As I took out the last of my items from their boxes and put the finishing touches on my decorations, I regretted finding my walls rather sparse. I’m a minimalist and can’t help but feel that even when I’m packing the bare minimum, I’m packing too much, and so I often skimp on decorations. I realize their importance, though, when I move in and find that my room is in desperate need of livening up, or else it won't feel like my home for the rest of the school year, but rather just a stale dorm room. Fortunately, Oberlin’s artistic culture gave me plenty of opportunities to snag just what I needed to make my room my own.
This year, the College Poster Sale Company of New York held a poster sale in Wilder Bowl, and I knew it was my chance to get the perfect wall candy. On the first day, the sale was swamped with students with the same idea, all perusing the various designs. There were smaller prints of stills from vintage movies, and slightly larger ones of various expressions and pop culture designs. Then there were the largest ones of all designs you can imagine, from famous art pieces, to TV show and video games references, to vintage concert posters. There were so many choices it was hard to choose, but I found a poster of one of my favorite video games, The Last of Us, and now it's hanging happily on my wall. The empty space was a bit more occupied, but I was still missing decor from one of the greatest Oberlin traditions, the Art Rental.
The Art Rental occurs at the beginning of each semester, and it's an event that allows students to rent an artwork from the Allen Memorial Art Museum for just $5. It’s an incredible opportunity singular to Oberlin, one I was amazed to hear about even before I got here. The Allen is full of gorgeous art pieces and collections, with fascinating history and priceless value, making visiting and studying there truly one of the best things Oberlin has to offer. Getting to look over an Andy Warhol piece for a media studies class was already incredible, and the Art Rental gave me the chance to take home pieces from even bigger names like Pablo Picasso; the people in line before me were lucky enough to get a Chagall piece. This extraordinary opportunity has contributed to the event's popularity, with a long line forming around the Allen as the doors get ready to open. It may seem strange that the college trusts students with such valuable art, but Oberlin students value the opportunity so much that they take care to never damage the pieces, and so far no one ever has.
Once at the rental, you are shown five random pieces and get to choose one to keep with you for the semester. All of the artworks are distinct and special in their own way, and the chance to live with one allows you to form an intimate relationship with a piece. For my first time participating, I got a beautiful painting by Roberto Marquez. I decided to set it on top of the bookshelf, the perfect place where it's in full view and I can look up at it while I work at my desk. I love both glimpsing it as I get ready and taking the time to look at it more closely, noticing the fine details of the flower buds, color gradient, and paint texture. I'm incredibly happy with my piece (even if it's not a Picasso!) and know I’ll just love it more and more as the semester goes on.
I’ve also been browsing the shops in downtown Oberlin, looking for other small decorations at places like the Ginko Gallery and the Workshop Art Gallery. Shops like these hold so many charming pieces crafted by Ohioan artists, and I've gifted many to family members when I just can't pass one up. Lately, I've been searching for the perfect unique candy bowl as October rolls up and I'm accumulating various Christmas presents. As the weather gets colder and the leaves start to turn, I can't wait to fill my room with handmade mini pumpkins and other autumn adornments, maybe putting a Halloween decoration or two under my Art Rental piece. Do you think that’ll clash?