“We want to rethink how a collection in a 21st-century art museum can really engage students,” says Emily Edwards, the program’s registration and programming coordinator. Together, the students establish how “to grow a collection and tell a story across geographic and temporal scopes.” Last year, the group acquired 10 works, including a
photograph, and an
etching. Each is now available to hang in the dormitories.
Williams College (where you can rent a handwoven Nez Percé bag or a
lithograph), Oberlin College (which will loan you a
etching, lithograph, or watercolor), and Kenyon College (where a
silkscreen and an
archival inkjet print are on offer) also boast similar art-lending programs. At Williams, each artwork has its own journal that student borrowers add to year after year; the diaries become records of varying perspectives on what it’s like to live with the same piece of art. The university posts a selection of excerpts online. “Read to the Rosenquist every night before bed,” reads one scrawl that accompanies an editioned
print called Hot Lake (2nd State)
(1978). “This work was just what I needed—a still moment of resistance,” wrote another student who nabbed a
print depicting a woman praying in the face of a dangerous, knife-wielding man.
If you’re not currently enrolled at a university with such a program, your best bet is probably a community center in a smaller city. In Minneapolis, three local artists—Mac Balentine
, Julia Caston
, and Larsen Husby
—initiated the Minneapolis Art Lending Library (MALL) in 2013, located in a private home that converted its dining room into a gallery space. The collection predominantly features work by local artists, including Teresa Audet
, John Bell
, and renowned photographer
Other opportunities abound. The Youngstown Cultural Art Center maintains a small collection in the Delridge neighborhood of southwest Seattle. The city of Houston, Texas, has its own Lawndale Lending Library where you can check out up-to-the-minute, socially oriented work: The current catalogue
offers BRAVERY IS CONTAGIOUS
, a 2018 work by Texas-based artist Sarah Fisher
that depicts the face of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and a bold yellow background in graphite, Sharpie, and stickers on canvas. Additionally, both the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the Akron Art Museum run their own art-lending libraries. If you don’t live in any of these cities, you may want to consider moving to Europe: The United Kingdom
both house significant programs. Living with a painting is about more than just status-signaling or interior decoration. It’s about integrating art and life, and finding meaning, nuance, and beauty in the everyday.