Davidson College Students: Here’s How to Get a Warhol on Your Wall

Student with ArtMate in Residence Hall

Through ArtMate, students select art works curated from the college’s extensive collection. The works are then hung in the students’ dorm rooms by gallery staff and remain there for the duration of the academic year.

Students lined the marbled halls of the Katherine and Tom Belk Visual Arts Center and filed into the gallery to claim works by artists including Andy Warhol and Salvador Dalí. Through the ArtMate program, the pieces landed on residence hall room walls–upscale and inspirational enhancements to traditional dorm room décor.

The ArtMate program, now in its third year, offered up 115 pieces selected from the college’s more than 4,200 works. Lia Newman, the director and curator of the Van Every/Smith Galleries, and gallery staff chose the pieces, displaying them in floor-to-ceiling rows along the walls of the Smith Gallery.

More than 90 students signed up in advance to attend the ArtMate Selection Party, with some showing up outside of the gallery two hours early in the hope of getting first dibs on their favorite works. 

They chose from chaotic, black-and-white compositions by Richard Howard Hunt, the clean, bright colors of Jiha Moon, and photographic works by alum artists including Raymond Grubb ’74 and Ron Chapple ’79.

The Gelatin silver print “Enfants, Paris,” by Edouard Boubat, called to self-professed art lover and gallery intern Toshaani Goel ’24

The print depicts a joyous scene of children playing in the snow against a backdrop of leafless trees. It now occupies a reserved space on her wall alongside a print from a former student’s senior exhibit, student artworks she picked up abroad and a Marvel poster she received as a birthday present (“Yes, I am embarrassed about it, but I am a huge Marvel fan–only until Phase 4!”). 

Goel, a global literary theory major, helped to design the ArtMate program and hopes that, by engaging with the college’s collection and public art works, more students come to learn what she already knows: you don’t have to “get” art to love it. 

“Art is an important medium of thought and communication, and I believe our lives are lesser without it,” Goel said. “Despite the fact that the entire campus is a careful curation of artwork of different media, style and form, it doesn’t automatically inculcate a practice of engaging with art. ArtMate is another step in encouraging students to work more closely with art. The sentiment of ownership (even if it is temporary) is bound to compel us to reflect on the work or on ourselves through the artwork.”

Student-Driven Success 

The idea behind ArtMate gestated for years—a handful of other schools, including MIT and Williams, have started similar programs. Davidson’s program was nearing roll-out before the pandemic emptied campus.

When students returned, Newman and her team shelved it so they could focus their exhibitions on the social-justice conversations happening around the world. But before long, a handful of students approached Newman, asking her to revive the idea.

“The students asked for it,” Newman said. “And it made so much sense because they were spending so much more time in their rooms. They really felt like ArtMate could brighten their rooms and their lives.”

The college's Art Collection Advisory Committee, composed of alumni and friends of the arts at Davidson, rallied behind the project, raising funds and donating art. The spring 2021 pilot was limited to 50 students in three residence halls. After a successful pilot and nothing but positive feedback, the program was renewed for its first full year in 2021-2022 and has expanded this year to include eight residence halls and up to 100 students.