Murals and Artwork in Residential Buildings

Principles and best practices for the creation and curation of artwork.

The updated Murals and Artwork policy based on the work detailed below was posted on the HRS Policies page on October 26, 2023. Click here to review the policy.


Student artwork in the form of murals has been an important part of several undergraduate residential communities for many years. As MIT makes significant investments in large-scale projects to renew older residential buildings -- particularly those that have been previously designated as “mural buildings” – the expectations and approaches to artmaking are changing.

In preparation for these changes, the Chancellor’s Office charged the 2018-2019 Undergraduate Housing Working Group to develop principles and best practices for the creation and curation of artwork in ways that do not involve art directly applied to permanent building surfaces. The aim of the group was to advance support for creative expression and to ensure effective stewardship of the significant investments in renewal for many years to come. The working group included students, heads of house, and DSL staff who partnered with the Office of the Associate Provost for Campus Space Management and Planning to develop principles that support these important objectives.

The principles the group developed (see below) were put into action through house-based protocols developed in Next House (2019), New House (2020), and Burton Conner (2022). During the planning for renovations of New House (2018), Burton Conner (2022), and East Campus (2025), the project architects developed approaches to support installation of artwork that would not be directly applied on surfaces (e.g., canvas, fire-proof panels). The unique needs of each community have been considered in applying the art-making principles, and there has been continued refinement of protocols. .For example, a pilot in Next House offered the opportunity to test new approaches in a building that was not designated as a mural building under the existing Mural Policy.

The means and methods of creating artwork in this new way along with the continuation of community-based approaches to the development of content, can be found in the Murals & Artwork section of MIT’s residential policies webpage.

Undergraduate Housing Working Group Outcomes 2018-2019

Background Summary of Art-Making Discussion

  • Students value self expression, and art-making in residence halls helps build community.
  • Painting in designated communal spaces is one way to sustain student art-making traditions. 
  • Residence halls need to accommodate term-time and summer-term residents, so the building needs to be usable for a diverse group of residents.
  • Art-making costs must be effectively managed to avoid increased housing maintenance costs, and as a result, a higher financial burden on students.
  • Stretched canvas, fire-proof wall board, and other non-permanent media enables art-making that can evolve with current and future residents’ creative expression

Best Practices for Murals

  • Art is thought of as being material (i.e., not projections or audio).
  • The cost of developing, presenting, exhibiting, and restoring art is typically the artist’s responsibility. 
  • Where we live and work feels like our space while we’re here. We are also, however, stewards for the next generation. Because our time in our hall is temporary, we need to preserve resources for future use.
  • The collection of art changes over time. 
  • Murals/artwork in communal spaces are more important to a community than those in individual rooms. 

Recommended Principles for Murals 

  • Creative expression is an important facet of campus life at MIT.
  • Students’ need for creative expression should be balanced with MIT’s needs to manage expenses in all campus buildings to provide a high quality education at the most affordable cost.
  • Designating mural spaces should be a community effort and involve Housing and Residential Services, the house team, and student leaders.
  • To help balance creative expression and managing costs, a portion of a house’s community space (e.g., external to private rooms or suites) can be designated as art-making space and dedicated to creative expression on stretched canvas, fire-proof mediums, or blackboards fixed, but not permanently attached, to the community space. 
  • Project proposals should be reviewed per the MIT mural policy, and approved proposals and associated maintenance costs will be funded through the individual house’s budget. 
  • Maintenance costs associated with unapproved art will be charged to individuals, groups, or the residence hall depending on the specific circumstances of the situation.