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Professor Tanya Sheehan

Tanya Sheehan

WATERVILLE, Maine—Colby College has named Tanya Sheehan the distinguished scholar and director of research at the Lunder Institute for American Art. A leading scholar in the field, Sheehan is currently the William R. Kenan Jr. Associate Professor of Art and chair of the Department of Art at Colby.

In her role at the Lunder Institute, Sheehan will forge links between the American art curriculum at Colby and scholarship in the field of American art. In addition to teaching courses that support the mission of the Lunder Institute, she will create a variety of innovative research opportunities for Colby students that may include visits to institutional peers, participation in symposia and publications, and engagement with visiting scholars and artists.

She will also support the scholarly program of the Lunder Institute by engaging in research collaborations with artists and scholars in residence and by mentoring the institute’s junior fellows; contribute expertise to the institute’s scholarly programs, including symposia and a summer program; and pursue partnerships with major institutions that support scholarship in the field.

“Tanya Sheehan is uniquely qualified to play this essential role at the College,” said Margaret McFadden, provost and dean of faculty at Colby. “She is both a superb teacher and a field-changing scholar whose work is widely admired around the world. Our students and faculty will benefit enormously from the opportunities that she will create, and the vibrant scholarly discourses that she will help to foster, both on campus and in the wider field of American art.”

“We are building a dream team for the Lunder Institute, and I am thrilled to have Professor Sheehan on board,” said Carolyn J. Muzzy Director and Chief Curator Sharon Corwin. “Her commitment to American art as a researcher and teacher is unparalleled. She will be a force in advancing the scholarly ambitions of the institute.”

On the Colby faculty since 2013, Sheehan teaches the history of American art, race and representation, and art and science. She is the author of Doctored: The Medicine of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America (2011) and Study in Black and White: Photography, Race, Humor (2018).

Her edited books include Photography, History, Difference (2014), Photography and Its Origins (co-edited with Andres Zervigon, 2015), Grove Art Guide to Photography (2017), and Photography and Migration (2018). She has recently contributed essays to The Image of the Black in Western Art series, A Companion to American Art, and the journal American Art. Since 2015 she has served as editor of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art Journal. Sheehan earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in art history from Brown University.

“I am thrilled to be working with Lee Glazer, Theaster Gates, and the museum’s team in establishing Colby College as a center for research on American art,” said Sheehan. “We have at Colby a unique opportunity to cultivate innovative scholarship in the field and connect it to undergraduate teaching and learning. I look forward to expanding our network of partners and collaborating with an international community of scholars.”

This marks the third leadership appointment for the Lunder Institute, which was established by a remarkable gift from Life Trustee Paula Crane Lunder, D.F.A. ’98 and Life Overseer Peter Lunder ’56, D.F.A. ’98 in 2017. Last month Colby announced that renowned artist Theaster Gates will be the first distinguished visiting artist and director of artist initiatives at the Lunder Institute, followed by Smithsonian curator Lee Glazer’s appointment as the founding director. The poet Richard Blanco is the institute’s spring 2018 artist in residence.

Sheehan’s appointment at the Lunder Institute will officially begin in September 2019.

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.