In the 1970s, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
instituted a program called 1% for Art
. As part of this program, when the 'Tute
renovated its Stratton Student Center
(better known as W20
put aside a chunk of money for an artist named Maggs Haries
. Her task? To put a hanging sculpture
in the wide space created between the first and second floors of
Now, this was in the era of Community Involvement, and
Maggs was a great supporter of this movement. She decided that her sculpture would be a giant Shaman's Hat, woven
of human hair, and that she would take her materials
from donations by the student body so that it would truly
be a community creation. She put up a giant four-pointed wire frame in the space to be filled, to show what the
sculpture would eventually look like, and put up signs
around campus asking for student help.
No one in the student body, however, had ever heard of a four-pointed shaman's hat, or had any idea why they needed one in the Student Center. Being MIT students, a large number of them were also long-haired geeks and engineers who wouldn't hold with anyone cutting off their best feature, let alone for a sculpture. Besides, the food in Lobdell Cafeteria, better known as Lobdeath, was bad enough without a giant hairball hanging outside the doors.
So they took action.
Posters began appearing around campus, similar to Maggs Haries' calls for hair donations. These posters, however, requested less savory excretions. The wire frame was used by hackers to create more fitting sculptures-- a compass rose appeared, as did a giant six-sided die. The final straw, however, was when the frame disappeared altogether, to be replaced with a ten-foot-long working slide rule-- a truly appropriate decoration for MIT.
Maggs Haries packed up her things and left then, claiming that MIT students couldn't appreciate true art. The space in the Student Center remains empty to this day, graced only with the occasional Monopoly board. She never returned the money MIT had paid her, however, and for all we know the Hairball has a replacement in the works.