Art Lovers Warm Cold Courtyard


Walking the Line After a long night of camping, smiling students wait for their chance to choose the works that they’ll rent from the Allen Memorial museum for the semester.

Joelle Lingat, Staff Writer

Not many college students can have a Miró hanging in their dorm room for $5 per semester. At Oberlin, we get the opportunity every semester.

The Allen Memorial Art Museum held its biannual art rental program last Saturday, Sept. 17. In exchange for a $5 fee and, for some, a chilly night’s wait, students are allowed to rent a maximum of two works from the museum for the semester.

The night before the rental, the Allen’s courtyard was cluttered with mattresses, food and students, scores of whom guarded a multi-page list on which the names of the renters were recorded in order of their arrival. An honor code principle applies to the waiting process: Once your name is added to the list, you’re expected to remain in the courtyard complex until the museum doors open the next morning at 8 a.m. and the first students are let in.

The College senior at the top of list declined to give his name. As this was his first art rental experience and this is his last year at Oberlin, he insisted that this experience was a “top priority” this semester. He arrived at around 9 a.m. on Friday morning and was followed soon after by fellow art rental enthusiasts.

Over the course of the evening, renters kept themselves entertained with sing-a-longs, dancing and conversation. In one of the outer alcoves, a group played Twister with a prospective student who was also camping out for the night.

Sarah Francis, College sophomore and 16th on the list, was also a rookie renter. Emerging from her weathered, periwinkle tent, she said, “I’m really enjoying the jam sessions and the Irish dancing!”

With works available from renowned artists such as Renoir and Dalí, first-years Jane and Annie Kronenberg, sixth and seventh on the list respectively, wanted something “big and famous,” while first-year Leah Wollenberg, 20th, was looking for a piece by Ellsworth Kelly that she’d seen browsing the Allen’s virtual collection.

The anonymous senior at the front of the line attributed the lack of live gallery previews this year to the recent renovations and reopening of the Allen. For the last year and a half, while the Allen was under construction, art rental was held on the second floor of the Carnegie Building. This fall marked the program’s return to the museum. Yet despite the uncertainty of what works he would leave the museum with the next morning and the long duration of his wait, he insisted that his art rental experience had been a pleasure.

“No minute of this has been a pain,” he said. “It has all been enjoyable. This is a lesson for all Oberlin students to put their hearts into whatever they do, art rental and beyond, and it really will pay off.”