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.