The Colby College Museum of Art was founded in 1959 and currently consists of five wings, housing more than 9,000 artworks on rotating display in the more than 38,000 square feet of exhibition space. The extensive collection is composed of outstanding examples of American and contemporary art and additional select collections of Chinese antiquities, European paintings, and works on paper by Rembrandt, Picasso, Goya, Hiroshige, George Bellows, Mary Cassatt, and James McNeill Whistler, among the many artists and schools represented. The recent donation of more than 1,100 artworks from Paula and Peter Lunder will expand that reach, and the creation of the Lunder Institute for American Art advances the museum to another level of scholarly and creative production and global community interaction.
The museum has long been a primary teaching resource for the faculty of Colby College and is now a major cultural destination for residents of and visitors to Maine. Temporary loan exhibitions, such as the 2017 exhibitions No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki and Marsden Hartley’s Maine, assemble artworks from across the globe to the galleries on Mayflower Hill.
Focusing on students, the museum works closely with faculty across various disciplines to fully integrate object-based learning into the curriculum. Between 80 and 100 academic courses from 26 different departments utilize the collection annually; bringing more than 1,000 students to learn firsthand from the art on view in the galleries or selected for study in the Landay Teaching Gallery and in the Mirken Education Center. Working with the faculty, students can help prepare exhibition texts, and senior studio art majors organize an exhibition of their works in the Davis Gallery.
Colby students are encouraged to engage in a variety of pre-professional museum experiences by participation in the museum’s student docent, internship, and work-study programs, as well as through the Student Advisory Board, which is committed to establishing closer connections between the student body and the museum.
Throughout the academic year, the museum hosts a robust schedule of events, including artist talks, lectures and performances, film screenings, and concerts. Frequent partnerships with Colby’s Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement allow for faculty and student involvement across all areas of study. The museum also coordinates special events with its arts and cultural partners in Waterville to extend programmatic offerings throughout the community and brings thousands of area K-12 students to the campus each school year.
In 2013 the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion was inaugurated, making the Colby Museum of Art the largest museum in Maine, adding a sculpture gallery and terrace, generous exhibition galleries, classrooms, expanded collection storage, and staff offices. A three-story wall drawing by artist Sol LeWitt occupies the glass-enclosed stairwell, while the pavilion’s upper floor is dedicated to the College’s Department of Art, providing state-of-the-art studios for photography and fine arts foundation classes. With its small café and comfortable seating, the spacious William D. Adams Gallery lobby of the pavilion has become a lively gathering place, or quiet study location, for Colby students and their guests.