Teaching with Primary Sources Goes Virtual

As institutions around the world abruptly turned to remote teaching this spring, the Teaching with Primary Sources Workshop seriesa unique collaboration among the Lunder Institute, the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art that offers professional training to early career academicsalso moved its activities to the virtual realm.

Each workshop offers an intensive program of presentations, discussions and archival encounters for its ten core participants, invited leaders, and guests. The workshops aim to build lasting relationships among the participants, who will serve as advocates for teaching with primary sources in the field of American art for years to come.

Organized by Director of Research Tanya Sheehan, the program’s online workshops this summer will address various aspects of assignment design for in-person and remote learning environments. Workshop leaders include Rachel Beane, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bowdoin College, and Stacey Sheriff and Ghada Gherwash of the Colby Writing Program. 


Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

The brutal and seemingly nonchalant killing of George Floyd by a police officer while other officers stood by is an excruciating but far too common occurrence in this country’s long and persistent history of devaluing the lives of black Americans….Racialized violence lays bare the remarkable inequities in our society. We have seen the manifestation of those inequities in other ways over these last several weeks, from the death toll from COVID-19 on communities of color and the most vulnerable amongst us to the historic loss of employment that has hit the lowest-wage earners—the individuals least likely to have a safety net—the hardest. It is essential that we not simply talk about these issues but that we act to address them.…The time to support this work is now.

– David A. Greene
President, Colby College

Earlier this week, Colby President David A. Greene issued a statement calling for reflection and action. He condemned racial violence and announced the College’s commitment to creating a multi-disciplinary inequality lab, with courses focused on inequality, research that illuminates the causes and solutions to addressing societal challenges, and engaged work in communities designed to facilitate positive change.

The Colby College Museum of Art and the Lunder Institute for American Art are united in outrage at the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and many black Americans. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and all those engaged in the struggle for racial justice.

Working to advance equity and inclusion in the field of American art—and, by doing so, in the wider world—is core to our mission. We feel the urgency of national and campus conversations on inequality and are keenly aware of the unique responsibility that we have as an academic art museum—as a place where we can listen, ask questions, and challenge assumptions—to engage in this dialogue, and to act.

We affirm that the Museum’s commitment to multidisciplinary teaching and learning and our potential for deep engagement with students will be leveraged in this effort toward fighting racialized violence, injustice, and inequality.

Sharon Corwin
Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator
Colby College Museum of Art

Beth Finch
Interim Director
Lunder Institute for American Art

Student Research Assistant Roundtable

Colby students who served as research assistants for the Lunder Institute for American Art in 2019–20 share their experiences working for the Institute’s inaugural cohort of Research Fellows.

Jessamine Batario, Lunder Institute Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for Artistic and Scholarly Engagement and Programs, moderates the discussion with Carter Wynne ’20, Katie Herzig ’20, Jane MacKerron ’20, and Olivia Hochstadt ’21.

The Lunder Institute launched its Research Fellows Program in September 2019. The program appoints a Distinguished Scholar and supports a group of fellows at varying stages of their careers to pursue original scholarship around a theme or topic of particular concern to the field of American art. A signature feature of the program is that each Research Fellow incorporates an artwork at the Colby Museum into their current research.

Led by Tanya Sheehan, the inaugural 2019–20 Research Fellows Program focused on Art by African Americans, including work on loan from the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection. Watch the Symposium here.

Lunder Institute Announces 2020–21 Scholarly Senior Fellows

The Lunder Institute supports scholarly and creative research by scholars, curators, and artists. We are pleased to announce the senior fellowships of scholars Romi Crawford and David Park Curry.

Romi Crawford (Ph.D.) is a 2020–21 Lunder Institute senior fellow and is working on a monographic publication on Lunder Institute Distinguished Visiting Artist and Director of Artist Initiatives Theaster Gates. It will consider the wide scope and dimensionality of his artistic practice, with a focus on the under-examined narratives of “extreme collaboration” intrinsic to Gates’s work as it relates to building and land procurement. As part of her fellowship, Crawford will host a public program centered around a Gates work in the Colby Museum’s collection and her research. She will also participate in a recorded conversation with Gates that will become part of the Lunder Institute’s Vocal Archive, an initiative that records contemporary artists speaking about their works in the Colby Museum’s collection.

Crawford is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies and Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Through her research and writing, Crawford explores areas of race and ethnicity as they relate to American visual culture (including art, film, and photography). She is co-author of The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago (Northwestern University Press, 2017). Additional publications include “Do For Self: The AACM and the Chicago Style” in Support Networks (University of Chicago Press, 2014); “Ebony and Jet on Our Mind” in Speaking of People (The Studio Museum in Harlem, 2014); Theaster Gates Black Archive (Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2017); “Reading Between the Photographs: Serious Sociality in the Kamoinge Photographic Workshop” in Working Together, Louis Draper and The Kamoinge Workshop (Virginia Museum of Fine Art, 2020), and Fleeting Monuments for the Wall of Respect (Green Lantern Press, 2020). She was the co-curator of the 2017 Open Engagement conference in Chicago and founder of the Museum of Vernacular Arts and Knowledge (MOVAK), a project-based platform for art-making that is out of sync with museum and gallery values. She was previously Curator and Director of the Education Department at the Studio Museum in Harlem. She received a B.A. from Oberlin College and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in English Language in Literature from the University of Chicago.

David Park Curry (Ph.D.) is a 2020–21 Lunder Institute Senior Fellow, an appointment made in association with the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies. A highly respected scholar and curator of American and European art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Curry is undertaking research and writing in preparation for the exhibition and publication Some Old Curiosity Shops: Whistler, Commerce, and the Art of Urban Change. Scheduled for 2023 and 2024, the exhibition will appear at the Colby Museum, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and additional venues. The project takes a fresh look at James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), revealing a lifelong engagement with social and economic change despite his professed aversion to topical themes, examining why so determined a modernist addressed the past rather than the present when it came to depictions of the changing urban scene, not only in London, but also in Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and elsewhere. Dating from the mid-1880s, the artist’s best-known shopfront pictures feature strict geometries, suppressed detail, flattened spaces, and close cropping; they numbered among Whistler’s most formally advanced compositions. Yet the shop fronts also coincide with the rise of modern merchandising and ambitious civic construction projects that displaced the working poor and demolished neighborhood landmarks. Whistler repeatedly focused upon earlier commercial venues and long-established trades. By the end of his life, the controversial artist, himself a participant in this primal moment of urban renewal, had attracted a somewhat undeserved reputation as an historic preservationist.

Curry’s project grew out of a symposium organized by the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies at Colby College, and his preliminary findings were published in 2015. See David Park Curry, “James McNeill Whistler: Aestheticizing Realism,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 30, no. 2 (2015): 44–51.

Curry holds a Ph.D. in the history of art from Yale University. Since retiring from his position as Senior Curator of Decorative Arts, American Painting & Sculpture at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2016, Curry has continued to pursue projects exploring cultural crossroads where art, decoration, and commerce intersect. He has also lectured widely in the United States and England, and published on Homer, Whistler, Sargent, American Impressionism and Realism, folk art, Victorian architecture, world fairs, and period framing. From October 2017 through May 2019, he was a Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where he conducted research in Washington, Paris, and elsewhere for a projected book, Courses of Empire: Theodore Davis and the Hayes Presidential Dinner Service, 18791881. He is the author of James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art (1984); his 2004 monograph, James McNeill Whistler: Uneasy Pieces, followed the 2003 Freer exhibition Mr. Whistler’s Galleries, a reconstruction of the artist’s controversial 1883 White and Yellow display of Venice etchings.

Interview: Emmanuel Sogunle ’21 Reflects on His Work with the Maine Makers’ Map

Emmanuel Sogunle ’21 was one of two Colby students to assist Lunder Institute Director of Artist Programs Daisy Desrosiers in the creation of the Maine Makers’ Map, an interactive tool to facilitate networking between visiting artists and highly skilled craftspeople in Maine. In this interview, he reflects on his experience.

Q: How would you describe the Makers’ Map and its impact on your understanding of artmaking and collaboration?

A: The Makers’ Map project is an interactive map of highly skilled material experts in Maine. The map highlights woodworkers, metalworkers, builders, and production studios, among other things of that sort. The purpose of the map is to showcase how much talent is just floating around in Maine and bring to light the rich knowledge these craftspeople possess. By publicly featuring this collection of expert makers, the map aims to connect Maine’s community of skilled craftspeople with Lunder Institute visiting artists and other artists in Maine. This map serves as a resource enabling artists to join forces and offer their expertise to one another with the purpose of creating something amazing.


Q: What has been most interesting to you in your work at the Lunder Institute?

A: I really enjoyed getting to learn more about how the makers fell in love with their craft and became experts. It was exciting to hear about the wide-ranging backgrounds of the people I worked with. Some work in the studio full-time and have spent their lives honing skills that have been passed down for generations. At the other end of the spectrum, I got to speak with a man who works part-time as an OBGYN and specializes in glassblowing in his free time. Everyone I spoke with was really passionate, and that was something I was glad to have witnessed.


Q: What can you share about the process of pulling together this resource? 

A: The biggest aspect of putting this project together was finding craftspeople to join. Most of my work consisted of talking with them to explain the goals and intent of the project in the hopes that they would be excited about the map. Often the makers I talked to recommended other craftspeople they are friends with or had worked with, and I reached out to them and invited them to join as well. I also organized all of the information for the artists/studios and uploaded it onto the mapping software.


Q: What was/is important, for you, in shaping this project and the work that you have done the makers’ map?

A: For me, it was important to depict the talent of Maine craftspeople. This map highlights that. There is so much talent here in Maine but sometimes finding it isn’t easy. I was pleased to contribute to making the search for expert material workers more accessible, not only for visiting artists, but also for the local community of craftspeople.


Q: Were there any moments along the way that were especially illuminating or rewarding for you?

A: One especially rewarding moment for me was getting to go out and visit one of the studios on the map, Hallowell Clay Works with Daisy Desrosiers, LIAA Director of artist programs, who spearheaded this whole initiative, and a few Colby students. It was nice to meet the founder of the studio and to talk with other potters, learn more about their backgrounds and how they got interested in clay.


Q: What surprised you as you became acquainted with the variety of makers that work here in Maine?

A: The sheer number of craftspeople in Maine surprised me. There is such a vast network of amazing artists in Maine that specialize in so many different dimensions. It was also interesting to see how certain material categories, such as clay, have such a strong network of artists that seem to truly support one another.


Q: Was there a particular maker you were excited to meet or a practice you wanted to understand better? If so, why?

A: I have always found glassblowing super cool and really enjoy watching the process, and I would be excited to learn how to do it for myself. Glass and glassblowing originated in Venice, and during my Jan Plan trip to Italy, I had the opportunity to explore local shops and see Murano glass made from techniques passed down for generations. So, getting to learn more about this field and trying it out for myself is definitely a goal of mine. David Jacobson, who I got to connect with while working on this project, has actually trained for over 26 years in the Venetian Style of glassblowing, so he is a maker I would love to meet and learn more about.


Q: In what ways do you think this experience has prepared you for the world of work beyond Colby

A: This experience has given me so many skills that I will carry beyond Colby. I spent many hours researching artists, compiling their information, reaching out to them, and then coherently organizing all of their information. All these things helped me to acquire skills that I know will be useful to me when I graduate from Colby. I also had the opportunity to speak with people from various backgrounds and expand my interests, network, and pool of resources.


Q: Any additional thoughts?

A: I am truly proud of the Maine Makers’ Map project and I hope it helps to foster creative invention, collaboration, and community building.

Lunder Institute Staff Members Contribute to The Brooklyn Rail

The River Rail, a joint project between Colby College and The Brooklyn Rail, was published last fall but our collaborations with the arts journal have continued. Phong Bui, the Rail’s founder and artistic director, as well as the 2019–20 Lunder Institute senior fellow, invited two members of the LIAA staff to serve as guest critics for The Brooklyn Rail.

In the March issue, Jessamine Batario, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for Artistic and Scholarly Engagement and Programs, asked contributors—who included poets, artists, and scholars across the US—to reflect on the relationship between walking and communication. Several of the contributors are based in Maine, including two Colby faculty members, AB Brown (Theater and Dance) and Arisa White (English). Batario spoke about the issue as part of The Brooklyn Rail’s New Social Environment Lunchtime Conversation series, and this event is archived here.

Daisy Desrosiers, Director of Artist Programs, was the guest critic of the May issue. Her editorial proposal, “Made of Linguistic forms and failures: inquiry in times of isolation,” considers the potentials of translation (and mistranslation) in artistic and research practices. She brings together a wide range of international voices, while reaching across disciplines. Desrosiers joined the New Social Environment Lunchtime Conversation, which can be accessed here, with two of the issue’s contributors, Jesse Chun and Azza El Siddique.

Recapping Our Inaugural Research Symposium and Mellon Faculty Grants

The Lunder Institute’s inaugural research symposium—focused on the 2019–20 scholarly theme of art by African Americans—took place on March 13, 2020. Due to the public health crisis, we moved this day of research talks from the Colby campus to the virtual world of Zoom. The event included presentations by the Institute’s six 2019–20 research fellows, showcasing their original work in progress on objects at the Colby Museum, in addition to a dynamic roundtable on the state of the field featuring leading academics and curators. We encourage you to view the symposium recording and to share it with your students and colleagues. This record of the proceedings is dedicated to the memory of David C. Driskell (1931–2020).

Director of Research Tanya Sheehan met virtually with the research fellows last month and invited them to reflect on their fellowship experiences. Every fellow pointed to the exciting mix of scholars the Institute assembled, at all stages of their careers, and highlighted the compelling, collegial conversations among them that the fellowship facilitated. They also praised the opportunity to work closely with works of art at Colby and to be “supported by wonderful undergraduate research assistants.” Professors Rebecca VanDiver and Tess Korobkin described the fellowship as “a highlight in my academic career” and “a transformative experience… that grounded and launched by research practice,” respectively. Museum-based scholars Key Jo Lee and Adrienne Childs similarly noted the immense value of having the “space, time, and financial support to pursue intellectual projects.” Like many of the other fellows, they indicated plans to publish their fellowship research in the near future.

Kaliyah Bennett ’22 (left) and Professor Erin Murphy

Thanks to a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Institute was also able to support work related to African American artists by three Colby faculty members. On March 12, AB Brown (theater and dance), Erin Murphy (cinema studies), and Juliet Sperling (art) shared their grant-funded projects with the Colby community. While Professors Brown and Sterling spoke of traveling to exhibitions in Los Angeles and London that they plan to integrate into their Colby courses and their own scholarship, Professor Murphy used the grant to develop a video installation project in collaboration with her student Kaliyah Bennett ’22.

Research Symposium: Art by African Americans

On Friday, March 13, 2020, the Lunder Institute for American Art hosted a research symposium on art by African Americans. This live-streamed, daylong event featured work-in-progress presentations by the six 2019-2020 Lunder Institute Research Fellows, discussions moderated by Distinguished Scholar Tanya Sheehan, and a roundtable with leading scholars focused on questions about the state of the field.

The archived symposium proceedings are dedicated to the memory of David C. Driskell (1931–2020) in recognition of his groundbreaking scholarship in the field of American art and his extraordinary contributions as a teacher, curator, and artist.

You can download the digital event program, including abstracts and presenter bios here.

Morning Program:

Welcome, Lee Glazer, Director, Lunder Institute

Introduction, Tanya Sheehan, Distinguished Scholar and Director of Research, Lunder Institute

Research presentations

  • Norman Lewis, 1946: Heliotrope – John Ott, James Madison University
  • Turbulent States: Strategies of Crisis Mediation in David Driskell’s 1968 Of Thee I Weep and Soul X – Rebecca VanDiver, Vanderbilt University

Roundtable: State of the Field
Moderated by Adrienne L. Childs, Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University

  • Tuliza Fleming, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution
  • Jacqueline Francis, California College of the Arts
  • Melanee C. Harvey, Howard University
  • James Smalls, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Afternoon program: 

Research presentations

  • Local and Littoral: Reflecting on the Landscapes of Edward Mitchell Bannister – Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Princeton University
  • Bob Thompson, Goya, and the Caprice of Art History – Adrienne L. Childs, Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University
  • Sculpture’s Touch: Haptic Intimacies in Marion Perkins’s Mother and Child – Tess Korobkin, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Perceptual Drift: Hank Willis Thomas’s Blow the Man Down and Romare Bearden’s Cotton – Key Jo Lee, Cleveland Museum of Art

Homepage art: David Clyde Driskell, Of Thee I Weep, 1968. Acrylic and collage on fiberboard, 12 x 11 3/4 in. (30 x 30 cm). Colby College Museum of Art purchase from the Jere Abbott Acquisitions Fund. Accession Number: 2018.012.

Jessamine Batario: The New Social Environment

In response to the imminent crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Brooklyn Rail shifted its operations online. These daily Social Environment lunchtime conversations provide a place to have vibrant conversations in a time of great social distancing.

Here Phong H. Bui hosts art historian and March Guest Critic Jessamine Batario, Lunder Institute Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for Artistic and Scholarly Engagement and Programs, for a conversation on the social, philosophical, and performative resonances of walking.

Jessamine guest edited a section in the magazine’s March issue with contributions by Colby faculty members AB Brown, assistant professor of contemporary performance, and Arisa White, assistant professor of English.

Colby to Create New Arts Collaborative in Downtown Waterville

Major Gift Will Turn Buildings into a One-of-a-Kind Space for Central Maine

Building on Waterville’s momentum as a dynamic arts and cultural destination, Colby College today announced that it has received a $3-million gift from Peter H. Lunder ’56, D.F.A. ’98 and Life Trustee Paula Crane Lunder, D.F.A. ’98 through the Lunder Foundation to develop an arts collaborative on Main Street. The new space, which is expected to open at the end of the year, will include a renovation and consolidation of the existing 14 and 20 Main Street buildings—located at the southern end of the street—and play an important role in the overarching plan to leverage the arts to help drive the resurgence of downtown Waterville.

The arts collaborative will benefit Colby students and faculty as well as the broader community by providing vibrant arts programming and artist studios. With a ground floor area for community performances and cultural activity (art exhibitions, poetry readings, musical performances, etc.), this project will enhance Waterville’s identity as a center for the performing and visual arts.

The building will provide a dedicated space for Lunder Institute for American Art staff, affiliated scholars, and artist residents to advance creative expression, develop new scholarship, and contribute to the exciting activity in downtown Waterville. Moreover, the arts collaborative will solidify the convening power of the Lunder Institute to attract artists and scholars from around the world to engage in cross-disciplinary dialogues and to stimulate the production of original art and new collaborations.

This rendering shows how 14 and 20 Main Street will be converted into a new arts collaborative, with the first floor open for exhibitions, performances, and events and the upper floors housing artist studios and the Lunder Institute.

“It is hard not to think of the arts first when we think of Peter and Paula Lunder,” said Colby College President David A. Greene. “But as much as the Lunders value the arts, they are truly remarkable for always considering the needs of others first. This gift is another example of their generosity and selflessness, their desire to strengthen this community and improve the lives of all who call central Maine home. The arts enrich us by punctuating our daily routines with moments of brilliance and beauty. They challenge us and reveal the complexities of the human condition and our capacity for creativity. And they inspire us. I could certainly say the same of the Lunders, who bring beauty into our lives and inspire us to find our very best selves.”

Formerly of Waterville, philanthropists Peter and Paula Lunder are dedicated to transforming lives and communities through art, including at Colby. In 1995 the Lunders pledged the lead gift to build the Lunder Wing at the Colby College Museum of Art, and in 2007 promised their collection of more than 500 works of art to the College, establishing the Lunder Collection. In 2017 they also gifted an additional 1,150 artworks and endowed funds to establish the Lunder Institute for American Art.

A Growing Arts Ecosystem

The arts collaborative adds to a rich and integrated set of art and cultural institutions throughout Waterville, including the Colby College Museum of Art, the Lunder Institute for American Art, the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, and the Paul J. Schupf Art Center. With its artist residency programs and dynamic exhibition and performance space, the arts collaborative will bring new activity and vibrancy to downtown Waterville and continue to grow Waterville’s position as a major center for the arts and culture. Together with the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, which is slated to open in late 2021, Main Street will feature a diverse set of arts programming that will enrich life in Waterville, provide new opportunities for creative expression for students and community members alike, and help to drive economic activity throughout the city.

“The arts collaborative that is planned for Main Street in Waterville is meaningful to our family,” said Peter and Paula Lunder. “It brings together those elements that we believe in—creating art and sharing it with the people we admire and the community we enjoyed being a part of for so many years.”

With the addition of the Lockwood Hotel, visitors to Waterville who are drawn here for business, recreation, or the arts will have a new occasion to stay downtown and enjoy the shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions as part of their visit. The Lockwood Hotel will also feature art by Maine-based artists, including works by Bernard Langlais and Tanja Hollander.

One-of-a-Kind Space for Central Maine

By combining the first floor of 14 and 20 Main Street, the new arts collaborative will provide a fluid and flexible creative space, including moveable walls, seats, and risers, for the broad community to engage with art. The exterior façade will include large windows to allow for ample light and engagement off Main Street.

The second and third floors of the arts collaborative will house flexible artist studio and maker spaces, which are being designed to support both established and emerging artists. In the near term, the fourth floor will house Lunder Institute staff and affiliates and serve as a central convening location for scholars and researchers.

“Having many artists under one roof will enable Colby to support creative production among a much broader community,” commented David C. Driskell, D.F.A. ’00, renowned American artist and historian whose important work is included in the Colby Museum of Art. “This innovative space will allow Colby students, faculty, and local artists to work side by side with Lunder Institute artists in residence—a mutually enriching experience for all.” 

Through the new arts collaborative, Colby also intends to forge a partnership with the Maine College of Art (MECA) to support students and recent MECA graduates, including MECA Lunder Scholars. This partnership is aimed at providing artists in residence with opportunities in Waterville’s arts ecosystem.