Theaster Gates | Director of Artist Initiatives

Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates, one of the most admired, influential, and innovative figures on the contemporary arts scene, has been appointed the first distinguished visiting artist and director of artist initiatives at the Lunder Institute for American Art.

Theaster Gates

Over the course of a three-year appointment starting in 2018, Gates will convene artists and thinkers from around the world for retreats, provide opportunities for students and faculty to engage in his practice, and identify opportunities for additional artist residencies, projects, and exhibitions at the Institute, which is part of the Colby College Museum of Art.
In conjunction with his appointment, the Museum will mount a major exhibition of Gates’s work in 2021, featuring pieces and projects he will create during his time in Waterville.

Waterville studio

One of the primary goals of the Lunder Institute is to provide time and space for artists to reflect, innovate, make work, and convene. During his time at the Institute, Gates will establish a studio in Waterville, where he will concentrate on his ongoing practice in sculpture, installation, and urban engagement.

Gates will also organize summer gatherings in 2019 and 2020, bringing together artists and scholars to address themes such as retreat and reflection, exploring the tradition of Maine as an inspirational haven for artists, and producing a series of recorded and published conversations.

During the course of his appointment at Colby, Gates will remain a professor in the Department of Visual of Arts and the College at the University of Chicago and will continue in his role as senior advisor for cultural innovation and advisor to the dean of Harris Public Policy.

“We feel immensely fortunate to be able to bring Theaster Gates to Colby, to help us realize the ambitious mission of the new Lunder Institute for American Art,” said Colby College President David A. Greene. “Having known Theaster for many years and having witnessed how his innovative work has changed people’s lives, I am thrilled that he will soon add to Colby’s strengths in the humanistic and creative disciplines that are essential to the liberal arts.”

Sharon Corwin, the Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator of the Colby College Museum of Art, said, “Theaster Gates has done far more than challenge our understanding of what art can be. He has shown us in profound ways what art can do. He embeds himself in a place, brings people together, and creates important new spaces for engagement and dialogue. We look forward eagerly to welcoming him to Waterville, where we know he will show our campus and our wider community new ways of thinking, being, and doing.”

“I am honored to be given this invitation by the Lunder Institute to be in residence,” said Theaster Gates. “What I need at this stage in my career is time for reflection and research. This residency period allows me time to develop the most ambitious projects of my practice.”


The exhibition of Theaster Gates’s work, scheduled for 2021, is expected to continue the series of respected presentations organized by the Colby College Museum of Art. Major recent exhibitions have included Marsden Hartley’s Maine (2017), co-curated with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s (2015), which traveled to the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2017 and will open at the Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase in summer 2018.

Theaster Gates

Gates’s appointment follows his four-day residency at the Lunder Institute in 2017, when he visited with Colby students in a number of classes and met with local community partners.

The Institute has been established through the generosity of Peter and Paula Lunder, whose earlier contributions to Colby have included the landmark donation of the Lunder Collection, one of the most important private collections of American art ever assembled.

Combined with the Museum’s collection, the Lunder Institute enables the Colby Museum to speak to a global audience and to make Waterville a vibrant arts destination.

The City of Waterville is currently undergoing a transformation and leveraging its role as a hub for arts and culture in central Maine, established through the Colby College Museum of Art, an independent cinema that hosts the renowned Maine International Film Festival, a collaborative arts organization, Waterville Creates!, and the historic Waterville Opera House.

In March the College announced plans for a downtown center for contemporary art and film that will include a gallery of the Colby College Museum of Art. New investment by Colby and others has surpassed $50 million and includes a technology center; a mixed-use facility to house 200 Colby students, faculty, and staff; and a boutique hotel.