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Works leave museum's walls and enter living spaces of Williams College students
The idea for a discrete collection destined for dorms began to take shape soon after the arrival of Director Christina Olsen in June 2012.

WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.- Unlike any other group of artworks at the Williams College Museum of Art the destiny and purpose of the WALLS collection is to leave the museum’s walls and to enter into the living spaces and bustling lives of Williams students. In February 2014 WCMA launched the new WALLS (Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces) program. Students lined up in the bitter cold and snow for a chance to have an original artwork in their daily life for an entire semester. This September students will again line up to choose one of 90 works to install in their room.

The WALLS collection brings together a diverse range of artworks representing a broad span of time and geography. A committee of undergraduate and graduate students, donors, WCMA staff, and Williams staff assembled it. The 90 two-dimensional artworks include photography, prints, drawings, and paintings by such artists as Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Kitagawa Utamaro, Giorgio de Chirico, Claes Oldenburg, and Olivia Arthur.

The idea for a discrete collection destined for dorms began to take shape soon after the arrival of Director Christina Olsen in June 2012. Olsen worked with a key donor, Allan Fulkerson (Williams ‘54), who had a deep commitment to arts leadership and innovative museum practice. With the promise of funding from the Fulkerson Fund for Leadership in the Arts, the project was able to get underway. WALLS gathered further momentum as Olsen developed goals for the program including: contributing to the broader conversation about the shifting nature of learning and integrating more deeply into student lives.

“People’s relationship to institutions and to culture is changing. There’s a growing expectation that culture and learning are mobile and dispersed, as people themselves increasingly are, and that they don’t just happen inside an institution’s walls,” says Olsen, “We all know that the experience you have with a work of art can be deeply intellectual, but it can also be profoundly personal, emotional, and social. When you live with a work of art, you have the time and space for that relationship with art to develop. You have the time to take it in, and for your thinking and feeling to evolve as you experience it in different moods, times of day, and in your own environment, not just the environment of a museum.”

The student response to WALLS has been enthusiastic. “It has really brightened up my room, and got me thinking about my own religious identity at a deeper level,” wrote Rakdong Lim ’15 when asked to sum up his WALLS experience in 140 characters or less. Lim borrowed La creation, by Marc Chagall.

“I hope it serves as a reminder of the humanity in all of us, the color of life in all places, and the power of the love of a mother towards her children, at least this is what I felt with regards to this picture. I hope you make new memories and find new meanings in this art,” wrote Abraham Kirby-Galen ’16 in a journal that will accompany the photograph entitled, AFGHANISTAN. Mazar-E-Sharif by Peter van Agtmael, as it is loaned to future students.

“The student response to the WALLS program has been wonderful,” Williams President Adam Falk said. “By their own accounts, they've benefited in deep and surprising ways from mulling which art piece to pick, deciding how to hang it in their room, living with it over time, and sharing the experience of it with their friends. That most of those students have not been art majors sums up a lot of what Williams, and the liberal arts, is about.”

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