Oberlin Blogs

Let's Rent Some Art

February 23, 2020

Meredith Warden ’23

Last weekend, I participated in my very first Art Rental! Art Rental has been around for 50 years and is a beloved tradition at Oberlin because each semester students can rent up to two pieces of art from the Allen for $5/painting. The Art Rental collection has hundreds of paintings, including works by Picasso, de Goya, Matisse, and more, which is part of why it’s such a popular tradition—who wouldn’t want to hang a Picasso in their dorm room? I really enjoyed doing Art Rental this semester, and here’s a little play-by-play of how it went down: 

Friday morning, 4:30 a.m.: 

I wake up and meet up with my friends to walk to the Allen. Art Rental starts tonight, but they post the list at 5:00 a.m. on Friday morning, and we want to be near the front of the line. We wait until about 5:45 and put our names on the list—I’m actually surprisingly near the front of the line, at number 51 in a line of about 140 people. We walk back to our dorm and I fall back asleep before class. 

Friday night, 5:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m.: 

These are the first three check-ins. During the whole night, you are required to be present at 4 out of 6 check-ins to keep your spot in line. It’s not really that complicated—as they call out people’s names on the list, I answer “Here” when my name is called, and then I leave. Don’t worry, it gets more exciting later on.

Saturday morning, 12:00 and 3:00 a.m.: 

Because I’ve already gone to 3 out of 6 check-ins, I miss these two so I can actually sleep, as I do have to wake up quite early tomorrow!  

Saturday morning, 7:15 a.m.: 

The last check-in has arrived! Everyone is required to be present for this one, or you don’t get art. Art Rental officially opens at 8:00 a.m., so we wait in line as they let in groups of five at a time. I pass the time by looking at the online Art Rental collection and picking out which paintings I’d like to rent so I can look for them once we’re let in. One painting, in particular, catches my eye—it’s not by a particularly famous person, but that’s the great thing about Art Rental: even though they do have works by famous painters, a lot of the works are also by lesser-known people, and many students pick paintings they personally like, rather than famous paintings. I make a mental note to look for this specific painting once inside.

A photo of Alan Campbell's "Morning Light - Ossabaw" which is a painting of a white house bathed in light.
Campbell's "Morning Light - Ossabaw"

After about an hour, we are finally let in to choose our paintings! The paintings are stacked on top of each other, and it feels like a race against everyone else in the room to pick out the one(s) I want. I find a Francisco de Goya and hold on to it for a little bit, but I decide to get a different painting that I had seen earlier. As I’m looking around to choose a second painting, one of my friends calls me to tell me that she’s found the one painting I really wanted! I rush over to her and take the painting, then go get my two pieces wrapped up so I can safely carry them back to my room.

A photo of Leonard Slatkes's "Hall Auditorium," which is features different architectural styles/buildings in a gray, orange, white, and blue color scheme.
Slatkes's "Hall Auditorium" 

Again, I think of how amazing it is that, for only $10, I can have professional artwork in my college dorm room! I haul the art back to my room and hang them up later that day. My two paintings are titled “Morning Light - Ossabaw” (1979) by Alan Campbell (this is the painting that first caught my eye) and “Hall Auditorium” (1953) by Leonard J. Slatkes—who, according to some internet research and my knowledge that Hall Auditorium is a building on campus, is an Oberlin alum! All in all, I'm very happy with the pieces I chose, and I had a great first Art Rental experience! 


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