Put The Keg Under The Dali

I ended up with an interesting juxtaposition of articles today. After clicking on interesting looking links in my Twitter feed, I had an article asking whether children should be allowed in museums come up in a tab next to tab with YouTube videos about the student art rental program at Oberlin College.

The article about banning kids from museums was a reaction to parents letting their child crawl all over a sculpture worth $10 million at the Tate Modern. Compare that to my realization that Oberlin has been renting out their priceless Dalis, Picassos, Chagalls, Calders, etc to their students for $5 and has been doing so since 1940.

Apparently they haven’t had any lost or damaged in all that time. There is a lot of competition for the paintings with the students camping out all night to be near the head of the line and consulting maps of where the pieces will be located in the room to strategize what they will grab first. (They are limited to 2 pieces though)

Given that Frank Almond recently had his violin stolen coming out of a concert hall, it is amazing to me no one has targeted the student dorms to grab the painting.

And it should be noted, contrary to what is initially claimed in a blog on the Oberlin website, these pieces are not works that would otherwise remain out of circulation. These works are particularly set aside for this rental program and distributed and returned every semester without much incident.

Between the two situations comes the question about the best way to instill a respect for art. Do you keep kids out of the museum until they are mature enough or try to engender respect throughout their lives? Frankly, I recall wandering the Museum of Natural History on my own when I was in 10 or 11 years old so my feeling is that most kids can handle themselves if properly trained.

Presumably college students are mature enough to appreciate art in a museum, but do you dare let them take it and hang it in their dorm room?

Well, clearly you can at Oberlin at least. But the practice of lending out priceless art works like library books hasn’t caught on  with museums in any widespread way, despite Oberlin’s 70+ years of success with it.  I simultaneously cringe at the idea of a museum doing so and feel slightly ashamed at being so distrustful with so little evidence that people who would borrow can’t be trusted.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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