Kate Carlisle (

Three-Year Appointment Will Provide Opportunity for Gates to Convene Creative Minds and Advance His Practice, Culminating with a Major Exhibition of his Work at the Colby Museum of Art in 2021

Colby College today announced the appointment of one of the most admired, influential, and innovative figures on the contemporary scene, Theaster Gates, as the first distinguished visiting artist and director of artist initiatives at the Colby Museum of Art’s new Lunder Institute for American Art. Over the course of a three-year appointment, Gates will convene artists and thinkers from around the world for retreats, provide opportunities for students and faculty to engage in his practice, and identify opportunities for additional artist residencies, projects, and exhibitions at the institute, founded in 2017 at the Colby College Museum of Art. In conjunction with the appointment, the museum will mount a major exhibition of Gates’s work in 2021, featuring pieces and projects he will create during his time in Waterville.

Theaster Gates

One of the primary goals of the Lunder Institute is to provide time and space for artists to reflect, innovate, make work, and convene. During his time at the institute, Gates will establish a studio in Waterville, where he will concentrate on his ongoing practice in sculpture, installation, and urban engagement. Gates will also organize summer gatherings in 2019 and 2020, bringing together artists and scholars to address themes such as retreat and reflection, exploring the tradition of Maine as an inspirational haven for artists, and producing a series of recorded and published conversations. During the course of his appointment at Colby, Gates will remain professor in the Department of Visual of Arts and the College at the University of Chicago and will continue in his role as senior advisor for cultural innovation and advisor to the dean of Harris Public Policy.

“We feel immensely fortunate to be able to bring Theaster Gates to Colby, to help us realize the ambitious mission of the new Lunder Institute for American Art,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “Having known Theaster for many years and having witnessed how his innovative work has changed people’s lives, I am thrilled that he will soon add to Colby’s strengths in the humanistic and creative disciplines that are essential to the liberal arts.”

Sharon Corwin, the Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator of the Colby College Museum of Art, said, “Theaster Gates has done far more than challenge our understanding of what art can be. He has shown us in profound ways what art can do. He embeds himself in a place, brings people together, and creates important new spaces for engagement and dialogue. We look forward eagerly to welcoming him to Waterville, where we know he will show our campus and our wider community new ways of thinking, being, and doing.”

“I am honored to be given this invitation by the Lunder Institute to be in residence,” said Theaster Gates. “What I need at this stage in my career is time for reflection and research. This residency period allows me time to develop the most ambitious projects of my practice.”

The exhibition of Theaster Gates’s work scheduled for 2021 is expected to continue the series of respected presentations organized by the Colby College Museum of Art. Major recent exhibitions have included Marsden Hartley’s Maine (2017), co-curated with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s (2015), which traveled to the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2017 and will open at the Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase this summer.

Theaster Gates tours Waterville’s South End
Photo: Gabe Souza (2017)

Gates’s appointment follows his four-day residency at the Lunder Institute in 2017, when he visited with Colby students in a number of classes and met with local community partners. The institute has been established through the generosity of Peter and Paula Lunder, whose earlier contributions to Colby College have included the landmark donation of the Lunder Collection, one of the most important private collections of American art ever assembled. Combined with the museum’s collection, the Lunder Institute enables the Colby Museum to speak to a global audience and to make Waterville a vibrant arts destination. Gates will also deliver the baccalaureate address at Colby on May 26 and will receive an honorary degree.

The City of Waterville is currently undergoing a transformation and leveraging its role as a hub for arts and culture in central Maine, established through the Colby College Museum of Art, an independent cinema that hosts the renowned Maine International Film Festival, a collaborative arts organization, Waterville Creates!, and the historic Waterville Opera House. In March the College announced plans for a downtown center for contemporary art and film that will include a gallery of the Colby College Museum of Art. New investment by Colby College and others has surpassed $50 million and includes a technology center; a mixed-use facility to house 200 Colby students, faculty, and staff; and a boutique hotel.

Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates (b. 1973, Chicago) has exhibited widely, including group shows such as the Whitney Biennial, New York (2010); dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (2012); The Spirit of Utopia at Whitechapel, London (2013); and The Studio Museum in Harlem’s When Stars Collide (2014). Solo exhibitions include To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave, the Slave Potter at Milwaukee Art Museum (2010), Seattle Art Museum (2011), MCA Chicago (2013), and The Black Monastic residency at Museu Serralves, Porto (2014). In 2013 Gates was awarded the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. He has since won the Artes Mundi 6 prize (2015) and the Nasher Prize (2018). Gates is also the founder of the nonprofit Rebuild Foundation.

Lunder Institute for American Art
Integrated into the academic mission of the College and the museum’s program, The Lunder Institute is a research center for American art established by Peter and Paula Lunder. The institute creates a unique space for scholarship, creative works, dialogue, and mentorship among visiting scholars and artists, Colby faculty and students, and the central Maine community; facilitates institutional exchange in the United States and internationally; and trains future leaders in the field of American art through the Colby Museum and partner institutions around the world. To advance critical and creative research in American art and related fields, the institute hosts a residential program for scholars and artists on campus and in downtown Waterville. Residencies are offered to graduate students, scholars, curators, and emerging and internationally renowned artists who may develop new site-specific works on campus and in the community.

Colby College Museum of Art
Founded in 1959, the Colby College Museum of Art comprises five wings, more than 9,000 works of art, and more than 38,000 square feet of exhibition space. Major works by American masters, including Albert Bierstadt, Winslow Homer, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, and William Merritt Chase, form the core of the historical collection, along with significant holdings of American folk art. The modern movement is represented by important works by artists including John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jacob Lawrence, Joan Mitchell, Isamu Noguchi, and Alma Thomas. The museum also maintains a significant collection of contemporary American art, including works by Alex Katz (with more than 900 works represented), Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt, Maya Lin, Kara Walker, Elizabeth Murray, Martin Puryear, Terry Winters, and Sherrie Levine. Other principal areas of the collection include Greek and Roman antiquities, European prints and drawings, and early Chinese art. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

Admission is free. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. It also is open Thursdays until 9 p.m. during the academic year. The public is invited to join the conversation online via dedicated social communities on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@colbymuseum and #colbymuseum). For additional information, please visit

Press Contacts

Kate Carlisle
Colby College | 4353 Mayflower Hill, Waterville, Maine 04901
Tel 207-859-4369 |

Julia Esposito
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