In my Kenyon past, I had never gotten lucky with the Art Loan process. The stars refused to align. But when I saw there would be 72 works of fine art available this semester — the highest number since the Gund Gallery launched the program in 2016 — I knew I had to try the lottery again. The stars finally got their act together, and now my Leonard single is the temporary home of a gorgeously simple Nairy Baghramian linocut. I couldn’t be happier.
Each semester, the Art Loan program gives students the opportunity to add some refinement to their residences with works from the Gund Gallery collection. The 72 items in this fall’s selection include seven new additions and the return of larger works, which were pulled from last year’s lottery due to COVID-19 restrictions that made it difficult for safe transportation and setup.
With more works being housed across campus, the Art Loan program has a larger reach than ever. According to Robin Goodman, the Gallery’s collections manager and registrar, part of the goal of the program is to benefit the wider community.
“You may individually (or with your roommates) pick out what you’d like to have in your dorm, but in truth it’s hoped that the [Art Loan] program is enjoyed by campus as a whole as you encounter art throughout the living spaces in the dorms,” Goodman wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Although the Art Loan has been a success in its relatively short existence, the team at the Gallery is constantly striving for improvement. Last spring, they received $10,000 from the Student Experience Fund to put towards purchasing new works to diversify the program. If all goes according to plan, these new works will be selected by Kenyon students via a voting process. According to Goodman, this would both encourage student engagement and help shape the future of the program.
Part of what makes the Art Loan so great is that it gives students the opportunity to connect with art on a personal level. Recently, the Collections team introduced journals that will travel alongside each piece, encouraging students to record their thoughts and observations as they become more familiar with the art in their space. The journals also allow Art Loan participants to see the work on their walls through the eyes of its previous hosts.
This was a source of unexpected joy for me. Once I finished hanging up Mooring (Slice) on the wall above my rented microfridge, I opened its journal to see what I would find. There were two entries from last year, one from the fall and one from the spring, both anonymous. They reflect on Baghramian’s artwork, but specifically in the context of their circumstances: The first is full of trepidation, uncertainty and a longing for things to improve, while the second is more optimistic, having been written on the day that vaccinated individuals were no longer required to wear masks outdoors. Reading the two back to back made me not only reflect on the changes caused by the pandemic, but also the way change informs how we look at art.
When COVID-19 eventually becomes a distant memory, I imagine reflections like these will become even more striking. Art is a divining rod for feeling, and the recent changes to the Art Loan program allow more students to form valuable connections with one-of-a-kind works. It’s not an opportunity that comes by every day, so enter the lottery while you can — who knows, maybe your stars will be lucky.