Newswise — Living with an original artwork is something that few people experience. This semester, Williams students have the chance to develop deep and memorable experiences with artwork borrowed from the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA). The museum has launched WALLS (Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces), a new program that invites students to take an original artwork out on loan from a collection dedicated to this purpose. The art will become part of the stories that students tell about themselves and their college experience at Williams.
“We all know that the experience you have with a work of art can be deeply intellectual, but it can also be profoundly personal, emotional, and social,” says Christina Olsen, Class of ’56 Director of the Williams College Museum of Art. “When you live with a work of art, you have the time and space for that relationship with art to develop. You have the time to take it in, and for your thinking and feeling to evolve as you experience it in different moods, times of day, and in your own environment, not just the environment of a museum.”
The WALLS collection currently comprises 90 two-dimensional artworks including photography, prints, drawings, and paintings. It was assembled by a committee of undergraduate and graduate students, donors, WCMA and Williams staff. From a 1518 woodcut by Albrecht Dürer to a 2012 photograph by American artist Curran Hatleberg, the WALLS collection brings together a diverse range of artworks representing a broad span of time and geography.
At the core of the WALLS program is a notion that has long been at the heart of WCMA’s mission: creating the conditions to support sustained looking and deep thinking about original artworks. WALLS expands this notion beyond the physical walls of the museum, responding to new ways of thinking about the conditions and contexts of learning in today’s world. Olsen says, “People’s relationship to institutions and to culture is changing. There’s a growing expectation that culture and learning are mobile and dispersed, as people themselves increasingly are, and that they don’t just happen inside an institution’s walls.”
While the collection is a cornerstone of the WALLS program, it is only one part of a broader, more comprehensive initiative. “Watching a student walk out through WCMA’s door cradling a Chagall or a Bearden on our February 16 Pick Up Day is a milestone in our ongoing efforts to diversify how and where meaningful art experiences unfold. But in many ways, that moment is only the beginning,” says Sonnet Coggins, associate director for academic and public engagement. The programming and interactions that begin once the art leaves WCMA’s building are part of what distinguishes WALLS from the longstanding and successful art lending programs at Oberlin and MIT. “We’re asking ourselves: once these artworks have settled into student dorms, how might we create the conditions for new interactions?” Coggins explains. Students with artworks in their rooms will be invited to host “satellite gallery openings” for the broader student body as part of a campus gallery crawl. They will also be encouraged to share their personal reflections and responses with each other, with future WALLS participants, and with WCMA using social media and other channels.
“The WALLS program provides new and powerful opportunities for our students,” Williams President Adam Falk says. “At a residential liberal arts college, learning takes place not only in the classroom but also in the dining halls, on the playing fields, and in student residences. The idea that students will be living with these works of art, and sharing that experience with their friends, is truly exciting.”
The debut exhibition of all 90 WALLS artworks was held from February 10 to 15. On February 16th, the artworks were selected by students and are currently on display in their dorm rooms for the rest of the semester. The artworks can viewed online at wcmawalls.williams.edu.
WALLS is supported by the Fulkerson Fund for Leadership in the Arts. Additional funding is provided by Fenner Milton ’62.