat (courtesy of Dora ’18) that I turned into a gif so, pardon the shakiness.


Here is a motionless version of “Low Sun” by Jack Bush (1971).


We haven’t quite gotten around to hanging it up yet (it’s been a busy few weeks) so the framed print is currently inhabiting a cozy corner by the door in our room. Despite this, it still adds a much needed pop of color to our room.

The thing about art that I find so amazing is that for most of the day, it just sits there like a rock, quiet and unassuming, but when someone deigns to give it more than just a passing glance, it can transform into something so much more fulfilling and meaningful. I’m not even going to pretend that I understand what is going on in “Low Sun”, but in the end, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that when I look at it, I can find some form of enjoyment in the visual experience, and I can find colorful peace in the few stolen moments I have with it out of the exhausting grey blur that many of my days have become. Borrowing and hanging up a single piece of art might seem like a trivial thing in the grand scheme of my time here at MIT, but I think the little things in life deserve recognition too.

Art provides an important experience for us all that psets and academic pursuits cannot. Sometimes we get so caught up in our lives that we forget this. That MIT has created a program which facilitates the sharing and daily appreciation of art in our own living spaces is a beautiful thing.