UC Berkeley’s Graphic Arts Loan Collection, or GALC, is allowing students to check out artwork after the program was put on hold for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The collection, which is housed in Morrison Library, was established in 1958 by campus professor Herwin Schaefer. It allows students to rent up to two original print pieces per academic year starting in the fall semester.
“Students seem to love the program and many find it hard to believe that they can check-out art from the library,” Scott Peterson, head of Morrison Library, said in an email. “It is a unique program, and I think students understand that and appreciate that this is one of the many things that make the UC Library special.”
Sarah Vernallis, a fourth-year doctoral student in campus’s philosophy department, started borrowing artwork from the collection in 2019.
She discussed how meaningful the artwork and program is in reminding her of her family and her family’s history. The first piece Vernallis checked out from the program was one by Corita Kent, whose art was enjoyed by her mother as a child.
“I especially enjoyed the kind of gallery set up that they had this year,” Vernallis said. “It’s helpful for people to get to see them — being in a gallery setting gives it a kind of status.”
Now that the gallery has reopened post-pandemic, Vernallis said she is excited to borrow artwork again.
Vernallis added that although the art world tends to feel “inaccessible and elite,” the program helps students feel connected to art.
“It’s a great way for people to feel that these institutions are also serving them and interested in the things they care about,” Vernallis said of the collection. “It’s a way of being accessible and available to the students.”
To borrow the pieces, students must fill out an agreement, reserve their pieces online and then pick them up. Faculty and staff can start reserving the pieces several weeks after students have chosen their artwork.
Vernallis recalls initially struggling to rent the artwork that she wanted because of how fast they were being checked out online.
“At the beginning of the spring quarter in 1967, David Smith, a biology student, waited 25 hours and 15 minutes to borrow a lithograph by Renoir,” Peterson said in the email.
Peterson also said how the GALC is unique because — although about 10 other universities offer programs where students can check out art — campus’s is the only one where the program is run by the library.
Schaefer, the founder of the program, believed that access to art is “natural and necessary” in students’ lives, according to Peterson.
“It’s great that Berkeley is giving people an opportunity to spice up their rooms with something that excites them and helps them feel more connected and feel like art is accessible,” Vernallis said.