What Campus Closures Means for our Collections

Two visitors look at artwork in frames during the Student Lending Art Program at the MIT List Visual Arts Center.

Installation view: Student Lending Art Program 2019 at MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, 2019.

I joined the List Center as the Permanent Collections Registrar in 2017. In my time at MIT, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to engage with students, faculty, and staff in all departments across campus through our various art lending programs.

The List Center offers one of the largest student lending art programs in the country with over 600 artworks available for students to borrow each year completely free of charge. 

In a typical year, students are able to keep a work of art in their place of residence—whether it’s a dorm, graduate student housing, or an off-campus apartment—for the entire academic year. When MIT announced their proactive response to COVID-19 by transitioning staff to working remotely and requiring undergraduates to depart from campus residences, we immediately prepared our building to accept early artwork returns. Since students were rapidly preparing to leave campus, we also worked closely with Housing and Residential Services to secure artworks in the dormitories until we could assemble a small team to safely collect the remaining works. Tracking down 600 pieces of artwork in six days was a daunting task, but we’re pleased to share the collection is accounted for. This experience exemplifies what we can accomplish when we come together as a community.

I am excited to have had the opportunity to share my experience working with the Student Lending Art Program in an interview featured in the May issue of Art in America. 

While the SLAP Program had to come to a close earlier than we had expected, we hope this week’s newsletter fills you with the joy of experiencing art from the collection wherever you may be. 

Lisa DeLong 
Permanent Collections Registrar

Collection Highlights | Sol LeWitt and Berenice Abbott

It’s always hard to choose a favorite artwork, but I love the breadth of photographs in the collection by Berenice Abbott. From her 1930s-era documentation of culture, architecture, life in New York City to her exploratory time at MIT in the late 1950s detailing the principles of physics, her images have the capability to transport you. Abbott spent her youth in Springfield, Ohio, not far from where I grew up, and I’m interested in how the trajectory of her career took her to New York, Paris, Cambridge, and Maine, as well as the profound impact each location had on her work. 

Black background and white and grey circles making an abstract plus symbol across the plane.

Student Stories | Perspectives On Living With Artwork

Madeleine Daepp on Carmen Herrera’s Ariel, 2008

“I’m so used to getting just a few minutes with artwork in a museum. I was surprised to find that I looked for very different characteristics when picking out a piece to spend a whole year with. I thought that pieces with big, bold colors might create a more comfortable, long-term sense of joy. It’s nice to have a personal connection to this artist and this work—I didn’t know anything about Carmen Herrera when I selected the piece. It wasn’t until I stopped by the List Center to pick it up that one of the staff there told me about this amazing Cuban-American artist whose work had been overlooked for years before she finally found acclaim at age 89. I now seek out her art whenever I can. It feels like I’ve made a new friend.”

A woman reads in a chair in the corner of a room with houseplant to her right and a blue silkscreen print to her left.

Interested in Learning More?

View the entire SLAP Collection 

View our new online web portal for the List Center’s Student Lending Art Program. Explore the collection by viewing a selection of works available for borrowing. Learn more about artworks in the collection through the words and experiences of MIT students who’ve participated in the program.

Two people attend the MIT List Arts Center SLAP Reception 2019.

Life At Home: Lisa Puts on Her Chef Hat 

Like many people, I’m finding comfort in preparing meals from scratch. My husband and I recently purchased a pasta maker, so fresh pasta has become a fun way to unwind on the weekend. It’s kind of therapeutic to see the results come together with just a few ingredients. When possible, I’m also using this time to research and delve into different recipes for meals like empanadas, falafel, or chana masala. Whether I’m cooking a dish for the first time or returning to nostalgic favorites, spending the evening in the kitchen coaxing aromas throughout our apartment helps to normalize our days at home.

What will be the first restaurant you visit when we can dine out again? When restaurants begin to reopen, I’m looking forward to visiting some of my favorite places throughout the city. This includes Gustazo, Waypoint, and Tatte, where the atmosphere contributes to the experience as much as the food. I also can’t wait to visit Thinking Cup for their almond croissants!