WALLS lottery delivers art to student rooms

The Williams College Museum of Art’s Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces (WCMA WALLS) program distributed art using a solely lottery-based system rather than a queue for the first time on Feb. 13.

WCMA WALLS allows students to borrow original artwork from WCMA’s collection to display in their rooms for a semester. Using funding provided by the Fulkerson Fund for Leadership in the Arts, the museum gives out 90 works from a collection chosen by students, staff and faculty. The collection contains a diverse range of art, boasting pieces from well-known artists such as Cezanne and Joan Mitchell as well as work from lesser-known artists.

The purpose of this program is to expose students to a more intimate experience with artwork, according to Program and Events Coordinator Rachel Heisler.

“The program started when Director Tina Olsen [’56] started at WCMA and was envisioning how to stretch the role of art in Williams students’ lives and to literally get the art out of the museums walls,” Heisler said. “Even though this is the third semester of WALLS, the staff at WCMA is so excited. It is nice to see the broad range of students who sign up for the lottery and we always love seeing the looks on their faces when they have chosen a work that they will get to spend the semester with.”

The program itself has been around for three semesters, but the lottery system is new. In past semesters, the program gave out a majority of the works of art on a first-come, first-serve basis, with only a portion based on a lottery system. As a result, students would wait outside in line for hours to obtain one of the pieces of art. “Last February we had students waiting in 10-degree weather,” Heisler said.

The online signup for the new lottery system was quick and convenient. As a result, just under 300 students submitted their names by Feb. 12 in the hopes of receiving one of the 90 lottery spots. The winners, in the order their names were drawn from the lottery, were then assigned two minutes on Feb. 15 to select their artwork of choice from the collection. Not all winners showed up on collection day, however, and several left-over pieces were given out to students who showed up at WCMA on Sunday.

The lottery system is not the only change to the program. In years past, the collection was on view in the museum prior to pick-up day. This year, although the collection was available on WCMA’s website, the actual pieces of art were only laid out the morning of for students to choose from due to lack of space in WCMA.

Next semester, however, students will be able to view the collection before pick-up day. In addition, though the lottery was random this year, the program directors intend to change their methods of picking the winners each semester in order to increase the variety of winners.

“I don’t think a program like this is going to happen at any other school. Williams has this sense of community where the students can really be involved with things like the museum. It’s great. I love it,” Alyson Barrett ’15 said while waiting to select a piece of art.

The full list of winners and pictures of the entire collection are available on WCMA’s website.