the beginning of each semester, students line up in droves outside
the Allen Memorial Art Museum's north gate, waiting for their chance
to rent an original etching by Renior or a lithograph by Picasso.
Yes, that's right – Picasso. Renior. Lichtenstein. Chagall.
Pollock. Warhol. For just a $5 rental fee, students can adorn their
dorm rooms with works by these and many other famous artists.
"There's just something so unbelievable about being close
to all this great art," says Johanna Valente '09, a first-time
renter. "It's definitely an intense experience."
Oberlin's Art Rental program began in the 1940s, when art-world
luminary Ellen Johnson, late professor of art history at Oberlin,
decided that living with art "would develop the aesthetic
sensibilities of students and encourage ordered thinking and discrimination
in other areas of their lives." Since then, the program has
grown in popularity; students often camp outside the museum to
be first in line for the big day.
Jaeda Coutinho '06 is a newcomer to the Art Rental program.
"I'm trying to do this one time before I graduate," she
says. "I'm not necessarily looking for something by a famous
artist; I'd just like to find some pretty, colorful art."
Today the Art Rental collection includes 431 items, most purchased
with proceeds from the rental program itself. Other items have
been donated to the museum, including two of the collection's most
recent acquisitions: a signed Chuck Close poster donated by Douglas
Baxter '72 and a lithograph by Alexandre Lunios, Le Magasin
des Nouveautes (Le Exposition du Bon March), donated by Lauretta
Museum Registrar Lucille Stiger says Art Rental was an overwhelming
success this year. "We rented all but three works on Thursday
- and that was the first day of Art Rental."
So what drives students to wait in long lines, come rain or shine,
and brave the ire of their classmates if they are lucky enough
to rent a coveted masterpiece? Will Sheppard '08 sums it up simply: "Two
days and 10 bucks is a pretty sweet deal in exchange for some great
art to hang on your walls."