Inaugural Research Fellows for 2019-2020


From left: Tuliza Fleming, John Ott, Key Jo Lee, Rebecca VanDiver, Tess Korobkin.

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 Tuliza Fleming (Curator of American Art, National Museum of African American History and Culture), 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 Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918), multimedia artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988), 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 three Colby students: Olivia Hochstadt ’21, Jane MacKerron ’20, and Carter Wynne ’20. 


The group will convene on the Colby campus in November to study their selected artworks, and meet with area artists and curators to enhance their research. They will also participate 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.


Featured image from homepage: Romare Bearden, Cotton, 1964. Gelatin silver print (photostat) on fiberboard (Ed. 1/6), 39 x 49 in. (99.1 x 124.5 cm). Colby College Museum of Art. The Lunder Collection, 2017.003.

Lunder Fellow: Phong Bui

Phong Bui is a 2019 Lunder Institute Fellow. An artist, writer, curator, and publisher and artistic director of the Brooklyn Rail, Bui is the co-curator with Colby’s Diana Tuite of Occupy Colby: Artists Need to Create On the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, Year 2. 

On view at the Colby Museum of Art through January 5, 2020, Occupy Colby is part of an ongoing initiative launched by the Brooklyn Rail in 2017 at Mana Contemporary, Jersey City. The Colby iteration focuses on environmental issues and climate change—perhaps the most urgent concern of our time. Bui and Francesca Pietropaolo have mounted a companion show at the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Penitenti as part of the Venice Biennale.

During his Lunder Institute fellowship, Bui will convene Occupy Colby artists for a public conversation and engage with Colby students and faculty across the humanities and sciences. In addition, Bui will co-publish with the Lunder Institute and the Museum a special issue of the River Rail composed of essays, poetry, field notes, and interviews that expand on the themes of Occupy Colby.

The Institute will host a conversation at Colby on September 18 between Bui, Occupy Colby exhibiting artists Alexis Rockman and Allyson Vieira, and Colby scholars Denise Bruesewitz (Associate Professor, Environmental Studies) and Keith Peterson (Associate Professor, Philosophy). A reception will be held in the Diamond Building atrium from 5:00-6:00pm, followed by the panel discussion and Q&A in Ostrove Auditorium from 6:00-7:30pm. These events are free and open to all.

Theaster Gates and Black Artists Retreat [B.A.R.]

On June 16 and 17, 2019, Lunder Institute Distinguished Visiting Artist Theaster Gates convened a group of scholars and musicians in Washington, DC, for an open workshop, Discussions of the Sonic Imagination. 

“Sonic Imagination: the capacity to dream, feel, motivate and activate through sound; to think through and love through sound; to incant, incite or invoke using the invisible energy of wind and body to materialize form that moves us. This capacity to deeply consider a sonic measure that heals, disrupts, enables and unifies is a powerful wielding,” Gates said. “Our hope is to offer conversations and performances infused with sonic complexity and musical ambition that provoke and shine a light on the tremendous dexterity of contemporary art and musical practices.”

Organized by the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in partnership with the Lunder Institute, Gates’s Rebuild Foundation, and the Park Avenue Armory, the two-day program was the culminating moment in Processions, a series that began as a Hirshhorn commission in 2016, and has featured throughout a diverse group of local and national performers, artists, and scholars introducing unexpected connections between African and African American culture and history, theater, music, dance, chant, and oratory. 

Discussions of the Sonic Imagination was also a prelude to Gates’s Black Artists Retreat at the Park Avenue Armory on October 11 and 12, 2019. Public events in New York City will include lectures, roller skating, DJs and performances. Information on the weekend, including ticket sales, can be found on the Armory’s website.



Image: Terry Adkins, Native Son (Circus), © The Estate of Terry Adkins / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy of The Estate of Terry Adkins, Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Innovative Approaches to Archives

A cohort of ten early-career art historians from across the US and Europe have been chosen to attend a series of immersive workshops dedicated to teaching the history of American art through archives and primary sources.  Participants are: Katie Anania, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; Sarah Archino, Furman College; Melody Deusner, Indiana University; Melanee Harvey, Howard University; Tess Korobkin, University of Maryland, College Park; Austin Porter, Kenyon College; Annie Ronan, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Emma Silverman, Smith College; Allison Stagg, Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies at Joannes Gutenberg Universitat in Mainz and Mark Twain Center for Transatlantic Relations; Bernida Webb-Binder, Spelman College.


Organized by the Lunder Institute in partnership with the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art, Teaching American Art with Primary Sources: Innovative Approaches to Archives includes hands-on archival discussions and presentations by senior scholars, archivists, and museum professionals. Drawing on the unique resources of each institutional partner, this multi-year engagement aims to build lasting relationships among the participants, foster professional collaborations, and allow participants time to test new pedagogical models in their home institutions.


Workshops for the 2019-2021 term will be hosted by the Archives of American Art in Washington, DC, September 26-28, 2019; the Lunder Institute in Waterville, Maine, April 9-11, 2020; and the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, March 25-27, 2021.