This fall, the Harvard Art Museums will reintroduce the Student Print Rental Program. On hiatus since 2008, the popular program allows Harvard students to rent original prints from the museums to hang in their dorm rooms for the year. It aims to encourage interest in and understanding of art by making it a part of students’ everyday lives.
For a small fee, about 300 undergraduate and graduate students living in university housing will be able to choose from a collection of prints; each student can rent one print per academic year. The selection of available prints ranges from early Japanese works to pop art by Warhol, with major names represented alongside up-and-coming artists.
Jessica Diedalis, the museums’ curricular registrar, played a crucial role in rebooting the program. She believes it will have a positive impact on students. “You can spend time getting to know the piece and come to understand the influence of art—how it can brighten your day, distract you, or just add a little something to your life.”
A fixture at Harvard since the early 1970s, the program historically drew large crowds to the museums’ central courtyard each fall as students picked the works they wanted for their rooms that year. Distribution will be a bit different now, taking place in the museums’ Art Study Center, where timed tickets will allow for more leisurely and thoughtful decision making.
Paper conservators Barbara Owens and Charlotte Karney spent time assessing the prints and preparing them for rental. “What we have done,” said Karney, “is ensure that the prints are presented in the safest, most aesthetically pleasing way. This often involved cutting new mats, attaching the prints securely, and framing them under UV-filtering Plexiglas.” Students will in turn receive guidance from museums staff on how to properly care for and display the works.
The prints available to choose from may change from year to year. Not only will there be new prints in the mix, but some prints may be removed from the rental program in order to be displayed in the galleries—the ultimate in bragging rights for the lucky students who can say that the work once hung over their desk or bed.
Diedalis expects the program to evolve in the years ahead. “I’d like to see it expand and thoughtfully respond to what students want, to see how it can change along with the student body.” Students who are interested in participating should look out for an email with more information in the near future.
Rachel Sheldon is an intern in the Communications Division at the Harvard Art Museums.