Turn Your College Campus Into a Gallery With an Art Loan Program

Elysian Koglmeier | July 31, 2023

A Davidson College student holds The Quest, a print by Salvador Dalí, that will hang in his dorm room as part of the Van Every/Smith Galleries' ArtMate program.  

An art lending program brings your art collection outside of your museum walls into your college campus community. 

Have you been considering an art loan program for students, faculty, or staff at your academic institution?

Do you already have a lending program and want to hear how another college runs theirs?

We asked our esteemed client, the Van Every/Smith Galleries at Davidson College, to share their experience running two loan programs–Art in Office for staff and ArtMate for students–with a mere staff of two. The loan programs play a critical role in sharing the permanent collection across campus and beyond their two dedicated gallery spaces. 

If the idea of a work from your collection in a dorm room makes you nauseous, perhaps this write-up will make the concept more palpable. 

If you have artworks stashed away in your university storage that could use a new life, a new purpose, and a bit of fresh air, then read on!


Can art provide a benefit for your staff?

Many academic institutions offer fewer benefits to their staff in comparison to their faculty counterparts. This is the reason behind the establishment of the Art in Office program by the Van Every/Smith Galleries, specifically designed for staff members. The focus on staff was initiated due to limited resources and staffing constraints at the time of its founding, when the Van Every/Smith Galleries had just one staff member and were unable to accommodate all of their faculty members.

The Art in Office program turns the entire campus into a gallery by providing staff members with works of art from the collection for display in their offices, common spaces, and conference rooms. 

Currently, there are 233 works loaned out in the Art in Office program. Artworks are generally kept for 2-3 years, though staff members may request to keep their work of art for a few cycles. 

How does the program work? 


How are artworks selected for the Art in Office program at Davidson College?

The Van Every/Smith Galleries have a subset of the collection (305 works) dedicated to the program.

The artworks are designated for Art in Office based on size, value, and condition. There are a few paintings in this collection, but most of the works are works on paper and photographs framed with UV Plexiglass. 

Is there a value considered?

Yes, if the work is more than $10,000 then they consider whether it should go into Art in Office.

And the Van Every/Smith Galleries also consider whether the artworks are frequently used for teaching. If so, they won’t include it in Art in Office, so that it is available for classes. 

A screenshot from the Van/Every Smith Galleries' Public Profile showcasing their Art in Office program.

How can staff participate in an art lending program?

Staff are limited to two artworks and they get to keep the works for 2-3 years. 

To give staff an idea of the art that is available, they are sent a link to the collection on Davidson’s Artwork Archive’s Public Profile.

The staff member then makes an appointment to see the works in person to make their final selection. 

Currently, 236 staff members are participating in the program.

For buildings that have conference rooms or general work areas, the Van Every/Smith Galleries' staff work with department administrators to find other works—usually larger works—that would not fit in individual offices, to fill those walls. 


How the Van/Every Smith Galleries protect and preserve the artworks: 

The college’s gallery staff and/or facilities department delivers and hangs the art in the staff offices. 

Every 2-3 years during the summer the Van Every/Smith Galleries staff does a recall of all works to be assessed for condition and documentation needs. They’ll photograph the works, mat and reframe them if necessary. Once completed, they offer set blocks of time over the course of two days for staff to sign up in groups of 5 to select new works. 


Students benefit from the opportunity to live with art.

ArtMate is a new program for Davidson College in which art is installed in individual rooms in residence halls. The program is in its third year and they continue to refine it. 

Other academic institutions have implemented a student art loan program and when considering their own, Davidson looked to the work of their peers. Other institutions researched were Oberlin College’s Allen Memorial Art Museum, MIT’s List Center, Williams College’s Museum of Art, Kenyon College’s Gund Gallery, University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum, University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, UC Berkeley’s Art Museum and Sweet Briar College Museum.

When the program kicked off in 2021, Davidson held a “Give Campus” campaign to purchase new works and to frame works already in the collection. 

The new purchases were focused around the Van/Every Smith Galleries’ mission of diversifying the collection, particularly in terms of the demographics of the artists.

“We wanted students to see themselves reflected in the artists and the themes of the works we offered for their personal rooms. This mission of "belonging" has been key in the way we think about art on campus generally too,” shares Lia Newman, Director and Curator of the Van/Every Smith Galleries.

A student excited about her artwork selection in the ArtMate program.

How does the ArtMate program work? 

There are 121 works on paper (photography and prints) designated for the ArtMate program. 

One hundred students living in certain residence halls can sign up at the beginning of the academic year to participate in the program for the year. The participating residence halls are determined by the college’s facilities department depending on the type of walls in the building.

A few weeks into the semester, an ArtMate selection party is hosted, where the 100 students who have signed up in advance come to the Katherine and Tom Belk Visual Arts Center to select their work in person. 

“Last year we had a student arrive two hours early to be first in line to be assigned number one so he could be the first to select a work,” shares Marisa J. Pascucci, Gallery and Collection Coordinator of the Van/Every Smith Galleries.


How do you get students interested in an art loan program?

Simply, make it a party!

Marisa walks us through the selection event:

“It is about two hours. We have it around dinner time and offer a pizza or taco bar and call numbers in groups of 5 into the gallery to select works. There are 121 works designated for ArtMate and all are hung salon style (3-5 high) in one of our exhibition galleries.”

Prior to the event, students can view the collection in person or online on the Van Every/Smith Galleries’ Public Profile hosted by Artwork Archive. It is synced directly to their Artwork Archive art database.

Having the collection online allows the students to see what is available and do a little research before selecting a work that they will live with for the academic year. And, if artwork is added to the program (and their Artwork Archive database), the students can immediately see the new acquisition. 

Raise your hand if you want a Salvador Dali in your dorm room instead of a movie poster!

When it was time to select an artwork, Vincent Scauzzo, a classical languages and literature major, went straight to a print of a person on horseback charging with a lance at a yellow figure and a large eye-catching signature in the lower right-hand corner.

“It’s a Dalí,” he said. “It’s not every day you get to hang a Dalí in your college dorm. Are you kidding me? The rest of my dorm is just filled with posters of race cars and my calendar. And then, here’s a Dalí!”

Scauzzo chose The Quest, a print by Salvador Dalí. 


How are artworks selected for ArtMate?

The works designated for ArtMate are smaller in size, works on paper or photographs framed with plexiglass, under approximately $3000 in value, and represent a cross-section of genres, eras, and regions. 

A variety of subject matter is important when selecting the artworks for the program—ensuring there are abstracts, landscapes, representational works etc. The program also has artists from all types of cultures including energetic black-and-white compositions by Richard Howard Hunt and the mesmerizing bright colors of Jiha Moon.

Once the artwork is selected, gallery staff and interns deliver and hang the works in the student rooms and deinstall the works at the end of the academic year.

Students are required to contact the Van Every/Smith Galleries immediately if they are switching rooms or studying abroad.  

Davidson roommates posing in front of their ArtMate artwork selection.

Are students receiving the artwork trained in art care basics?

Art care basics are listed in the loan agreement that the students sign. The Van Every/Smith Galleries staff also have an opportunity to cover proper art care when they are installing the works in the dorm rooms. For example, they mention that the works are framed with plexiglass not glass, so students need to be mindful of how it is cleaned.

The Van Every/Smith Galleries staff works together with student interns to install the artwork. Most students want the work hung over their beds. If the requested location is too close to window light or the AC/heat vents, the staff/interns propose a new location.

Since the program started, they’ve only had two slight nicks in frames.


How are the art loan programs insured?

The Galleries did not have to add or adjust their insurance policy. Since all works are on Davidson’s campus, they are covered by Davidson College’s regular policy.


How can Davidson commit to a program with potential downside from damage or theft?

Marisa and Lia vouch for the program: “We didn't question it because Davidson has a very strict honor code and it is something that students take very seriously.  On your first day of school, you sign the honor code and it goes up on display in the academic building. Students even manage the process.”

And, art is everywhere on Davidson’s campus. They have an outdoor sculpture program and art in academic buildings. Art is all over the library—it’s a part of Davidson’s culture. “Because art is something that students are used to, they value it,” shares Marisa. 


Art becomes a teaching tool and the ArtMate program expands the reach and impact of art for all students–not just those studying art for their majors.

And art in lending programs for students, staff, and faculty can be a wonderful way to continue engagement with and appreciation of your collection.


Learn more ways that academic institutions are using digital tools to authentically engage with their audiences – on and off campus.

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