Student Loan Art Program Opens At the MIT List Visual Arts Center

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Ylaine L. Gerardin ’10 discusses the AA Bronson artwork with a fellow student. Gerardin entered the AA Bronson piece as her first choice in the List Visual Arts Center’s lottery.
Aditi Verma

Want art? For free? If your bare, ugly walls are driving you up the wall, you can come by the List Visual Arts Center between now and Sept. 14 to enter a lottery for a piece of art for your dorm room this year.

The largest program of its kind in the country, the Student Loan Art Program at MIT loans out 400 prints each year, including pieces by renowned artists such as Andy Warhol and Berenice Abbott.

Students enter their top three choices into the lottery and receive their results Sept. 16, and pieces that are not claimed by September 18 are distributed on a first-come first-serve basis. The students are trusted to look after these pieces for a year and return them the week before Spring finals week. So far, none of the art has been damaged or destroyed. Usually around 1000 students enter the lottery.

Right now, art lottery shopping is in full swing, with around 100 students per day previewing and pondering the works that are up for grabs at the Arts Center.

Last Wednesday, Tanmay Kumar ’12 was eyeing Doc Edgerton’s constructions that combine physical concepts with artistic grace. The prospective course 16 major said he would love to win one of them for himself this year: “They’re mechanical!” he said.

Edgerton’s and Warhol’s works are among the most popular, but pieces by other artists attract plenty of attention.

On Wednesday, a group of people clustered around Karl Gerstner’s “Color Sounds,” a series of geometric prints that appear to pop out from their frames.

List Visual Arts Center curator Bill Arning hopes students end up learning more about the art they live with for an entire year. He says that the response to the lottery has been great every year but he is often surprised by the pieces that aren’t picked up like the “Grid,” a simplistic and elegant piece by Brice Marden which wasn’t claimed last year.

Arning also suggests that students pick a piece that they don’t immediately like because they will, in time, see it differently. Maybe Ken M. Haggerty ’11 had heard Arning’s advice: an avid photographer, Haggerty was browsing for a piece to loan that is different from something he might create himself.

The Student Loan Art Program began in 1966 with donations from Catherine “Kay” Stratton (wife of former MIT President Julius Adams Stratton ’23) and former MIT President and Media Lab founder Jerome Wiesner. The collection grew again in 1977 when 100 prints were donated. Since then, the collection has added several works each year through donations and purchases.

Today the collection contains a wide variety of pieces from the cheerful to the morbid, classical to abstract.