Natural Light Beer has long been the favored beverage on college campuses across the United States. Now, the beer company — lovingly referred to as Natty Light — is making a major effort to return all that love to college students everywhere.
On Wednesday, the company made history by unveiling the "most expensive" piece of art in the world in an effort to bring attention to the rising cost of college and the impact of college debt.
Entitled Da Vinci of Debt, the piece is made using 2,600 authentic diplomas provided by real college graduates across the nation.
"The art world is filled with absurd price tags that most people find impossible to justify," Daniel Blake, Vice President of Value Brands at Anheuser-Busch, shared in a statement about the piece, which now hangs in Vanderbilt Hall in New York City's Grand Central Terminal. "That's what made it the perfect medium for this campaign. It's a very fitting analogy for the outrageous cost of attending a typical four-year college and through Da Vinci of Debt, we hope to inspire action around the college debt crisis and drive more fans to enter for a chance to have the Natty College Debt Relief Program pay down their student loans."
According to Natural Light, Da Vinci of Debt's value is derived from the average total cost of a four-year college education. That means the 2,600 diplomas that make up the installation are valued at $470 million, "besting the most expensive piece of art ever sold at public auction — Salvator Mundi, a 600-year-old Da Vinci painting that sold for $450 million in 2017."
The installation sees the diplomas hang in mid-air in the hall "as if a gale of wind had just scattered all 2,600 of them throughout the cavernous, 6,000 square foot space at Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall," the company explained. The design, it added, is meant to illustrate both the scale of crippling student loan debt and to allude to the "chaotic impact college debt creates for those who are burdened by it."
Beyond creating a buzzed-about piece of art, the beer company is also putting its money where its mouth is with the Natural Light College Debt Relief program, which originally launched in 2018.
According to the company, each year, the program "provides $1 million to help students and graduates who are weighed down by the burden of debt." It's now in the fourth year of its proposed 10-year, $10 million commitment. And, the company will even sell its new artwork to the highest bidder to raise even more funds to help more grads.
"If it means giving more people the opportunity to enjoy the college experience without the debt that follows, we're all ears," Blake added. "Natty is dedicated to doing everything we can to provide real solutions to college debt, and if there is a serious bidder, you know where to find us…@naturallightbeer."
Those in New York can see the installation for themselves from Jan. 14-16, 2021. Anyone interested in viewing from afar can also see it on its virtual site.
And, anyone interested in applying for college debt relief can do so by sharing with the beer company what inspired them to go to college. Natural Light will be accepting entries using #NattyStories and #Contest from Jan. 11 through March 31, 2021. For more on the contest, the art, and the beer, check out Natty Light's website now.
Stacey Leasca is a journalist, photographer, and media professor. She'll school you on the beer pong table with Natty Light any day of the week. Send tips and follow her on Instagram now.
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