Founded in 1959, the Colby College Museum of Art comprises five wings, more than 10,000 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, Richard Serra, Kara Walker, Elizabeth Murray, Martin Puryear, Terry Winters, and Julie Mehretu. Other principal areas of the collection include Greek and Roman antiquities, European prints and drawings, and early Chinese art. The recent donation of more than 1,100 artworks from Paula and Peter Lunder 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. Traveling exhibitions such as Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s, No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki, and Marsden Hartley’s Maine bring additional artworks from across the globe to the galleries on Mayflower Hill and share artworks from the Colby museum with the world.
Focusing on students, the museum works closely with faculty across various disciplines to fully integrate object-based learning into the curriculum. Between 100 and 150 academic courses from more than 20 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 each year 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 guide, internship, and work-study programs, as well as through the Museum 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 campus partners such as Colby’s Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs allow for faculty and student involvement across all areas of study. The museum also co-organizes special events with its arts and cultural partners in Waterville to extend programmatic offerings throughout the community and brings thousands of Maine 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.