Students Give Williams College Dorm Art Loan Program an A+

The Williams College Museum of Art. Sculpture by Louise Bourgeois. Photo: via Flickr
WALLS (Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces), Pick Up Day February 2014. Photo by Roman Iwasiwka.

WALLS (Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces), Pick Up Day February 2014. Photo by Roman Iwasiwka.

Under an innovative program called WALLS (Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces), the Williams College Museum of Art lets students borrow works from its collection and hang them on their dormitory room walls for a semester. The program, now in its second iteration, will kick off at the Williamstown, Massachusetts-based institution in time for the new semester, on September 14, which is “Pickup Day.” Up until the day before, all 90 of the available works can be viewed during museum hours as well as online.

Students must register online and then line up outside the museum by 9 a.m. on pickup day. Selections are first-come, first-choice, so students get to choose the work in the order in which they line up. The list of available works includes photographs, prints, drawings, and paintings by artists including Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Kitagawa Utamaro, Giorgio de Chirico, Claes Oldenburg, and Olivia Arthur. The press release for WALLS points out that all works are two-dimensional, which we applaud as a wise choice because college students plus dorm rooms and… sculpture? Ehhh, not so much.

Beyond that, Williams representative Kim Hugo told arnet News students are given specific directions about maintaining the art they borrow. “It is important to note that the WALLS artworks are a discreet collection that was assembled specifically for this purpose. The students sign an agreement to care for the art as it would be cared for in any private home and are given instructions about hanging, keeping the work safe and out of direct sunlight.”

WALLS proved a hit when it was inaugurated earlier this year, with students reportedly lining up for works despite bitter cold and snow. The program is the brainchild of museum director Christina Olsen, who worked with a key donor and Williams almunus, Alan Fulkerson, to get it off the ground. A committee of undergraduate and graduate students, donors, museum staff, and college staff assembled the collection.

Williams president Adam Falk said the response to the program has been fantastic. “By their own accounts [students have] benefited in deep and surprising ways from mulling which art piece to pick, deciding how to hang it in their room, living with it over time, and sharing the experience of it with their friends,” he said in a statement. “That most of those students have not been art majors sums up a lot of what Williams, and the liberal arts, is about.”

Hugo said Williams consulted with other colleges that have long-running student art loan programs, including Oberlin and MIT. “We found that they have experienced very little damage to their loan works over the many years they have been running their programs. Our experience has been that the students who make the effort to line up to take an original artwork out on loan really value the art and the experience of being able to live with a work of art.”


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