Borrowing an Original

August 17, 2018
Olga Kogan (Harvard Business School, ’18) borrowed this print, Ursa Major by artist Barrie Goshko, through the Harvard Art Museums’ Student Print Rental Program last year. She and her husband were so inspired by the work that they contacted Goshko directly to learn more about it.

Last fall, Harvard graduate student Olga Kogan rented the print Ursa Major, by artist Barrie Goshko, through the Harvard Art Museums’ Student Print Rental Program. A black and white etching and aquatint, Ursa Major interprets the astrological constellation with words and images of bears and stars.

Kogan hung the print in her dorm room, which she shared with husband Omri Baumer. “We chose the print because it reminded us of home and family—my mom, dad, and grandfather were always into stargazing, and the print was a creative way to show the constellation,” said Kogan, who earned her M.B.A. in May.

Before the rental term ended in the spring of 2018, the couple realized they wanted to know more about Goshko and the print. So Baumer researched Goshko online, found his email address, and asked him to share more information about the work.

“I think the artist was happy to see that someone was enjoying the piece,” Kogan said. “He told us that he’d made it in 1987, and it was based on research he did at that time about the constellation. It felt nice to learn a little more, especially since we really enjoyed having it on our wall.”

Kogan and Baumer’s story is exactly the type of hands-on experience that Student Print Rental Program organizers hope to foster. The program, which has operated almost continuously since the early 1970s, gives current Harvard undergraduate and graduate students living on campus the opportunity to borrow one original print from the museums to hang in their dorm room for the academic year. (There is a $30 fee associated with the rental.)

Built over decades, the Student Print Rental Collection contains hundreds of works. The list of prints available changes each year, with about 300 annually loaned on a first-come, first-served basis. (See the schedule below for specific dates when students may view prints available to rent this year.)

The works in the collection run the gamut of print techniques, from traditional methods such as silkscreen and woodcut to recently developed techniques such as film stills and digital prints. A diverse range of artists are featured, with household names such as Warhol and Picasso, as well as living and up-and-coming artists whose work is known or gaining attention.

Meaningful Gifts

As the Student Print Rental Collection continues to grow in popularity among students, it is also expanding in size. In fact, a number of new prints were recently added, thanks to generous gifts from artists and artists’ estates. This year’s program participants will be the first to rent the following prints (pictured below), among others: Mark Podwal’s Talmud Typewriter (2015); Bob Tomolillo’s Empathy (2016); and Bernard Childs’s series of engravings titled B.B. (1960).

  • Senior conservation technician Charlotte Karney mats two of Bernard Childs’s four B.B. engravings. When new works are added to the Student Print Rental Collection, they are individually matted and framed by conservators in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies.
    of Senior conservation technician Charlotte Karney mats two of Bernard Childs’s four B.B. engravings. When new works are added to the Student Print Rental Collection, they are individually matted and framed by conservators in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies.
  • Karney removes the glassine from Bob Tomolillo’s Empathy (2016) before matting and framing the print.
    of Karney removes the glassine from Bob Tomolillo’s Empathy (2016) before matting and framing the print.
  • Mark Podwal’s Talmud Typewriter (2015) receives a custom mat.
    of Mark Podwal’s Talmud Typewriter (2015) receives a custom mat.

“Over the years, curators have striven to keep the works in the Student Print Rental Collection fresh and relevant,” said Elizabeth Rudy, the Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Associate Curator of Prints. “We’re very excited to have received these recent gifts to the collection. The living artists who gave prints were enthusiastic about being part of our pedagogical mission.”

Tomolillo said his gift of Empathy felt natural. “I always defer to younger people, and I welcomed the opportunity to share my print with students who might appreciate it,” said Tomolillo, a Cambridge native and a member of the Boston Printmakers group. “If students are exposed to original art as they grow up, then perhaps they will develop a firmly grounded idea of quality artwork.”

The inclusion of Podwal’s Talmud Typewriter in the Student Print Rental Collection represented a similarly special opportunity for the artist, who estimates his art is in 50 collections around the world (including the Harvard Art Museums’ permanent collections). “I’m happy that the students will be able to not only look at Talmud Typewriter, but also to live with it,” he said.

Both works can be viewed as relating to contemporary life and current events, the artists said. Talmud Typewriter, a silkscreen print, depicts a typewriter producing a page from the Talmud—which some might interpret as an unexpected juxtaposition of modern and ancient technologies in an age in which technology continues to evolve. The lithograph Empathy was made in reaction to the 2016 presidential election and the heightened emotions and national discord that resulted from it, Tomolillo said.

The relevance of such works to today’s world makes it likely these prints will resonate with future student borrowers. It’s also possible more students will get in touch with the artists represented on their walls, as appreciation for original art continues to spread on campus.

Kogan and Baumer aren’t the first to have contacted artists directly. Each year, a handful of students do so, said Jessica Diedalis, the former curricular registrar who managed the Student Print Rental Program (Suzan Şengöz, assistant director for registration, is now overseeing the program). One Harvard alumnus and past Student Rental Program participant even reached out to Diedalis to request details about his past rental; with fond memories of his print, he wanted to buy an impression of the same print for himself.

“At Harvard, we have art in many public places on campus,” Diedalis said, “but it becomes a much more personal experience when students can live with original art.”

Rudy added: “We’re hoping this program sparks a lifelong love affair with art—a passion for it.”

Student Print Rental Schedule: 

All events listed below will take place in the Art Study Center on Level 4 of the Harvard Art Museums. For more details, visit the Student Opportunities section of our website. Students will receive an email on August 20 with more information, including about how to enter the lottery. 

  • Print Preview: Tuesday, September 4, 10am­­–5pm
  • Print Rental Day Lottery: Wednesday, September 5, 10:30am-1pm and 2-4:30pm
  • Open Print Rental Day: Thursday, September 6, 10:30am–4pm
  • Harvard Student Late Night (last chance to rent a print): Thursday, September 13, 8–10pm