Inaugural Research Fellows for 2019-2020

Image of Inaugural Lunder Research Fellows

Clockwise from top left: Key Jo Lee, Tess Korobkin, Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Adrienne L. Childs, Rebecca VanDiver, and John Ott.


Lunder Institute Research Symposium: Art by African Americans

Lunder Institute for American Art, Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine

March 12-13, 2020 

The Lunder Institute is organizing a research symposium in conjunction with its inaugural Research Fellows Program focused on art by African Americans. To kick off this free public event, on the evening of Thursday, March 12, the Lunder Institute and the Colby Museum will host a conversation between renowned artist David C. Driskell and Curlee R. Holton of the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland, College Park. Presentations by the Lunder Institute Research Fellows, invited speakers, and members of the Colby community will take place throughout the day on Friday, March 13. Fellows will share their research on selected artworks at the Colby Museum, connecting it to important questions in the field regarding African American artists. A roundtable featuring leading academics and curators will comment on the current state and parameters of African American art history and reflect on how and why art by African Americans has been distinguished from the broader field of American art.

Confirmed speakers include:

Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Princeton University

Adrienne L. Childs, Harvard University

Tuliza Fleming, National Museum of African American History and Culture

Melanee Harvey, Howard University

Key Jo Lee, Cleveland Museum of Art

Tess Korobkin, University of Maryland, College Park

John Ott, James Madison University

James Smalls, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Diana Tuite, Colby College Museum of Art

Rebecca VanDiver, Vanderbilt University

Additional details to come in early 2020. 

Beginning in September 2019, the Lunder Institute for American Art will host annually a Distinguished Scholar and a group of Research Fellows at varying stages of their careers to pursue original scholarship around a topic of particular concern to the field of American art. As the Lunder Institute Distinguished Scholar and Director of Research, Tanya Sheehan (William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Art, Colby College) is overseeing the inaugural program in 2019-2020, which will focus on work by African American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Research Fellows include Anna Arabindan-Kesson (Assistant Professor, Princeton University), Adrienne L. Childs (Research Associate, Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University), Tess Korobkin (Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park), Key Jo Lee (Assistant Director of Academic Outreach, Cleveland Museum of Art), John Ott (Professor, James Madison University), and Rebecca VanDiver (Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University). The Research Fellows program aims to deepen original research into works of art in the Colby College Museum of Art and expand the community of scholars engaged with the collection.

The Research Fellows will put their current research into conversation with artworks in the Museum’s collection by landscape painter Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828-1901), multimedia artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988), figurative painter Bob Thompson (1937-1966) around whom the Museum is organizing a major exhibition in 2021, and contemporary artist-scholar David C. Driskell (b. 1931). Two additional artworks—an abstract painting by Norman Lewis (1909-1979) and a sculpture by Marion Perkins (1908-1961)—have been loaned to the Museum from the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art based in Austin, Texas. The Fellows’ research will develop throughout the academic year, assisted by four Colby students: Katie Herzig ’20, Olivia Hochstadt ’21, Jane MacKerron ’20, and Carter Wynne ’20. 

The group convened on Colby’s campus November 13-16 to study their selected artworks, and meet with area artists and curators to enhance their research. They also participated in high-level discussions on the state and parameters of the field we call African American art history; what constitutes its canon at this moment; and how and why academic scholars, curators, and artists distinguish art by African Americans from the broader field of American art. The Fellows will return to campus in March 2020 to share their research in a public symposium (March 13) and discuss future outcomes for their work. On the evening of March 12, the Lunder Institute and the Museum will host a conversation between David C. Driskell and Curlee R. Holton of the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland, College Park.